University of South Florida

USF navigators open for business as health insurance marketplace launches nationwide

Tampa, FL  — When the Healthcare Insurance Marketplace, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act, opened Oct. 1, USF-based navigators were prepared to help those who had made appointments.  And they continued to schedule more appointments as the day continued.

Even though the website was down — federal officials reported millions of hits to the site by early afternoon– consumers received in-person assistance filling out paper applications and had many questions about their potential options answered.

Michelle Ray and Jessica Spencer-Hammoc_600x400

USF navigator Michelle Ray (left) discusses coverage options of the health insurance marketplace with Jessica Spencer-Hammac, the first consumer to apply at the USF site. “The basic level of care is more comprehensive than anything I saw shopping outside of the marketplace,” Spencer-Hammac said.

“People want affordable health care coverage,” said Jodi Ray, project director of the Florida Covering Kids & Families program at the Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies, USF College of Public Health.

“We are scheduling people with appointments, so we can take the time with them that they need. Right now, that is working best.  People should look at the December 15 date as the deadline to apply for coverage that begins January 1, so there is still plenty of time to enroll.”

This summer, USF, along with 10 consortium partners across the state, received a $4.2-million federal grant to help individuals and families who want assistance shopping for and enrolling in private healthcare insurance available through the online marketplace. It was the largest navigator grant awarded in Florida.

Navigators, local advisors with certified training and state licenses, are available to help consumers understand their coverage options in the federal marketplace, so they can select the option that best meets their budget and needs.

They are a resource to provide outreach and unbiased education about the marketplace, and will not suggest that a consumer purchase any plan over another, Ray said.  “Navigators are ready and able to help those people who want assistance to complete the application process.”

Shoppers across the Tampa Bay area have more 100 different policies to choose from, all required to cover at least 10 essential services, including maternity care, preventive care, ambulatory care, mental health and prescription drugs.

To check out the marketplace go to: or 1-800-318-2596

To make an appointment with a navigator in Hillsborough, Pinellas or Pasco counties, contact:

The Family Healthcare Foundation:  813-995-1066

USF: Wendy Hathaway ( )
813-974-9088 office, or 813-727-9677 cell

USF: Xonjenese Jacobs ( )
813-974-3809 office, or 813-727-8906 cell

USF Michelle Ray ( )
813-974-7735 office

Jodie and Linda Hurtado

Jody Ray (left), who oversees the USF navigator grant, speaks with ABC Action News health reporter Linda Hurtado on opening day of the health insurance marketplace.


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