Champions of Change Blog

  • The Affordable Care Act as Viewed by a Sister of Mercy

    Joan Serda

    Joan Serda is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    As an educator, I know the importance of health care. I’ve always had the privilege of having health insurance, so I’ve never had to worry about paying a medical bill or paying for a prescription. I haven’t had to be concerned about how to pay for the care of a sick child, spouse, or parent.

    In Georgia, there is a lot of poverty, and many people don’t have health insurance. In Bibb County, where I live, there are tens of thousands of young people without health insurance.

    Emergency rooms are not the answer to good health care. They are intended for emergencies. Emergency room visits are time-consuming and should be a last resort. They result in very expensive care and no follow-up. Often, patients don’t improve, and visits simply reoccur.

    The Affordable Care Act is a step in the right direction, enabling many to obtain health insurance that they can afford. If children are healthy, they will learn more, and our schools will improve. If adults are healthy, they will be able to work more effectively and help their children grow, be healthy, and contribute to society.

    I know a woman who had a possible cancer but refused to go to the doctor because she couldn’t afford it. But now, through the Affordable Care Act, she was able to get insurance and see a doctor. Another woman I know had insurance through her employer, but coverage through the ACA drastically reduced her premium without sacrificing health insurance coverage.

    As a Sister of Mercy, I vowed to serve the poor, sick, and uneducated. Working with Get Covered America gave me the opportunity to help people become better educated about health coverage. I volunteered for ten hours a week to help people understand the Affordable Care Act. Many people were unaware of the opportunities available, and many had seen and heard false information. Some were fearful of something new and did not understand how health insurance works. Much education is needed, so I will continue as a volunteer for Get Covered America during the upcoming enrollment period.

    Joan Serda is the Assistant Justice Coordinator for the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas South Central Community.

  • Miami Dade College Leads with Initiative to Reach Students and Engage Community

    Joe Pena

    Joe Pena is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    Miami Dade College (MDC) is the higher education institution with the largest campus-based enrollment in the United States, serving more than 165,000 students. Under the leadership of its president, Dr. Eduardo J. Padron, the institution has been elevated to national prominence for its innovation, programs of excellence, and service to the community.

    President Padron designated me to coordinate a college-wide initiative to educate students, faculty, and the local community about their options under the Affordable Care Act. I was incredibly motivated to work on this project. Early on, we formed a partnership with Get Covered America, which sparked local community organizations and volunteers to assist with our efforts. We organized a series of successful educational outreach events, including workshops on multiple campuses. These events provided key information and enrollment assistance to all with an interest in signing up for health insurance.

    The informational workshops were held on Saturdays and weeknights in the computer courtyards of four of our campuses stretching across all of Miami-Dade County. Holding these workshops in our computer courtyards allowed the trained assisters to educate the participants, explain the enrollment process, and answer questions directly.

    Although I spearheaded this initiative, it came together as a result of the contributions of many in our institution.  For Miami Dade College, this was an “all hands on deck” project focused on our students and local community. From our College and campus leadership to our administrators to our computer technicians and support staff, we were all motivated to pitch in, educating and assisting others about their health care options. The College District Office of Communications played a key role in announcing our outreach activities, generating media attention, and encouraging all to visit the HealthCare.gov website.

    In the next enrollment period, we plan to once again partner with Get Covered America and the other community organizations to run educational workshops and to engage our communications network. In addition, we are organizing “office hours” on our campuses, allowing students and community members to set up individual enrollment assistance appointments with the trained assisters from the community organizations.

    This MDC initiative is credited with having made a significant impact, improving the access to health care for thousands of residents in Miami-Dade County and throughout South Florida. I am proud to have been a part of this effort and to have been designated a “Champion for Change”.

    Joe Pena is the Director of Federal Relations for Miami Dade College.

  • Promoting Libraries for Affordable Care Act Outreach

    Jamie Markus

    Jamie Markus is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    As the Library Development Manager at the Wyoming State Library, I spend my time creating and coordinating programs that enhance library services offered to our state’s 580,000 residents. The Library Development Office staff manages, promotes, and supports many exciting statewide library projects.

