USF BRIDGE Clinic in spotlight as Crist signs health insurance bill

L to R: Dr. Dennis Penzell, an attending physician at the BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic, graduate medical student Shelby Kent, COM Dean and USF Health VP Dr. Stephen Klasko, Gov. Charlie Crist, a BRIDGE student director Fariha Esmail, and graduate medical student Sam Crane.

Tampa, FL (May 21, 2008) – Gov. Charlie Crist created a flurry of excitement at the BRIDGE Healthcare Clinic this afternoon. The governor used the University Area Community Health Center, the county facility housing the USF student-run clinic, as the setting to sign legislation intended to provide affordable health care coverage to uninsured Floridians. The BRIDGE clinic, opened last year, offers free primary care to uninsured adults living in the low-income neighborhood just west of the USF Tampa campus

As he signed the bill, Gov Crist was joined by several USF medical students who volunteer at the clinic and Stephen Klasko, MD, MBA, dean of the College of Medicine and senior vice president for USF Health. He was also flanked by legislators and a family who will benefit from the new law.

Gov. Charlie Crist admires Michelle Fisk’s 4-month-old baby Ava before the bill signing. The Fisk family will benefit from the new “Cover Florida” law.

Known as “Cover Florida,” the law will allow insurance companies to offer scaled-back plans covering basic health care needs, including some screenings, drugs and physician office visits and surgery, without all the usual mandated coverages. The bill also allows families who make too much money to qualify for the state’s KidCare program to pay full premiums so they can cover their children.

“It’s not the Cadillac of health care plans, but it offers something very important to the people of our state. It will help take away a lot of worry,” said Crist, adding that the bipartisan legislation provides the opportunity to reduce the number of 3.8-million Florida residents without health insurance. The coverage could cost $100 to $150 a month, depending on whether a person selects the more generous plan that includes emergency care and inpatient hospitalization, he said.

Crist, whose father is a family physician in Pinellas County, identified increasing health care access as a top priority for the 2008 session.

Following the bill signing ceremony, Florida Sen. Victor Crist and Rep. Arthenia Joyner presented Dr. Klasko and the students with a $5,000 donation for the BRIDGE clinic from the University Area Community Development Corporation, Inc. The senator is the chair and volunteer CEO of UACDC.

Sen. Victor Crist, far left, and Rep. Arthenia Joyner, second from right, presented Dr. Klasko and BRIDGE clinic volunteers with a $5,000 clinic donation from the University Area Community Development Corporation.

Newsbrief by Anne DeLotto Baier/USF Health Communications
Photos by Eric Younghans/USF Health Media Center