Health Care in the Pulpit

Download the full toolkit as a PDF

By Min. David Street | Updated October 2015

Introduction

Health Care in the Pulpit (HCP) is a highly successful national program launched by Enroll America and national faith partners to ensure the faith community remains engaged in the education and outreach efforts around the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The goal of these efforts is to inspire people of faith to take action in their communities in support of the full range of health coverage options made available by the Affordable Care Act.

Enroll America is an independent nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that works with more than 6,700 partners in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including many faith leaders, to maximize the number of Americans who enroll in and retain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. Enroll America’s grassroots campaign, Get Covered America, uses tactics from national political and consumer-marketing campaigns to educate and engage Americans in taking advantage of the new health coverage options. Campaigns focus on the dual need to raise public awareness and empower individuals to take action — the same recipe is needed to generate enrollment in health coverage, particularly given the unprecedented scope of the enrollment opportunity in these early years of open enrollment.

Enroll America’s program is data-driven, with an emphasis on collecting data that can be analyzed to share findings on consumers’ experiences enrolling in coverage with the larger enrollment community. These data provide insight into who is attempting to enroll, what kind of challenges consumers have encountered, and what outreach tactics help them complete the enrollment process.

This toolkit describes how you can apply innovative campaign tactics and best practices that have been proven successful during the first two open enrollment cycles. Enroll America uses these tactics to connect consumers to new health coverage options.

Opportunities Within the Faith Community

The Affordable Care Act created new health insurance options for millions of uninsured Americans, as well as millions more who will find the new options better fit their needs and budget than their current insurance.

Over the past two enrollment cycles, millions of people have enrolled, causing a decrease in the uninsured rate and the number of people living without coverage. Churches, mosques, synagogues, and other places of worship have played an integral part in educating and enrolling people in coverage. These faith institutions were so successful because they were and continue to be trusted messengers within their communities.

Over the years, more Americans are getting covered, and national attention is waning, but it is critical for faith institutions and religious leaders to continue to engage them in outreach and enrollment activities. During open enrollment, places of worship need to stay at the forefront as messengers on how Americans can get covered and stay covered with quality, affordable health coverage. For those who remain uninsured, trusted messengers such as faith leaders can be instrumental in helping them get covered. For those who have signed up during previous enrollment periods, faith leaders can also play a critical role in getting them the facts and connecting them to resources they need to stay covered. Below are key dates for the third open enrollment period (OE3) that faith leaders should get the word out about when planning to incorporate HCP events in their congregational activities.

Important OE3 Dates:

Make sure your community knows about these critical enrollment dates and deadlines. 

November 1, 2015: Open enrollment begins in the health insurance marketplace.

December 15, 2015: The deadline to sign up for coverage that starts on New Year’s Day.

January 1, 2016: Coverage begins in the health insurance marketplace for those who sign up by December 15, 2015.

January 31, 2016: Open enrollment ends in the health insurance marketplace.

HCP Program Overview

This is an outline of the process of conducting HCP events. Please feel free to design the program that best suits your specific congregational needs. Note: If an outside organization is seeking to do work in a church, they should reach out to the women’s or healthy ministry leader before contacting the pastor.

  • Launch a “Heal-the-Neighborhood” Health Outreach Ministry Team. A health outreach ministry team can be a group of volunteers that are trained to participate in this program, and will reach the uninsured by actively conducting consumer outreach at local schools, grocery stores, community centers, and events within the community. Your health outreach ministry team can get trained by Enroll America on the best tactics and strategies to reach the uninsured. If you do not yet have a health outreach ministry, consider launching one through this program.
  • Host an “HCP Enrollment Summit.” This could be a Health Coverage Forum, made up of panelists from the faith community as well as health advocacy and community-based organizations. The forum provides an opportunity to educate and engage communities regarding the marketplaces. The summit could also partner with in-person enrollment assisters (who are people and organizations in each state that can help provide free, unbiased application assistance), to provide application help. The forum could also partner with enrollment assisters to talk about retention and other enrollment topics.
  • Incorporate HCP into your worship service by having tabling after the service or through the sermon.

Tabling Events

A tabling event is where volunteers or organizers greet attendees and talk with them, providing information about health coverage options and connecting them to resources to help them get covered and keep their coverage.

