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“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 (New International Version) by Reverend Hurmon Hamilton

Like many organizations across the state, the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) is preparing to do its part in what we hope will be a comprehensive, collaborative and well-funded state-wide outreach and enrollment effort to ensure that every uninsured person in Massachusetts learns about and takes advantage of their new options for quality, affordable insurance.

This work has already begun for Commonwealth Care with impressive results: 125,000 people — children, families, and individuals, young, middle age and in their late 50’s, from Boston to Lynn, to Haverhill, Dartmouth, out to Pittsfield — have enrolled in quality health insurance since the passage of Chapter 58 last year! What a great day – Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Last week, a GBIO organizer reported an experience she had visiting a nearby community health center.

The purpose of her visit was to learn about the Virtual Gateway and understand the process of actually helping people sign up for Commonwealth Care and Commonwealth Choice. A very helpful health center worker was walking her through how the Gateway works when a Vietnamese woman came into the office with a flier in her hand for Commonwealth Care. “Is this where I can sign up?” she asked. Within minutes the health center worker had called the Connector’s Help Line, accessed a Vietnamese translator, and the woman was enrolled! Already, this transaction had become common place to the health center worker; however, the GBIO organizer felt as if she had witnessed a small miracle right before her eyes. What a great day. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

We rejoice each and every time one of our members is enrolled in quality health insurance.

We rejoiced when Peter Brooke, a resident of South Boston and member of 4th Presbyterian Church finally became insured. Peter works in construction. He’s had diabetes for most of his life, and nearly a year ago was in dire straits. Without health insurance, he was forced to reuse his insulin needles and spend hours in the emergency room for care. This past winter, a complication from the diabetes forced him to be in the hospital for a several day stay. At the hospital, because of his income, Peter was automatically enrolled in Commonwealth Care. Having quality comprehensive health insurance saved Peter’s life and his financial well-being. He left the hospital without thousands of dollars in medical bills that would have thrown him into financial ruin, and he also left the hospital with quality, comprehensive health insurance which enables him to have the necessary follow-up to properly monitor the diabetes and its complications.

We rejoiced when Kristin Bonelli, a 25 year old woman, who works 2 part-time jobs as museum educator became insured again. She had never been without health insurance before, because she had always had student insurance. But for the past year that she’s been out of school, she has been in a different situation. Neither of her 2 jobs offers her insurance, and at her income range, private insurance is unaffordable. She heard about Commonwealth Care through a co-worker and recently enrolled in Commonwealth Care at the $70 monthly premium level. Kristin believes it’s important to have health insurance, both for a yearly check up and in case of an emergency. Her first doctor’s appointment in one year will be later this month.

And we rejoiced when a member of my congregation, Lavern Barnes in her mid – 50’s tells her story. At this very moment, Lavern is recovering from major surgery that could have been life threatening. About six weeks ago, because she became one of the 125,000 new enrollees into Commonwealth Care, Lavern went to the doctor for the first time in years. Struggling with a severe sinus infection, she did what she would have never thought of doing before. But this time was different; she had comprehensive heath care, so why not go see a doctor. During this historic medical visit, the doctor realized that it had been a long time since Lavern had been seen.

As a result it was suggested that Lavern take some routine tests. The tests revealed what would have surely become a life threatening reality, if not acted on quickly. Lavern was immediately scheduled for surgery and four days ago the surgery was completed and all is well. When I stopped by on a brief visit two days a go, her few words were clear ---- “Praise the Lord!” Yes, Praise the LORD, indeed, Lavern is alive because of access to affordable quality health care coverage.

These stories are just three vignettes among thousands upon thousands of individual stories. Their triumph makes us proud and fills us with pure joy. These lives are precisely why GBIO got into this fight, and they are why we are committed to continuing to build upon the achievements of health reform. Truly, this is the day the LORD has made through the many who worked for the creation and passage of Chapter 58, so let us rejoice and be glad within it. Yet, the question remains, how do we get about the business of truly rejoicing and appropriately being glad together as a Commonwealth? We must finish the job! This means an all out commitment to outreach and enrollment. These twin actions form the next step in the long road to enacting Chapter 58 successfully. Therefore, significant public and private resources must be devoted to this important work. So in this wonderful day, we join our Affordable Care Today (ACT!) Coalition partners in urging the legislature to fully refund the MassHealth Outreach & Enrollment grants in the current budget process. And we call upon all supporters of Chapter 58 to recognize that the success of health reform grows every time an uninsured resident of our state enrolls in coverage. “Surely this is the day that the LORD has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it!”

The Reverend Hurmon E. Hamilton, Jr is President of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, Senior Pastor of Roxbury Presbyterian Church USA and Chairman and CEO of Roxbury Presbyterian Church Social Impact Center, Inc.

This program aired on June 4, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.

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