April 11, 2015 / 2013 / September / Why the ACA is Important: An EPPN Perspective

Why the ACA is Important: An EPPN Perspective

submitted September 19, 2013 by Jayce Hafner   |   comments

At summer camp in the Diocese of Virginia many years ago, I remember sitting with the other campers in the outdoor shrine and learning that every person is a member of the Body of Christ. Like the many body parts, we are a diverse group, yet no part or person is separate from or more important than the others. Rather, we need each other to effectively function as a whole. Our counselors translated the metaphor of the physical body to the reality of community, conveying that no one person can reach fullness of life without the rest of the community also achieving this same wholeness.

I recall this lesson when I think about the Affordable Care Act. This law will grant our neighbors the same access to health care that more affluent members of their community have enjoyed for decades. At last, our community can receive the care that it needs to grow collectively into fullness of life. The ACA is not perfect, and I expect there will be some kinks that will doubtless need to be worked out in the implementation process. Even so, the ACA is a comprehensive, conscientious, and necessary piece of legislation that will care for our society’s most vulnerable, and that will build healthy, strong communities in its wake.

The Episcopal Church has several policy resolutions that support comprehensive and accessible health care, from GC ’91:  “Call upon the President, Congress, governors, and leaders to devise universal access to health care for the nation’s people” [GC 1991 A099], to GC ’09: “That The Episcopal Church urge its members to contact elected federal, state and territorial officials encouraging them to… establish a system to provide basic health care to all.” [GC 2009  C071]  We used our policy to advocate for the Affordable Care Act in 2009, mobilizing thousands of Episcopalians to write their representatives, conduct visits, and rally their communities in support of this legislation. After months of effort, we celebrated the passage of the ACA, and breathed a collective sigh of relief knowing that millions of uninsured Americans could access the health care that they need to survive.

But our work is not over.

Approximately three years later, I met with several members of Congress and faith leaders of diverse denominations. We took turns going around the table and sharing our denomination’s involvement with the ACA, and I proudly recounted how Episcopalians worked extremely hard to pass this legislation in 2009. After hearing my short speech, one of the congressmen turned and told me that passing the Act is not enough; we must now work to ensure that the legislation is fully implemented.

Implementation is now our primary task. Almost 50 million Americans are living without health care insurance, and the ACA will do us no good unless its provisions are carried out. Many Americans do not know what the ACA is, whether it will affect them, or if it is something that they can afford. Their worries will only be ameliorated through education, and this is where The Episcopal Church can play a powerful role.

Churches are community centers, safe havens where people can gather for fellowship, learning, and growth. As such, they are appropriate channels for educating others about the ACA. Church leaders can spread information through sermons, bulletin inserts, or church announcements in the Sunday service. Members of the congregation can host educational seminars, drawing on readily available resources posted to government websites. Most importantly, churches can engage in ministry with their wider communities, working to disseminate information and enrollment opportunities to the people who need them the most.  As members of the Body of Christ, we must work together to ensure that every ‘part’ receives the care that it needs, so that all parts, together, can live happy, healthy, and full lives.

Other Applicable General Convention Resolutions:

This Friday, Matthew Ellis of National Episcopal Health Ministries will present on a White House conference call. During this call, Ellis will discuss faith and community outreach, education, and enrollment, while highlighting the work of NEHM and the Episcopal Public Policy Network around the ACA. Please join us in congratulating him on this exciting opportunity!

Jayce Hafner is the Domestic Policy Analyst for The Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations.