Covered California ‘Big Sunday’ connects with more than 500 African American churches statewide

Pastors up and down the state encourage consumers to sign up for coverage before the Jan. 31 deadline

Three of the largest churches in Los Angeles County – First African Methodist Episcopal Church of Los Angeles (FAME), Faithful Central Bible Church and City of Refuge Church – joined forces with Covered California over MLK Jr. Day weekend to reach the African American community with a message that health insurance is now a right that is available to everyone, and it is time to exercise that right by enrolling and getting family and friends to enroll.

Covered California holds Big Sunday events on Jan. 17 in hundreds of churches throughout the state to encourage African Americans to sign up for health insurance before the Jan. 31 deadline. Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, addresses the congregation at First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) in Los Angeles as guest of Pastor Edgar Boyd (center, sitting). – Photo: Ian Foxx
Covered California holds Big Sunday events on Jan. 17 in hundreds of churches throughout the state to encourage African Americans to sign up for health insurance before the Jan. 31 deadline. Peter V. Lee, executive director of Covered California, addresses the congregation at First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) in Los Angeles as guest of Pastor Edgar Boyd (center, sitting). – Photo: Ian Foxx

Referred to as “Big Sunday,” the church communities on Sunday, Jan. 17, honored the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by promoting the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, by urging worshipers to sign up for affordable health insurance before the deadline on Jan. 31.

Speaking to the congregations, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee quoted Dr. King stating, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman.” He continued by stating that President Obama ended that injustice and now all Americans have access to the health care they need and deserve.

No longer will people be denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition or because treatment costs too much.

Lee was joined by leaders of more than 500 predominantly African-American churches representing approximately 100,000 African Americans throughout the state, including members of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the California Missionary Baptist State Convention and the Apostolic Churches of California who helped spread the word about Covered California using pulpit announcements, social media, bulletin items and email messages and flyers to encourage individuals and families to enroll in a health plan.

Congregants were informed of subsidies available to help eligible individuals and families cover the cost of health insurance premiums. Nearly nine out of 10 enrollees in Covered California receive some level of financial assistance. More than half of enrollees paid less than $100 per month for their coverage, and nearly half of those paid less than $50 per month.

Speaking to the congregations, Covered California Executive Director Peter V. Lee quoted Dr. King stating, “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman.”

“Let’s make sure no one goes without health care,” Lee said, recognizing how churches are woven into the fabric of African American culture and influence. “Please take a moment and think about someone you know who is uninsured – a brother, nephew, grandchild or neighbor. Encourage them to get covered. They have two weeks before open enrollment ends.”

Covered California Certified Enrollment Counselors were at each church from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., providing free, confidential enrollment assistance, while a Covered California van and street team canvassed surrounding neighborhoods to distribute information.

Pastor Edgar Boyd welcomes Covered California’s Peter V. Lee to Big Sunday at First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) in Los Angeles. Rev. Boyd was previously the pastor of Bethel AME in San Francisco, where he is well known and loved. – Photo: Ian Foxx
Pastor Edgar Boyd welcomes Covered California’s Peter V. Lee to Big Sunday at First African Methodist Episcopal Church (FAME) in Los Angeles. Rev. Boyd was previously the pastor of Bethel AME in San Francisco, where he is well known and loved. – Photo: Ian Foxx

Big Sunday ended with a lasting message that it is time to end health disparities that have devastated the African American community for too long.

“We know that African Americans are five times more likely to hear about Covered California through their churches. This kind of commitment from church families to encourage enrollment is so critical to making sure African Americans have access to quality and affordable health care,” Lee said.

For those who have not yet enrolled, there is still time. Open enrollment ends on Jan. 31, which is the deadline to receive coverage starting March 1 and to avoid tax penalties. Covered California has storefront locations statewide where individuals can get help enrolling. Visit CoveredCA.com to enroll, learn about health plan options or find locations in your community where you can get free, confidential help enrolling.

About Covered California

Covered California is the state’s marketplace for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Covered California, in partnership with the California Department of Health Care Services, was charged with creating a new health insurance marketplace in which individuals and small businesses can get access to affordable health insurance plans.

Covered California helps individuals determine whether they are eligible for premium assistance that is available on a sliding-scale basis to reduce insurance costs or whether they are eligible for low-cost or no-cost Medi-Cal. Consumers can then compare health insurance plans and choose the plan that works best for their health needs and budget. Small businesses can purchase competitively priced health insurance plans and offer their employees the ability to choose from an array of plans and may qualify for federal tax credits.

Covered California is an independent part of the state government whose job is to make the new market work for California’s consumers. It is overseen by a five-member board appointed by the governor and the Legislature. For more information about Covered California, please visit www.CoveredCA.com.