Enroll America and its partners can either provide volunteers or train your health outreach ministry team to staff a table after service to talk about health coverage. At the table, you can have uninsured individuals who are interested in learning more complete contact cards (commit cards) with their contact information. They can then be followed up with and provided with more information and resources. Usually the tables also have materials such as pamphlets and brochures that the consumer can keep to learn more about open enrollment and their health coverage options.

HCP Sermon Ideas

A faith leader could deliver a message around the moral imperative of being insured and the community impact of being uninsured or underinsured. Here are two passages and themes for sermons that could be of benefit: Luke 10:25-37, “The Good Samaritan” sermon, can speak to the importance of compassion for people that fall outside of your social, ethnic, or economic comfort zone; and Matthew 14:13-21, the “Jesus feeds the 5,000” sermon, can illustrate how the example of Jesus calls us not only to speak truth but to provide for the physical upkeep of a person.

Social Media Tips

→ In addition to using your bulletins/announcements and email lists, you can promote your HCP event on social media networks (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

→ You can use these coalition-wide health coverage enrollment hashtags to let others know about your efforts: #GetCovered and #StayCovered.

→ If you have a digital or multimedia ministry, ask them to create posts and tweets leading up to your HCP event.

→ Request that members of the congregation post information about your event on their own social media accounts.

→ Have a designated time during the service for members to tweet or text those who may be uninsured. Members of your congregation can offer them information, or share that there are free resources online or in their local area to help them get covered.

HCP 2015–2016 Suggested Activities and Timeline

November 2015

November 8–15, 2015: Women’s Week of Action

As part of the coalition’s theme weeks, any event this week — from a Twitter chat to an enrollment event — should have an emphasis on women’s outreach and engagement.

November 21–28, 2015: Faith Week of Action

Share announcements during worship services about the start of open enrollment. Use social media to let the broader community know that you are committed to helping consumers #GetCovered and #StayCovered.

November 22–29, 2015: Gift of Health Care and Re-Enrollment

This week, focus on success stories and how coverage has or will have a positive impact on someone.

December 2015

Churches can conduct HCP sermons and events and use commit cards to help connect consumers to coverage. The commit cards can be placed in the bulletins or passed out to service attendees. HCP facts and announcements can be printed in programs. Members complete the cards and turn them in during/after service. Partner with a local enrollment assister to conduct an HCP Enrollment Fair after service on-site.

December 6–13, 2015: Re-Enrollment Week of Action

In collaboration with the coalition, this week’s activities should emphasize the importance of getting people to shop around and either re-enroll in their current plan, or sign up for a new one that better fits their needs and budget.

January 2016

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service is a great opportunity to engage consumers and motivate volunteers to help the community get covered and stay covered. Your church can launch broad external community outreach throughout the month of January. For example, each member of your congregation could bring five uninsured friends and family members to the church to get enrolled at an HCP Enrollment Summit that has assisters on hand to help enroll consumers in coverage that day.

January 11–18, 2015: African American Week of Action

In collaboration with our national partners, the activities during this week will focus on helping the African American community.

January 26–31, 2016: The Final Week of Open Enrollment

This is the final week that consumers can sign up for 2016 health coverage. You can get connected with Enroll America and the partners in your area to learn where to refer consumers to get help in their local area. The emphasis in this final week will be on signing up or re-enrolling in a plan by the January 31 deadline and leaning into the fine. If a consumer does not sign up for coverage by January 31 for health coverage in 2016, they may face a fine of $695 or 2.5% of their income, whichever is greater.

Merging Health Care Summits with Social Justice Issues: Best Practice Tips

With communities of color discussing and working on social justice issues, many groups outside of the faith community have begun hosting events and town hall meetings inside places of worship. While the focus of these meetings is not to talk about health care and enrollment, they do serve as a space to get information out to community members regarding open enrollment. Here are a few ways church groups can incorporate enrollment information into this space:

  • Building on the momentum that many groups have harnessed on social justice issues, summits are and will continue to be an effective way to convene community members. A panel of community leaders, activities, providers, and faith leaders can provide a space to discuss social justice issues while also sharing enrollment and health coverage information that the community needs to know.
    • Example: Delonte works as a provider in Atlanta and has been invite to attend a community meeting on social justice. Delonte can talk about the impact of coverage under the ACA helping consumers get the medical care they need such as preventive care, prescription drugs, doctor visits, and much more. Even if Delonte was not asked specifically about enrollment and coverage, he can use his role as a provider to share information related specifically to the social justice issue, as well as enrollment info that the audience should hear and let others know about.

