Three influential African-American churches in Southern California joined forces with Covered California over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend to encourage congregations and their communities to enroll in health insurance through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the law popularly known as Obamacare.
Open enrollment for insurance is underway, but ends Jan. 31, so the time to sign up is now.
During visits last Sunday to renowned churches First African Methodist Episcopal (F.A.M.E.) in Los Angeles, Christian’s Community Center in Long Beach and Cathedral of Praise in San Bernardino, Covered California executive director Peter V. Lee used words spoken by Rev. King decades ago on the importance of health care in improving people’s lives.
“It was about 50 years ago that Rev. King said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane,’” said Lee, quoting the civil rights leader. “Well, the struggle continues,” Lee said, “but I’ve come (here) today to testify … to testify that significant progress has been made to end that injustice.”
Pastors at the churches echoed Lee, saying that for African Americans and all Californians, health insurance is now a right that is available to everyone, and it is time to exercise that right by enrolling and getting family and friends to enroll.
“We are urging everyone to enroll in Covered California and to reach out to your friends and family and encourage them to get enrolled as quickly as possible, because a healthy community is a blessed community,” said Apostle Will T. Washington of Christian’s Community Center.
Lee told congregants that subsidies were still available to help eligible individuals and families cover the cost of health insurance premiums. Nearly nine out of 10 Covered California members receive some level of financial assistance. And a recent Covered California analysis found that the net monthly premiums for enrollees who receive financial help are on average 10 percent lower than what new and renewing consumers paid last year.
“We are very pleased that Covered California has called upon us at Cathedral of Praise to help get the word out so that more African Americans in the Inland Empire sign up for a health care plan,” said Bishop Craig W. Johnson, Th.D.
In addition to honoring the work of Rev. King, Lee’s visits to the churches coincided with a national campaign, dubbed “Souls to Enroll,” which urges worshipers to sign up for affordable health insurance before the deadline on Jan. 31.
Lee said that President Obama ended the injustice of which Rev. King spoke, and now all Americans have access to the health care they need and deserve. No longer will people be denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition or because treatment costs too much.
Covered California Certified Enrollment Counselors were at each church Lee visited on Sunday providing free and confidential enrollment assistance. In San Bernardino, at Cathedral of Praise, insurance agent Pepi Jackson (who also is president and CEO of the Riverside County Black Chamber of Commerce) enrolled more than 20 people. In addition, on that same day Covered California enrollment teams were at Faithful Central Bible Church and Center of Hope in Inglewood.
“We know that African Americans are five times more likely to hear about Covered California through their churches. This kind of commitment from church families to encourage enrollment is so critical to making sure African Americans have access to quality and affordable health care,” said Lee during an interview.
Since 2014, more than 3 million people have purchased health insurance through Covered California, and nearly 4 million have enrolled in the state’s Medi-Cal program. Together, the gains have cut the rate of the uninsured in California from 17 percent in 2013 to a historic low of 6.8 percent as of June 2017.
Consumers interested in learning more about their coverage options should go to www.CoveredCA.com where they can get help to enroll. They can explore their options and find out if they qualify for financial help by using the Shop and Compare Tool. They can also get free and confidential enrollment assistance by visiting www.coveredca.com/find-help/ and searching among 800 storefronts statewide, or more than 17,000 certified enrollers who can assist consumers in understanding their choices and enrolling, including individuals who can assist in other languages. In addition, consumers can reach the Covered California service center by calling (800) 300-1506.