University of South Florida

Nav-Lab “Blowout” assists those seeking affordable care as deadline approaches

Tamina Johnson, a USF engineering sciences doctoral student, knows a lot about the complexities of proteins, but she needed a little help when it came to choosing healthcare insurance for the first time.

Johnson, 29, was among the consumers from across campus and the surrounding community, including 15 USF students, who were assisted at the March 6 “Nav-Lab Enrollment Blowout” at USF Health.

Representatives from Enroll America offered education about the Health Insurance Marketplace, while navigators from USF Health, Florida CHAIN and Covering Tampa Bay, helped individuals and families interested in enrolling with the application process.


USF graduate student Tamina Johnson, left, discusses her healthcare coverage options with Catherine Fuhrman, a navigator with the Family Healthcare Foundation.

“There are a lot of scenarios for coverage, so coming in today really helped guide me through the options,” said Johnson, who kept her Nav-Lab appointment despite the downpour and mid-day tornado warnings.

Johnson began looking at plans online in November. She said she wants health insurance but has difficulty affording it as a graduate student.  She was pleased to find that she could sign up for a plan through the marketplace that would provide significant savings.

“This way I don’t have to pay as much, because I also need money to live on and eat with,” she said.


Jodi Ray, project director for Florida Covering Kids & Families based at the University of South Florida College of Public Health, leads more than 100 navigators across Florida, which has the second highest rate of uninsured in the country.

Jodi Ray, project director of the Florida Covering Kids & Families program at the Chiles Center for Health Mothers and Babies, USF College of Public Health, oversees the USF navigator grant, the largest in the state.

As the March 31 deadline to enroll for coverage under the Affordable Care Act this year nears, the USF navigator group continues to team with its consortium partners to push community outreach initiatives targeting uninsured Floridians, Ray said. That includes, she said, the so-called “young invincibles,” adults 18 to 34, an age range that tends to be healthier and can help balance out risk in the insurance pool to keep premiums in check.


Kristen Nash, a political science graduate student at USF, has worked at the grassroots level on campus and in the community to help get more of her young adult peers covered.

Kristen Nash, 23, a USF political science graduate student and field organizer for Enroll America, says she feels fortunate to be covered as a dependent under her parents’ health insurance plan.  But, she said, that isn’t always an option for young adults under age 26.

“A significant number of students cannot remain under a parent’s plan, either because their parents cannot afford to add them to an employer’s health insurance policy through work, their parents are retired, or for some other reason,” Nash said.


USF navigator project coordinator Xonjenese Jacobs, right, with Ryan Morris, a health organizer for Florida CHAIN.

Both Ray and Nash point out a young person injured in an accident or even hit with a sudden illness can quickly run into financial difficulty when medical bills mount.

“It’s really important to get covered,” Nash said. “Starting early with preventive care, which is free under the plans, can help us live better.”

USF Navigators will offer another onsite event to help those interested  find out about healthcare coverage from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday, March 17, at USF Student Health Services.  To register, email or call 813-974-0176; walks-in are also welcome.



Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications





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