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Health Security: A Moral Imperative

Triedstone Baptist Church

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

Columbus, Ohio
March 16, 2014

Thank you, Mayor Coleman, Elder Price, and Bishop Ross.

I was raised Roman Catholic, but since you’ve welcomed me so kindly today, I promise, this speech won’t be in Latin.

The President believes that everyone who works hard, contributes to the community and plays by the rules should have the opportunity to live a decent life.  They should be able to save a little money, take care of their family and retire with dignity. But without good health, and the finances to pay medical bills if you get sick, that opportunity for a bright future is far dimmer.  We know far too many people live sicker and die younger than they should. But good news – those days are coming to an end!

I’m here today because the Marketplace open enrollment period is coming to a close on March 31. After that, the next time to sign up isn’t until November, so it’s important that we get the word out now. And as a daughter of the Buckeye State myself, getting Ohio covered is especially important to me.  Almost 80,000 Ohioans have already signed up for a private plan in the Marketplace, and more than 97,000 have been determined eligible for Medicaid. That’s a great start, but there are still over a million Ohioans without coverage.

Ohio and the Uninsured

And many of those uninsured are right here in your neighborhood. Just north of here in Milo Grogan you will find tens of thousands of people without coverage. These are moms and dads, your neighbors and friends, and maybe even some of you here today.

And because they can’t check that box, because they don’t have that card, they live every day knowing that the next illness could cost them their heat, or even their home.

Proverbs 17 says: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Having to think twice about taking your fevered son to the hospital, or choosing between a mammogram and a gas bill – those are the kinds of things that crush a person’s spirit.

Before the Affordable Care Act, families had few real options. People with pre-existing conditions were often priced out of the market, or flat out denied coverage. And many who had insurance — who followed the rules and paid every bill on time — could be dropped when they needed it most. 

Because their jobs didn’t have affordable coverage, among other things, African Americans are 55 percent more likely to be uninsured than white Americans!  They suffer from higher rates of high blood pressure and diabetes. And black women are 40 percent more likely to die from breast cancer — even though they are less likely to be diagnosed with it.

A New Day

But thankfully, today is a new day. The Affordable Care Act has created choice and competition. No one can be denied coverage, and it can’t be taken away from someone just because she gets sick.

What’s more, insurance companies must now cover services like doctor visits and prescription drugs. And preventative care like cancer screenings must be covered at no additional cost. When early detection can mean the difference between life and death for breast cancer patients, these changes can mean a lot for women of color.

And for the first time for millions of Americans, health insurance is now affordable. Across the country, 6 out of 10 uninsured Americans can get covered for $100 per month or less — some for a lot less.  

Here in Columbus, a family of four with an income of 50,000 could find a plan – for the whole family – for as little as $94 a month. And if that family income qualifies them for Medicaid, they can get signed up for that health insurance for even less.

Call to Action

But here’s the point — and why I’m here today speaking with you — just because people have the opportunity to get coverage, doesn’t mean they will. Not if they don’t know about these changes, if they’ve gotten a bad deal with a health insurance company before, or if they’re just too busy working jobs and taking care of kids to keep up.

The President has made health coverage for all possible, but he can’t make it a reality without your help.

Christians are called to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, and tend to the sick. It’s divine mandate to help build our communities, inside these walls and out. And a community can’t thrive when its members are struggling with this kind of insecurity. 

Today, you could change someone’s life—help them find security and peace of mind—just by telling them about health insurance opportunities.

We have partners all over the country, but few can compete with the influence and impact of a church like yours. You don’t need color-coded maps or targeted messaging to reach your community. Because you are the heart of your community.

Tell your friends and family, your neighbors, even your mailman—affordable care is just one click or call away. They — or you — can go to Healthcare.gov (which is working great!) or call the 24-hour line at 800-318-2596 for help in English or Spanish. You can also find the Spanish website at CuidadoDeSalud.gov. There are even navigators here at Triedstone who can help you sign up. You might be surprised to learn just how affordable coverage can be.  And if someone qualifies for Medicaid, the call center and web site will help them get enrolled.

Conclusion

There are lots of people who want this President and this law to fail. Who don’t believe we need new laws for insurance companies and new options for Ohio families. But we’ve come too far to turn back now! And we need your help to make the final days a great success.

Don’t delay! We’ve only got two more weeks before the open enrollment period ends on March 31, and if you miss it, you won’t be able to sign up again until November.

Thank you for inviting me here today. Thank you for your support of the President. Keep us in your prayers and help us spread the word that health security in within reach.


Content created by Assist. Sec./Public Affairs - Speechwriting Division
Content last reviewed on June 13, 2014