April 11, 2015 / 2013 / September / Scenarios: How Ministries Can Assist With ACA

Scenarios: How Ministries Can Assist With ACA

submitted September 26, 2013 by Matthew Ellis and Jayce Hafner   |   comments

Affordable Care Act Enrollment Begins October 1!

Many of our ministries come into contact with those likely to be uninsured. Food pantries and other ministries that serve the homeless or working poor will have the opportunity to identify many who need help accessing the benefits of the Affordable Care Act. Here is how your ministry can help:

  1. Know what's happening: Do you know the significance of October 1, January 1, and March 31? Do you understand the basics of the Affordable Care Act? Do you know where to find additional help?

  2. Make a plan: How involved do you want to be? Consider one of the scenarios below and how your ministry might participate. 

  3. Offer help: Do not assume that no one in your parish or community needs this information. People can lack health insurance for many reasons and it is not always clear who needs the information. At a minimum, commit to providing information and knowing where to direct people for more help. Really stuck? See our ACA page on this site to catch up on the latest information and best resources.

Scenario #1:

Mark is the rector of a small parish in an upper-middle class neighborhood. He suspects that few, if any, of his parishioners are uninsured. However, Mark realizes that many people pass through the church doors and may find ACA information useful. He also knows that it's possible parishioners may need to pass information on to friends and family. He posts fact sheets from the Official Resources of CMS.gov on the bulletin board and a note to visit healthcare.gov in the bulletin. 

Scenario #2: 

Mary Anne is a 56-year-old member of a rural congregation. She has heard a few things about the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the news, but she is unsure whether it applies to her or to her family. Mary Anne decides to do some research: she visits www.HealthCare.gov to learn more about the ACA. As she reads this information, Mary Anne realizes that, while she is not directly affected by this law (her family already has health care coverage and their household income is above the income threshold for subsidies/credits), there are many people who live near or below the poverty line in her congregation who probably do not have affordable health care, and who would benefit from the ACA. She has wondered how to help needy households in her community for years, and this seems like the perfect opportunity to take action.

Mary Anne decides to organize a community gathering at her church to explain the ACA and how it affects congregation members. She calls her priest to ask whether she can hold an ACA enrollment webinar in the social space of the church; the priest agrees, and Mary Anne begins planning her seminar.

Mary Anne uses the Find Local Help feature to connect with an agency serving her area. They agree to send a Health Care Navigator to conduct an education night. She sends out an email to the church listserv, and inserts an announcement in the church bulletin. On Sunday, she gets up and invites the congregation to her seminar the following week.

Mary Anne spends the days leading up to the seminar doing additional research and carefully practicing her presentation (she decides to use the slide show presentation and notes provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services [CMMS]. Once she has rehearsed her part of the presentation and copied handouts, she is ready for the big day.

When congregation members gather in the social space to hear Mary Anne present, she is a little nervous; Mary Anne is not a trained public speaker, nor is she an expert on the ACA. Even so, little by little, she loosens up, realizing that this is not a performance, but a sharing. She relays what knowledge she knows, and uses the notes from the CMMS to guide her presentation. The congregation members are genuinely interested in the topic and grateful to Mary Anne and the Navigator for taking the time to explain the ACA to them clearly, and concisely. Mary Anne leaves the space knowing that she’s done good work and taken action for a cause that she believes in.

Scenario #3:

Larry serves on the Vestry of his Church and leads the food pantry program.  Tina, one of the food pantry clients, confides in him that she won't be getting insurance through the Affordable Care Act because she has heard that you need to sign up online and she doesn't have access to a computer.

While Larry provides Tina with the phone number for healthcare.gov (1-800-318-2596), he realizes Tina is probably not alone in thinking online access is required. He works with vestry members and several parishoners to set up a mini-computer lab during the time the food pantry is open so others have access to the HealthCare.gov site. Larry quickly realizes that people had additional questions so he uses the Find Local Help feature to connect with an agency serving his area. They agree to send a Health Care Navigator to assist individuals on specific days and times. Larry also checks with his public library about their resources for ACA sign-up and helps to publicize their offerings.


Matthew Ellis is the CEO of National Episcopal Health Ministries. Jayce Hafner is the Domestic Policy Analyst for The Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations