United Methodist Young People’s Health Care Concerns Aired in D.C.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Aug. 20, 2015 /Discipleship Ministries/ – For United Methodist young adult Kyle Ormiston, whether to eat or fill an $850 monthly prescription was a dilemma, but he said the decision was obvious: “In the long term, eating won that battle.”

Ormiston’s story about facing stressful health care decisions post-college was one of many that informed a recent Washington roundtable discussion about faith-based concerns and implications of the Affordable Care Act attended by Michael Ratliff, Associate General Secretary at Discipleship Ministries and head of Young People’s Ministries.

Ratliff joined other stakeholders advocating for affordable health care for young people at an Aug. 5 roundtable hosted by Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). He said Ormiston, like many other young people, faced after-college costs for student loans, rent, out-of-pocket expenses, health insurance and food without an income sufficient enough to pay for his health care needs.

“Kyle was a part of my youth ministry. His story is similar to many I’ve heard from young adults in the past month,” Ratliff said. “The Affordable Care Act has provided the possibility for many people in our country to have medical care that has been elusive until now. Yet there are still gaps, and many young adults find themselves in those gaps.”

The discussion with the HHS secretary focused on issues and topics that need to be addressed to make the health care system more responsive to young people and on ways young people can be more aware of available care options. In addition to faith-based stakeholders like Ratliff, the roundtable included representatives from the Healthy Teen Network, Advocates for Youth, The Young Invincible, The YMCA, Girl Scouts and Boys and Girls Clubs.

“During that meeting, I had the opportunity to raise a number of the issues that I had discussed with young people in our church and community,” Ratliff said. Those issues included access to healthcare, mental health issues, reproductive health, catastrophic health issues, suicide – especially among LGBTQ young people – unique concerns of young people in the military, escalating premiums, lack of information and high deductibles.

Ratliff also previewed a new adolescent health initiative called Think, Act, Grow and a teen-girl sexually transmitted diseases prevention program called Know the Facts.

“I was impressed that there was so much openness to feedback related to faith-based concerns and implications. Both of these programs will provide needed resources for teens and those who love and care for them. Hopefully, the feedback from those of us representing a faith perspective will be incorporated to make these resources more accessible to young people in faith communities,” Ratliff said.

Following the discussion at HHS, Ratliff was invited to participate in a second roundtable – this time at the White House on Aug 11. Led by Bess Evans, Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, it was one of a series of meetings with different focus groups seeking input to develop strategies for the upcoming ACA open enrollment period focusing on the enrollment of young people.

Ratliff said he urged that strategies be considered both for young adults, who legally can make decisions for themselves, and for youth under age18, whose parents must handle enrollment. Strategies will need to address how to help youth encourage their parents to be insured, he said.

“I’m happy to be a part of a church that cares about the whole person. I’m proud to be a part of a denomination that is recognized for our willingness to engage in every arena of life to create a better world for all, and I’m excited to be able to represent passionate young people seeking to follow Christ, and change their world,” Ratliff said.