The church and the future of ACA

Julianne Malveaux | 11/15/2017, 3:40 p.m.
Despite the Trump Administration’s efforts to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, it is still the law of the ...

First of all, despite the Trump Administration’s efforts to kill (“repeal and replace”) the Affordable Care Act, it is still the law of the land, and because of the federal mandate everyone is required to have some form of health insurance. However, since “45” and his team have declared it all but dead, they have shortened the enrollment period from three months to a mere six weeks, from November 1-December 15, 2017. Additionally, the United States Department of Health and Human Services has drastically cut the budget for outreach. This time last year, there were television and radio announcements, billboards on buses, and other reminders that people should enroll for healthcare, if they didn’t already have healthcare through their jobs.

The Trump Administration hopes that, without outreach, people will not enroll for healthcare, so that they can then crow that people “don’t want” healthcare. Some faith leaders, however, have pledged to use their pulpits to remind their congregations to get enrolled for healthcare. Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams Skinner, the first Executive Director of the Congressional Black Caucus and an activist who melds faith with public policy, who is also a spiritual advisor to many, has developed a toolkit for communities of faith to help them do the work that our government won’t: encouraging people to sign-up for affordable healthcare.

You can follow the faith leaders’ conversations about open enrollment and healthcare on social media using the hashtags #SOULSTOENROLL or #SOULS2ENROLL, and by liking the Facebook page, ‪Facebook.com/FaithinPublicLife‬, where you can find the toolkit adopted from the government page, ‪GetAmericaCovered.org‬; instructions for the weekend campaign that began November 12, suggestions for faith leaders; a sample bulletin announcement; a PSA; and social media tips. In other words, the faith community is being encouraged to treat healthcare enrollment like any other grassroots organizing campaign and get involved in it.

There are consequences to not enrolling. If you don’t enroll by December 15, you may have to wait a whole year before getting access to affordable healthcare and the subsidies available under the ACA, and you may have to pay a fine for not enrolling. Some states (California, Washington, Minnesota, Colorado, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C.) will allow enrollment until January, but most will close enrollment on December 15. Even with a longer enrollment period, the best thing to do to ensure that the people who need health insurance get it is to encourage them to enroll early.

This example of “Faith in Action” may be a template for other ways to use the church to organize resistance. The novelist Dr. Daniel Black (author of “Perfect Peace: A Novel”) recently gave a talk in which he described our churches as the backbone of the community. Disagree with your pastor, or with the sermon if you will, he said, but still get to church for the sense of community that can only be found there. While the church is less impactful than it was in 1963, when most of us could be reached through church announcements, it is still a place where we gather and share information. If you don’t usually go to church on November 12, when the #SOULS2ENROLL weekend campaign kicks off, consider making your way there to check this campaign out. If you do go to church, encourage your pastor to participate.

Julianne Malveaux is an economist, author, and Founder of Economic Education.