    In July 2013, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the American Library Association, and other partner organizations launched an e-health initiative, asking all types of libraries to support educational and outreach efforts surrounding the Health Insurance Marketplace.  The Library Development Office at the Wyoming State Library took the lead in coordinating with potential partners in Wyoming. 

    As the project progressed, I realized that libraries would become key partners in the outreach effort due to their status as community centers and trusted sources of information. I met and talked with as many organizations as I could find to discuss how Wyoming’s libraries could help to support the efforts of Healthcare Navigators and those working to inform residents about the Affordable Care Act, the Health Insurance Marketplace, and the HealthCare.gov website.

    The Wyoming State Library designed and supplied 15,000 Health Insurance Marketplace handouts to Wyoming libraries, including twenty-three public libraries, seven community college libraries, a tribal college library, and the University of Wyoming libraries. More than 90 library outlets in nearly every major community in the state had the opportunity to provide these handouts to library patrons. 

    I participated in an untold number of meetings, teleconferences, webinars, and email exchanges to promote the idea of using library public meeting spaces and public access computers to those groups involved in educational events and insurance sign-up workshops on the Affordable Care Act and Health Insurance Marketplace. I also coordinated the production of two state-wide webinars and two programs at the 2013 Wyoming Library Association Annual Conference, informing library staff about the Affordable Care Act, the Health Insurance Marketplace, our Wyoming partners, and available resources.

    The demand for information about the Affordable Care Act was high. I was glad to be able to promote libraries as a safe and trusted place for outreach organizations to put residents in touch with the information they wanted and needed.

    Jamie Markus is the Library Development Manager at the Wyoming State Library.

  • Using Partnerships to Reach Into Communities

    Mark LeBeau

    Mark LeBeau is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    In California, tribal governments, tribal health programs, and the California Rural Indian Health Board (CRIHB) worked together to develop and share educational materials about the Affordable Care Act prior to its passage. Upon enactment of the ACA, CRIHB partnered with the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board, Oklahoma City Area Inter-Tribal Health Board, and United South and Eastern Tribes to develop tribal-specific educational materials about the legal rights of tribes and American Indian and Alaska Natives (AIANs) under the ACA. These partners each contributed funds to help make this work a reality.

    This program became known as the Tribal Education and Outreach Consortium (TEOC). The people involved in this work became highly knowledgeable about the subject matter and formed a training program called TEOC University, which trained trainers to present the information to tribal communities. This was the first tribal work of this type in the United States, and the TEOC materials have been distributed throughout Indian Country.

    Today, a number of federal and state offices provide these materials. Many of these materials have been reviewed and updated by CRIHB and the other members of TEOC. One of the most well-known programs we’ve helped with has been the National Indian Health Outreach and Education Initiative (NIHOE). This is a partnership between the Indian Health Service (HIS), the National Congress of American Indians, the National Indian Health Board, and representatives from each of the 12 IHS Areas. The partnership develops consumer-oriented materials to assist AIANs in understanding their opportunities under the ACA. Together, the partners provide local trainings, national marketing tools, and e-resources that clearly explain health reform changes and their impact on tribal communities. CRIHB has presented these materials to tribal governments, Indian health programs, and Indian communities and organizations.

    To ensure the successful roll-out of the ACA in California, CRIHB policy staff have been meeting with state officials on a regular basis.  In addition, CRIHB has reached out to the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB) for input in developing successful implementation strategies and tactics.

    These strategies and tactics were incorporated into a proposal developed by CRIHB, which was presented to the state as a necessary and fundable ACA program. Eventually, the state agreed to fund our program. As a result of this work, the Covered California Tribal Community Mobilization program was created and funded at $250,000. The grant designated funds to support implementation of the ACA AIAN provisions and to meet the tribal consultation requirements outlined in federal guidance. While this grant will end in December of 2014, I and the rest of the folks at CRIHB will continue to seek additional financial resources in order to continue to implement this important work for Indian Country.

    Mark LeBeau is Executive Director at the California Rural Indian Health Board.

