Churches play important role in increasing access to health care

Texas leads the nation in the number of uninsured adults. See how congregations can help close this gap by offering space to navigators who can help enroll uninsured families in available programs.

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  • The problem: Too many Texans don’t have health insurance

EHF’s research shows that the rate of uninsured adults in Texas has dropped by more than one-third since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) went into effect. Despite this progress, Texas still leads the nation in the number and rate of uninsured adults, in part because those who are eligible for health insurance coverage often need help enrolling.

Many people eligible for Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or ACA health insurance plans don’t enroll and never gain health coverage. Recent research has found that many families are unable to effectively access health insurance coverage because they need help understanding and navigating the system.

EHF’s research found 25 percent of all Texans don’t understand basic health insurance terms like “co-pay,” “deductible,” or “provider network.” The lack of understanding is highest for uninsured and low-income Texans. Many without health insurance are also unaware that preventive care is now provided to them and their families at little or no cost, or that there may not be providers in their community that take certain plans.

  • How congregations can help

Open Enrollment for ACA Health Insurance Coverage 2017 begins November 1, 2016 and ends January 31, 2017. This is a special opportunity for congregations and community organizations to make a contribution to community health by helping individuals and families with enrollment in health insurance programs such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and the Affordable Care Act Plans.

Congregations can help more people sign up for health insurance plans by opening their doors and becoming enrollment centers for their community. Churches can invite health care navigators to come to their site to provide enrollment assistance services to members of their parish and others in the community.

These navigators are equipped to understand the language and the “ins and outs” of insurance plans and to help individuals enroll in the plans that meet their specific needs and those of their families. Navigators will work one on one with community members needing enrollment information and help.

“Many who have purchased a health insurance plan – particularly those doing it by themselves, really do not understand the terminology or the provisions in the plan which they have purchased.”

Elena Marks, EHF’s president and CEO

Churches can host enrollment events as part of existing outreach programs. For examples, if a church has a food pantry program, navigators may be on-site the days that the pantry is open. Enrollment events can also be “stand alone” events that take place a few times a month.

Do you want to explore this possibility or would you like more information about assisting members of your community in accessing health care coverage?

Click here to contact Jean Kegler. Kegler serves as a consultant to EHF and can help congregations interested in addressing issues related to access to health care.

To learn more about the uninsured and the coverage gap in Texas, visit the Center for Public Policy Priorities (CPPP) or Texas Well and Healthy.

For more local information about the enrollment in Affordable Care Act plans in your community, The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has an interactive map where you can view enrollment of potentially eligible adults by zip code.

For more ways congregations can address help increase access to health care, visit EHF’s Congregational Resource Center.