This post was written by Lynne Ide, Director of Advocacy, Universal Health Care Foundation of CT.
Since 2006, the state’s health reform effort has benefitted from the work of a dynamic, action-oriented faith network: The Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care. This Network is a multiracial, multicultural group of religious leaders of diverse faith traditions that has been organizing and advocating for quality, affordable health care for every resident, including an end to racial and ethnic disparities. To meet that mission, the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care is now helping to get the word out to their communities about the new health insurance options available under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
When it comes to organizing tactics, you name it, the Interfaith Fellowship has done it—sometimes alone, but usually with partners. The Network has spoken about the importance of quality, affordable health coverage and equity in health care on the streets, inside congregations, and in the halls of the state capitol. They have marched, stood vigil, held prayer circles, met with elected leaders, and organized their colleagues and congregations.
In 2009, the Network was a key player in the passage of the state’s comprehensive health reform law, which included a public option. Later that year, the Network members put their hopes for state reform on hold and turned their attention to passage of the ACA. Since then, the Network has been helping Connecticut implement the ACA, particularly through the roll-out of the state’s health insurance marketplace, Access Health CT.
Last summer the leaders of the Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care embraced the task of educating people in their faith communities. In particular, there was concern that people in communities of color, immigrants, and low-income neighborhoods would be intimidated by the enrollment process, misinformed about their new coverage options, or would be completely unaware of the benefits of the ACA.
The Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care leaders worked with Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut to adapt an ACA workshop to explain the new health coverage financial assistance options. Fellowship leaders and support staff from the Connecticut Center for a New Economy (CCNE), a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the economic and social well-being of working families in Connecticut’s urban centers, went on the road to give the workshop this past fall. The workshop content was developed by the Universal Health Care Foundation, but adapted for use in the faith community.
The Interfaith Fellowship for Universal Health Care leaders have also connected with the marketplace’s navigator and assister program to bring ethnically and culturally appropriate enrollment assistance to their congregations. In addition, some faith organizations have been trained and certified as assisters for Access Health CT and can help the congregations’ members to sign up for health coverage.