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Utah Mormon bishop helping his members sign up for Obamacare

First Published      Last Updated Apr 01 2014 10:22 pm

A Mormon bishop of an inner-city Salt Lake City congregation has found a new way to serve down-and-out members: help them sign up for Obamacare.

Bishop David Heslington describes his LDS 12th Ward as "a diverse mix of retired citizens, middle-aged professionals, young families, and a lot of people struggling with addiction," in a story by KUER's Andrea Smardon.

"Salt Lake City is addiction-recovery central for the state of Utah, so a lot of folks are coming into the central city to find the services that are provided," Heslington told KUER "It's an ongoing challenge and struggle, and if you're not working full time, there are some real challenges in getting health care."

One in five of his congregants falls into "a coverage gap," Smardon reports, "where they don't qualify for Medicaid in Utah, but they don't make enough money to qualify for tax subsidies under the Affordable Care Act."

So the good bishop assigned ward member, Sam Vetter, "to serve as an unofficial health navigator for the ward, guiding people through the Affordable Care Act and new opportunities they may have for insurance."

Vetter, a professional insurance broker who was laid off himself four years and had to figure out the federal system, was eager to help others.

"It's just something that I want to do," Vetter says in the piece, "because these are people I see as my brothers and sisters."

The Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't take an official position on what Heslington is doing.

"While local leaders work to help meet the temporal and spiritual needs of members," LDS spokesman Cody Craynor said in a statement, "the church has no coordinated effort to assist members in signing up for health insurance coverage."

Some Utah clergy pushed for health-care reform, but the LDS Church took no position on the issue.

Peggy Fletcher Stack