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NC Churches Help Register People for Health Coverage

Latino members of the Henderson community learn more about health coverage under the Affordable Care Act at a recent event organized by the North Carolina Council of Churches. (NC Council of Churches)
Latino members of the Henderson community learn more about health coverage under the Affordable Care Act at a recent event organized by the North Carolina Council of Churches. (NC Council of Churches)
January 26, 2016

GRIMESLAND, N.C. - This is the last week of open enrollment for health care under the Affordable Care Act for coverage in 2016. With the Sunday deadline approaching, community groups are working to help those eligible get enrolled, including churches in the state's Latino community.

The Rev. Ernesto Barriguete, pastor of Unidos pos Cristo United Methodist Church in Grimesland, said helping people connect with health care is part of his church's calling.

"As part of the church, we cannot neglect all the parts of a person or what makes a community," he said. "We are part of everything. You know, family and social issues and economic and health issues, everything. It's together."

This weekend, Barriguete's church and Shattalon Church of Christ in Winston-Salem are holding ACA enrollment events, coordinated in part by the North Carolina Council of Churches.

According to the Commonwealth Fund, Latinos have the highest uninsured rates. In North Carolina, an estimated 10 percent of Latino children do not have health coverage.

Jennie Belle, program director for Farmworker and Immigrant Rights for the North Carolina Council of Churches, said getting coverage for everyone will benefit entire towns and cities.

"Health care is important for all of us," she said. "We all want our communities to be as strong and resilient as possible, but the Latino community already faces so many other disadvantages that accessing health care should not be another one."

While it's true that some people may not be eligible for coverage under the ACA, Belle said, they may provide a connection to family members who are.

"One area that we found a lot is, people's children who were born here in the United States, and are here legally," she said, "children are one area that we're really trying to stress that the Affordable Care Act can be for other members of your family as well."

Belle said one barrier to eligible Latinos signing up for coverage is a fear that they might endanger other family members who are undocumented. President Obama and his administration insist that no information on a health enrollment application will be used for deportation purposes.

The central ACA enrollment event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Shattalon Church of Christ/Iglesia Sin Fronteras, 5490 Shattalon Drive, Winston-Salem. The eastern ACA enrollment event and health screenings will be held from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday at Unidos por Cristo/United in Christ United Methodist Church, 7563 Pitt St., Grimesland.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC