Faith leaders in the Black community are encouraging members of their congregations to sign up for health care coverage during the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period that ends Dec. 15.
Rev. Edwin Sanders, the senior pastor and founder of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church in Nashville, Tennessee, said that supporting positive dialogue about health care is a part of the faith tradition.
“We lift up healing as a benefit of our relationship to the God that we serve; we talk about the God who is a healer,” Sanders said. “There is a way in which those of us who are disciples, especially in the tradition of Jesus Christ, have a commitment to trying to make sure that we sustain these kinds of opportunities for people to get healed in our communities.”
Sometimes, that commitment means working with political leaders.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) helped to launch the “Soul 2 Enroll” campaign, a national health care initiative aimed at mobilizing faith communities during the open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
During a recent press conference on Capitol Hill, Clyburn said that faith is about much more than a relationship between you and the God you serve.
“We are instructed that ‘faith without works is dead,'” Clyburn said. “If your brother or sister comes to you hungry or naked — and I believe if James were writing his epistle today, he would add sick — you feed them, you clothe them and provide them with health care.”
Pastor Marquez Ball of Uplift Church in Laurel, Maryland, said that health care is not a game to score political points.
“Health care is a whole life issue,” said Ball.
Uplift Church is just one of the organizing faith partners for the “Soul 2 Enroll” initiative.
That group also includes: the National African American Clergy Network, Joseph A.C. Smith Ministries, the National Action Network, the Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, the Skinner Leadership Institute, The United Church of Christ and Values Partnerships.
During a discussion about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) between congressional and faith leaders, Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, the co-chair of the National African American Clergy Network, said that despite the budget cuts imposed on the ACA by the Trump administration, the faith community is marching forward.
“The faith community knows how to do one thing: we know how to make bricks with no straw and we’re going to do it again,” said Williams-Skinner. “Health care is not a privilege; it is a right of every child of God.”
Williams-Skinner continued: “My Bible teaches that Jesus’s ministry was about healing and helping the afflicted and lifting up those that are wounded…we must do that with the Affordable Care Act.”
Reverend De-Ves Toon, the national field director for the National Action Network (NAN), said that NAN has helped to sign people up for health care coverage through the ACA since 2013 in more than 100 cities.
“All of our chapters have health and wellness committees that are doing on-the-ground outreach in their perspective cities,” said Toon. “We just don’t focus on this during the open enrollment period, we do this year-round.”
Toon added: “We will continue to do outreach to encourage people who might be afraid of the process to enroll for health care under [the Affordable Care Act].”
Sanders said that because of the rich oral tradition of the Black community, everyone from the American Heart Association to local community health centers comes to the doorsteps of the church to promote answers to health problems.
“God is the one that gives the intellect, God is one that gives the wisdom to doctors and to researchers to help them to develop the modern day cures that are increasingly available, but we need to make sure that more is done to make sure those cures and those medical responses are available to [our congregations],” said Sanders. “So, I believe that God is working miracles through the researchers, who are developing new ways to treat diseases and to address health problems.”
Sanders continued: “As far as the open enrollment period, I think it ought to be a message that we are including in every worship experience that we have, as a people. For indeed, it is through our efforts and our tradition that we don’t let these moments pass us by.”
For more information about signing up for health care coverage, go to Healthcare.gov.