UAB students, graduate and faculty help Alabamians sign up for health coverage

From the leadership level to the volunteer effort, UAB is making a difference within the Bama Covered initiative.

bama coveredRepresentatives from the University of Alabama at Birmingham are helping fuel a volunteer grassroots effort to educate Alabama residents about the Affordable Care Act.

Bama Covered is the nonpartisan organization behind this effort. It was founded by UAB Collat School of Business graduate Josh Carpenter and friend Daniel Liss to help Alabamians understand the legislation and get enrolled.

As an all-volunteer initiative, Bama Covered leans on the shoulders of college students across the state to carry out its mission. Of the nearly 700 volunteers, UAB students number more than 100. According to Carpenter, students are asked to do a variety of tasks with a single core mission: ensure that everyone in Alabama’s communities understands how the changes in the health care landscape affect them.

“We understand that thousands of pages of legislation could be difficult for the average family to digest,” Carpenter said. “Bama Covered is here to reduce confusion and open the lines of communication.”

“From providing people with basic information about health insurance to actually enrolling them in a plan, UAB students have been able to make significant impact on the Birmingham community during the past three months. It has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for all of us who have the opportunity to serve the community and learn from the experience.”

Most of Bama Covered’s work involves community outreach. Whether students are speaking at churches on Sunday, canvassing barber shops and hair salons, or simply sitting at a shopping mall with a booth, they seek to engage people in a safe space where they have a conversation about health care.

After meeting with someone, student volunteers direct the individual to community partners who are equipped to help complete the enrollment process. In some cases, students can actually execute the enrollments from start to finish by scheduling an appointment with a Bama Covered staff member or a student catalyst who has been trained by the Department of Health and Human Services.

“From providing people with basic information about health insurance to actually enrolling them in a plan, UAB students have been able to make significant impact on the Birmingham community during the past three months,” said Ashleigh Staples, UAB student captain for Bama Covered. “It has been an overwhelmingly positive experience for all of us who have the opportunity to serve the community and learn from the experience.”

For Carpenter, mobilizing students for this effort seemed like a mutually beneficial decision.

“The students are effective vehicles of apolitical, reliable information. Every day, students are learning; but there aren’t enough opportunities to channel that learning into active service to members of the community,” Carpenter said. “Bama Covered seeks to create a platform to engage in service learning for students.”

UAB’s involvement with Bama Covered extends beyond its student volunteer efforts. Max Michael, Ph.D., dean of UAB’s School of Public Health, serves on the organization’s leadership board and has been instrumental in making important community connections for the organization; he also helped it find a headquarters in UAB’s Lister Hill Library.

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