  • You Too Can Make a Difference

    Pat Halpin-Murphy

    Pat Halpin-Murphy is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    I am truly grateful to have been selected as a White House Champion of Change. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to be honored with this award. 

    As the President and Founder of the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition (PBCC), I lead a non-profit organization dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer now so that our daughters won’t have to. I’m a breast cancer survivor, and twenty-five years ago when I was diagnosed I found that there wasn’t an organization in Pennsylvania dedicated to supporting women and families facing breast cancer. I founded the PBCC in 1993 to fill this void. In our twenty-year history, the PBCC has paved the way for countless legislative victories that support women and families across the state.

    The best part of my work is talking to women about their experience with breast cancer and finding out what we can do to help meet their needs. For instance, we learned that many women were diagnosed with breast cancer in late stages because they have dense breast tissue. Upon learning this, we didn’t just sit by and wait for something to be done. Rather, we sprang into action and convinced Pennsylvania State Senator Bob Mensch to introduce legislation to help women with dense breast tissue receive improved information and screening so that they could be diagnosed at an earlier stage.

    I believe that we all have the capacity to make a difference in our communities. Former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford made a tremendous impression on me as a leader. He recognized that each person has so much to contribute if only given the opportunity. He listened to people’s ideas and encouraged them to make those ideas become realities. Senator Wofford believed that everyone could contribute to their community. I truly believe that we can all make a difference. That’s the best part of this work. I’ve come to realize that, by simply standing up and taking action, we can all be “Champions of Change.”

    Pat Halpin-Murphy is the President and Founder of the PA Breast Cancer Coalition. 

  • Connecting Muslims to Coverage

    Khadija Gurnah

    Khadija Gurnah is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    There are a number of cultural, language, and financial barriers that prevent the traditional government messaging and resource dissemination strategies from reaching the Muslim community. These barriers vary greatly with each local community, as Muslim Americans represent diverse socioeconomic strata, immigration statuses, cultures, ethnicities, languages, histories, and religious approaches and interpretations. Assistance that is tailored to these diverse needs is critical to any effective public health initiative in the Muslim community.

    American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) is a national, non-profit organization of American Muslims in health professions. During the last period of Open Enrollment, our goal was to cater to the needs of the uninsured Muslim population by promoting awareness of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

    To achieve this, we had a two-pronged approach to outreach. At a grassroots level, we implemented enrollment campaigns in individual states. At a national level, we served as a resource for information and coordinated National Muslim Enrollment Weekend with a coalition of Muslim organizations.

    At a grassroots level, we recruited “Community Liaisons” in seven states. The liaisons worked with their local faith communities to host enrollment and outreach events. We recognized that our communities needed cultural ambassadors to encourage their local faith communities to host events. Our most effective cultural ambassadors were recent graduates from health fields. They were excited, passionate, and well-established within their communities. AMHP also supported volunteers and partner organizations across the nation by connecting them with local Navigators and providing resources such as event planning guides, outreach materials tailored to Muslim communities, flyers, sign-up sheets, and a Jumah Khutba guide for imams to discuss the Affordable Care Act during sermons.

    We established a clear tracking plan to help us keep metrics on outreach. We sent out a very simple form to anyone who planned to host an enrollment event. We also followed up afterward with another form. The form tracked attendance and enrollment and included a thank you to everyone for their time and commitment. We used the tracking form to update an online events page that allowed people to find enrollment events in their area.

    We were also part of a national coalition of Muslim organizations that facilitated national Muslim Enrollment weekend. Together, we rolled out the first national health campaign targeting the Muslim community. We partnered with amazing facilitators at Get Covered America and the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to reach as many Muslim Americans as possible.

    We were met with overwhelming support from the Muslim community. Over the course of the enrollment period, we made contact with 27,116 people and enrolled 1,662 people in high-quality, affordable health insurance plans.

    As we prepare for the next enrollment period, we are looking forward to building upon our existing infrastructure to reach new communities across the nation. It is an honor to be part of this moment in our nation’s history and to help address the needs of our nation’s uninsured.

    Khadija Gurnah is the Program Manager for the American Muslim Health Professionals’ Affordable Care Act outreach and enrollment efforts.