Charleston, SC- Too much was put on the web, not enough on people when the time came to help people #getcovered under the Affordable Care Act.
After almost nothing was accomplished in early October, our Navigators looked at the mess and decided to do it all on paper like it was 1980. They printed out forms, got clipboards and in the midst of a firestorm of negative noise, we hit the street with flyers.
We held our first tiny event, in the conference room of my law office on Nov. 8 and signed up three people.
But, one of them knew a church full of people who needed to get covered so the next weekend we went there and signed up six people. By then half of the website was working. The phone started ringing. One determined Navigator, Loreen Myerson, went from place to place, signing up one family at a time.
In December we opened up a surge center and started signing up over 20 people a day. The website worked about half the time all the way and most of the time half of the way. We recruited and trained a corps of volunteer navigators. We flooded our city with flyers and ended up as a background shot on Rachael Maddeau.
By the end of December every Navigator we had was booked solid, we were sending overflow to other navigation organizations in the area and soon everyone was busy. We signed up over 400 people ourselves.
We learned you help people, one person at a time. You stick with them beginning to end and you do whatever works.
This weekend several local navigator projects will be working. Everyone is busy. People are getting covered, even Republicans. Frankly once they've been through the process and know we're not going to give up on them no matter what goes wrong, most of them come around too.
The lesson that matters here is this. No matter how good your ideas are or how fantastic your plan is, what really matters is that you have good people on the ground who want to make things work. Shake their hands. Buy them lunch and make sure they never run out of printer toner.
I helped make noise in this effort, bought lunch for the crew once and ran a few errands. I taught a few volunteers how to leaflet a distracted world. The real credit goes to the Navigators, social workers, CACs and other volunteers who manned the sign up centers day after day and week after week, when the website was up and when it was down. They signed people up outside Starbucks on a table under a streetlight after it closed once. They started in one little conference room and ended up at four sign up centers. They worked hard. They got loud. They have a right to be proud of themselves. In April when the last of those hanging last minute applications have been turned into real healthcare coverage, they'll have time to be proud. Right now their working here in Charleston and all over the country.
They tell me that when the allies landed on D day, nearly everything went wrong. Motors didn't start. People and parts were missing. Things didn't work. People got stuck in the sand. The soldiers did the American thing. They helped each other. They picked up what they had, figured out something that worked and started pushing towards Paris.
That is what good people did in Charleston, and I'll bet a lot of other places. I hope the President makes sure they're recognized. Not much works in America anymore. It's incredibly frustrating, but we've seen and done something. We shouldn't let Fox drown that out in April.
Good people, trying hard can still make parts of America work.
This weekend, go visit one of the local sign up efforts to say thank you, shake hands and if they ask, help out. It's a long wait until next November for anyone we miss.