Champions of Change Blog

  • 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.

  • Changing Lives of Working Americans in Communities of Color

    Joshua Gray

    Joshua Gray is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    Last fall, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) reached out to friends, neighbors, and loved ones with the great news that the Affordable Care Act levels the playing field and gives them a fair shot at a longer, healthier life.

    Thanks to the work of SEIU members and community partners, millions of working women and men – particularly in communities of color – are now waking up to a world in which there is no need to put off a doctor visit or skip medications. There is far less worry about mounting medical bills or missing work and subsequent paychecks.

    Every day, I am honored to work with SEIU nurses, doctors, home care workers, and other union members to promote access to quality, affordable healthcare in African American, Hispanic, and Latino communities. I also build community partnerships that help close health equity gaps. But it is really the faces and lives of those who are touched that motivate me. I’ll never forget Ms. Thomas, a mother I met last February at an enrollment event in Philadelphia. I was able to help identify resources and walk her through the steps so that she could get her daughter covered. I didn’t think I’d ever hear from her again until she called to thank me two months later. Her daughter finally had healthcare.

    This type of outreach is especially critical in reaching Latinos and African Americans, who are much more likely to be uninsured than the rest of the population and suffer worse healthcare outcomes as a result. That is simply unacceptable, and we must continue our fight to move our country’s healthcare forward. We won’t stop until we deliver quality, affordable healthcare to all working people, giving families a path out of poverty.

    Joshua Gray is the Special Assistant to the Chair of the SEIU Healthcare Division.

  • Bringing the Benefits of Health Insurance to Low- and Moderate-Income Americans

    Bill Forbes

    Bill Forbes is being honored as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    All public service volunteer activities have the potential to be highly rewarding. It’s particularly gratifying, though, when one’s volunteer work addresses the underlying cause of an important societal need. That’s how I see my work with Get Covered America. The mission of GCA is to encourage uninsured Americans and legal residents to get enrolled in a health insurance plan through the Healthcare Marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act.

    The primary objective of the ACA is to bring the benefits of health insurance to a larger fraction of Americans, in particular to those living in poverty or near poverty. Without health insurance, families already struggling to achieve economic security could be overwhelmed by health care costs at any time.

    Get Covered America focuses its efforts on outreach and education. In partnership with a wide spectrum of educational, religious, and service organizations, we reach out to the uninsured with information about their options for high-quality, affordable health insurance under the Healthcare Marketplace.

    Among the uninsured, lack of knowledge about the provisions of the ACA is a major barrier to getting enrolled. A study commissioned by Get Covered America conducted shortly after the first Open Enrollment period found that only 26% of those who did not enroll were aware that the law gives financial help in the form of tax subsidies to low- and moderate-income Americans. The study found that only 28% of those who did not enroll were aware that free in-person enrollment assistance was available and that less than half who did not enroll knew that health plans cannot deny people coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

    We provide that information and more to individuals we meet at public events, at schools, at houses of worship, and through our many partner organizations, including health institutions and social service groups. In addition, we refer these individuals to the various local agencies that provide in-person enrollment assistance. One of the hallmarks of our program is follow-up, by phone and email, with the people we meet who express a need and desire to get enrolled. Working with GCA, I have found that follow-up beyond the initial contact very significantly increases the likelihood that an individual will complete the enrollment process.

    It is a source of tremendous satisfaction for me and the many other GCA volunteers and staff to know that the lives of many of the people we help will be improved in concrete and long-lasting ways.

    Bill Forbes is a volunteer with the Get Covered America campaign.

  • Dedicating His Life So Others Could Live Their Own

    Andrew Cray

    Andrew Cray is being honored posthumously as an Affordable Care Act Champion of Change.

    Andrew Cray dedicated his life to making sure others could live their own.  

    Every day, Andrew fought tirelessly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, Americans to be treated with dignity and fairness. His work touched so many lives in so many ways, from working to secure protections for LGBT homeless youth to collaborating with the Obama Administration to implement the Supreme Court’s marriage equality rulings. At the center of his work, however, was his belief that the foundation of equality rests on the ability of all Americans to access comprehensive, affordable, and inclusive health care.  

    Andrew was just 28 years old when cancer tragically took his life this past August, but his passion for equity in and access to health insurance existed long before his diagnosis. As a transgender man, Andrew knew the challenges and the needs of the LGBT community personally and was all too familiar with the common occurrence of transgender people being denied insurance simply because of their gender identity, as well as with the startling statistics. According to a recent Center for American Progress report, one in three LGBT people with incomes at or below 4 times the federal poverty line lacked insurance, and 72% of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people reported experiencing discrimination when attempting to find coverage through their employer for a same-sex partner. The eternal optimist that he was, Andrew believed that, with the right reforms and the improvements, those numbers could change.

    Like many LGBT Americans, Andrew saw the Affordable Care Act as a vehicle for change and an opportunity to open up life-saving medical care to a community too often systemically and financially excluded. After passage, he worked with the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services to end discrimination against LGBT people by health insurance companies. He collaborated with the federal government and state governments to ensure accurate data collection on sexual orientation and gender identity, which will serve as the foundation of future LGBT health advocacy. Andrew also worked with various partners to ensure that many of the new insurance options were inclusive of same-sex couples and transgender Americans.

    As important as these reforms are, he also knew that, for the law to work, people needed to be educated and enrolled, which is why he, along with colleagues at the Center for American Progress, Sellers Dorsey, and the Federal Agencies Project, co-founded Out2Enroll. Over the last year, Out2Enroll has helped educate and connect countless LGBT Americans with their new coverage options under the Affordable Care Act. 

    All of this work took on a new meaning for Andrew when, in September 2013, he was diagnosed with cancer. Throughout his treatment, he continued his legal advocacy and outreach work but also decided to utilize his personal story to convince young Americans, including young LGBT Americans, to enroll in health insurance. In an op-ed in The Advocate, Andrew wrote, “Our LGBT community is resilient and strong, and particularly for those of us who are young and have our entire lives in front of us, it may feel like we are invincible. I’ve learned the hard way that I’m not.”

    Several months later, this past July, Andrew found out that his cancer had returned and that it was terminal. As his partner, and soon to be wife, I sat with Andrew as we discussed what he wanted to do with the time he had left. He said he wanted to continue his life’s work: fighting to ensure that all Americans, including LGBT Americans, can access life-saving medical care.

    One month later, Andrew passed away far too quickly and far too young, but the benefits of his work live on. As he wrote in The Advocate last March, “Cancer has taken a lot from me physically and emotionally. But it hasn’t taken away my voice…I want to make sure other young LGBT people understand why getting covered is so important. I hope that my community will listen when I say — please, take care of yourselves. Be out, be healthy, and get covered."

    Sarah McBride is the Special Assistant for LGBT Progress at the Center for American Progress and authored this blog post on behalf of Andrew Cray. Andrew Cray was a policy analyst at the Center for American Progress. He was her husband and colleague.