LESSONS FROM THE FIELD by Rev. Hurmon Hamilton

This article is more than 13 years old.

Know, O people, the LORD has told you what is good,
and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8, New Living Translation)

For the past month, GBIO leaders have been holding Outreach and Enrollment Sessions for our members throughout Greater Boston. These sessions give us direct contact with uninsured residents struggling to secure their own health. By conducting these sessions we are learning several important lessons about health reform and the challenges that lie ahead.

Lesson 1: This law is helping many people get access to quality health insurance.

Here are just two stories that highlight this success:

Sabrina Knights is a family child care provider in Dorchester. She has three children on MassHealth but is uninsured herself. At a recent Outreach and Enrollment workshop organized by GBIO and the American Family Child Care Network, she was surprised to find out that there was a new option for her, Commonwealth Care with a $35 a month premium. After the session she visited her local health center to apply. She’s waiting to hear the results, but they look positive.

Pat Maye-Wilson from People’s Baptist Church is currently between jobs and uninsured. She is in her late 50’s and wants and needs health insurance that can allow her to access to vital prescriptions and doctor visits. After attending a session at her church, she discovered that she is most likely eligible to enroll in Commonwealth Care and recently submitted her application.

Lesson 2: Lots of people do not understand their new obligation under the individual mandate.

While many people have heard about the new law, few people have yet had the opportunity to think about how the new law will affect them, what new programs they are eligible for and if they will face a financial penalty for not having insurance. This is a brand new concept and the residents of the state need additional education about how this law affects their families.

We must be patient and persistent to ensure that this law works for everyone. This education will take time and the Connector must be flexible during this first year when applying penalties.

Lesson 3: Commonwealth Choice may not be working for folks between 300-400 % of poverty.

These middle income folks are feeling a squeeze. While they may not be required under the penalty to purchase insurance, the vast majority want and need access to health insurance. These families earn too much to qualify for Commonwealth Care. The Commonwealth Choice plans are significantly less expensive than the plans that used to be available to individuals prior to health reform (although premiums for some of the Commonwealth Choice plans have already increased significantly from when the plans were introduced). However, these plans are loaded with cost-sharing such as high deductibles and co-insurance. In reality these plans are very expensive if families actually use the coverage, threatening the financial well being of families across the state. The reality is that high deductible plans are expensive plans. They are not truly affordable.

In October and November GBIO will complete 50 Outreach and Enrollment sessions across Greater Boston. While we carry out this work, we ask state leaders and the Connector to be flexible when applying the penalties of the mandate, ensure that the waiver process is fair, humane and accessible, and continue the efforts to educate residents across the state about how the new law affects them. This is vital for the lives and well-beings of thousands of families across the state and for the success of this law. Or to put it another way we urge state leaders and the Connector to.... “do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly.” This is what God requires and this is what the people of the Commonwealth deserve.

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

This program aired on October 13, 2007. The audio for this program is not available.