Erica Martinez, 27, has played by the rules. A graduate of Southern Oregon University, she has been an active member of University Park United Methodist Church since she was a teenager. She volunteers with the congregation's Community Outreach Committee, is a regular member of the choir and works -- often the graveyard shift -- for a local business that hasn't provided a living wage or benefits. "I have lived in this world for 27 years and have only had health care for less than half of them," she writes. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Martinez has health care again for the first time in years. The National Council of Churches, which includes the United Methodist Church, was a major advocate for what has become known as Obamacare -- and people like Erica Martinez are the reason why.
"As a child I had the Oregon Health Plan. Making appointments and keeping up with what was required was difficult for my mother because of a language barrier and her illiteracy," Martinez says. "We read in Scripture, 'I am my brother's keeper,' and with that I ask: Can't we Americans take care of each other? What is more Christian than that?" Thirty million Americans will be able to sign up for the ACA, many of them young workers like Martinez who are college graduates working in a difficult economy. People of faith have long argued that health care should be a basic human right. Without access to care, people suffer.
Martinez knows this from firsthand experience: "I recall falling off my neighbors' swing when I was a kid and spraining my wrist. Instead of seeing my doctor we just waited for it to heal," she says. "As someone who majored in economics in college, I learned that a country's economy is healthy only when its' citizens are."
March 31st is the deadline this year for signing up for the Affordable Care Act. Communities of faith across the country are working to spread the word and sign people up. It is particularly important that young people get covered so that no accident or illness leaves them with medical bills and debt that rob them of the opportunity to further their education or one day own a home. Just go to Healthcare.gov to get covered. The site is up and running.
For the last two years I've been working as a United Church of Christ minister serving two United Methodist Churches in an ecumenical partnership. Both these denominations have fought alongside other Christian and interfaith partners for decades to bring about real and lasting reform of the health care system that creates a more moral society which brings us closer to being the Beloved Community.
This summer I'll leave my current position to become the Director of the Center for Peace and Spirituality and University Chaplain at Pacific University. Already, university and college students, along with all young adults, are benefiting from the ACA because they can stay on their parent's insurance plan until age 26. And no one can ever again be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Two years ago I successfully fought cancer. The ACA ensures that no one can deny me coverage. That's a lifesaver.
Erica Martinez is just one of my parishioners who is benefiting from the Affordable Care Act. She is a caring and dedicated person who represents the future of our nation. My great hope is that other young Americans follow her example by doing the right thing and signing up for the Affordable Care Act before March 31st. Already the ACA is bringing insurance costs down and contributing to a decline in the national debt while making sure the basic health care needs of our citizens are met. As Martinez said, we are only a truly healthy nation when we are all cared for.
#GetCovered at healthcare.gov.