Best Practices for Running an HCP Event

  • Reach out to potential partners from various communities to assess interest in convening an enrollment event. Then, develop an agenda and specific activity ideas.
  • Once you’ve decided what the program and content will look like, begin inviting others to participate.
    • For instance, if you decide to host a panel on the ACA and what consumers need to know, you should invite a diverse group of speakers including assisters, providers, advocates, and community and faith leaders.
  • Once the event is locked with a confirmed time and date, be sure to secure a location.
    • If this is an enrollment event with in-person assisters, make sure that there is adequate space to set up large tables with laptops so that the assisters can help consumers get enrolled.
  • If media will be invited, develop a media plan so that this is broadly publicized and identify media spokerspersons.
  • When everything is confirmed, such as the date, location, and program, make fliers and e-announcements that partners can share with their networks and broadly advertise this event.

Important Resources

These resources below can be incorporated into your HCP events and activities, or you can simply use them to help you and your team get ready to help consumers during OE3.

  • We know that connecting consumers to application assistance is crucial to maximizing the number of Americans that get covered. That’s why Enroll America created the Get Covered Connector, a free online tool available in English and Spanish that connects consumers to free local in-person application assistance.  
  • Your congregation can apply to Enroll America’s Get Covered Academy, a training program to equip and train partners on outreach tactics.The Academy is not a one-off training or consultation; rather it is a commitment from two equal partners to engage on a long-term basis and track results of helping their community get covered and stay covered.
  • To stay up to date about the marketplace enrollment and outreach activity, check out EnrollAmerica.org.
  • To refer consumers to a website with enrollment and health coverage information that is in simple, easy-to-understand language, encourage them to visit GetCoveredAmerica.org.
  • Enroll America’s newest tool is the Get Covered Plan Explorer. This digital plan compare tool will be available to consumers in federally facilitated marketplace states at no cost, and will provide them personalized information about the plans available through the marketplace, including information about expected out-of-pocket costs, covered providers, and prescription drugs.
  • The Get Covered Calculator, available in English and Spanish, is a tool that consumers can enter some basic info into and see how much financial help they could qualify for.
  • You can join the Communicators Program, which is open to anyone who plans to share the “Get Covered, Stay Covered” message with the public. We know consumers are hungry for the facts and we are excited to provide as much clear and helpful information as possible.
  • For more information, see Enroll America outreach toolkits: EnrollAmerica.org/Research-Maps/Toolkits. Enroll America has produced several easy-to-read toolkits with tips on grassroots organizing, engaging different constituency groups, reaching ethnic media, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What if I encounter a pastor who is not a supporter of the ACA?

The best way to work with a church whose pastor is not a supporter of the ACA is to build a relationship with members of that church who might be able to speak on your behalf in front of the pastor and other key ministry leaders and be your in-road into that faith community.

What is the health insurance marketplace?

The health insurance marketplace is a new way that Americans can compare prices and plans side-by-side, and shop for health insurance. From November 1, 2015 until January 31, 2016, consumers can enroll in health insurance through the marketplace either online, over the phone, by mail, or with an in-person assister. For more information on how to sign up, visit GetCoveredAmerica.org.

After signing up, when does coverage begin?

Open enrollment for 2016 health coverage starts on November 1, 2015, and ends on January 31, 2016. Coverage will begin on January 1, 2016, for people who have enrolled by December 15, 2015.

Where can I find my state’s marketplace and who runs it?

You can get connected to a health insurance marketplace that serves your state by visiting GetCoveredAmerica.org/Enroll.

What do you do if you are doing faith engagement in a rural community that is wary of the ACA?

If you are doing outreach in a rural area, it’s a good idea to try to establish and meet with a “validator” of that community before trying to do any type of engagement. Building relationships is crucial, and this is one way to do so.

Next Steps

Enroll America looks forward to working with faith leaders and churches during the third open enrollment cycle on the HCP program. We hope this document will help generate ideas and serve as a starting point for churches and communities to work together as we continue to help drive the uninsured rate down and connect consumers to quality, affordable health coverage.

For more information on HCP, please contact dstreet@enrollamerica.org.

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