A group of African-American preachers recently sent a letter to President Barack Obama affirming their "commitment to the Affordable Care Act" even as the President has ordered the website overhauled.
"We believe that access to quality health care is a fundamental civil and human right in America. Historically, over 7 million African-Americans have been uninsured and denied access to care with devastating consequences,” the letter said, which was signed by 14 Black preachers, who each lead major clerical or civic organizations.
“We affirm our support for the Affordable Care Act. We understand that over time aspects of the Act will be revised as government learns more and to-be-expected administrative glitches will be appropriately addressed, but it is essential that we work aggressively with what we have right now. We cannot afford to put this off any longer. Any further delay will have catastrophic effects on the nation's uninsured."
The three-page letter, headed "Dear Mr. President", was released to the media Oct. 21.
The letter was released only hours after President Obama held a Rose Garden news conference deploring the glitches that have slowed enrollment on the website, HealthCare.gov, while praising the benefits of the new plans for those who have successfully enrolled.
"The problem has been that the website that's supposed to make it easy to apply for and purchase the insurance is not working the way it should for everybody. And there's no sugarcoating it," Obama said. "The website has been too slow, people have been getting stuck during the application process. And I think it's fair to say that nobody is more frustrated by that than I am, precisely because the product is good."
For anyone experiencing problems or needing answers to questions, he referred them to the toll free number, 1-800-318-2596, where he said help is available.
Meanwhile, the President flipped the script on Republicans who coined the word “Obamacare” as a negative and used it in a derogatory way to refer to the landmark healthcare reform program whose real name is the Affordable Care Act.
In a video distributed by mass e-mail, he asked those in need of healthcare to "Join Team Obamacare."
The pastors made their move to support the President and the healthcare program amidst criticism of the plan’s rollout, which has been slowed by technical glitches as millions have sought to enroll.
The participating pastors include: the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr. chair, Faith Partnerships; the Rev. Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, co-chair, National African American Clergy Network; the Reverend Dr. T. DeWitt Smith, Jr., co-chair, National African American Clergy Network; the Rev. Dr. Carroll A. Baltimore, president, Progressive National Baptist Convention; Bishop George E. Battle, Jr., senior bishop, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church; Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr., presiding bishop and chief apostle, Church of God In Christ; Bishop John R. Bryant, senior bishop, A.M.E. Church; the Rev. Dr. Ambassador Suzan Johnson Cook, founding president, Women In Ministry International; Bishop Paul A. G. Stewart, Sr., acting senior bishop, Christian Methodist Episcopal Church; Bishop Paul S. Morton, international presiding bishop, Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship International; the Rev. Dr. Julius R. Scruggs, president, National Baptist Convention, USA; the Rev. Al Sharpton, president, National Action Network; the Rev. Dr. Stephen Thurston, president, National Baptist Convention of America; the Rev. Dr. C. T. Vivian, president, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
"We, leaders of predominantly African American denominations and other faith leaders, who lead millions of African American people of faith, believe that our devotion to God requires us to be actively involved in promoting the well-being of all people," the faith leaders wrote.
The clergy members appealed for other pastors to join their effort and sign the letter. “We call on all others of like minds and empathetic hearts to join in this public affirmation by affixing your names to this historic document," they wrote.