University of South Florida

HHS Secretary visit highlights outreach and enrollment by USF Health Navigators and statewide partners

With enrollment starting for year two of the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell paid a visit Nov. 17 to the community outreach and enrollment event hosted by USF Health navigators.


U.S. DHHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell meets with enrollees with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (left) and Program Director Jodi Ray (right), at the USF Health Nav-Lab.

Sec. Burwell toured the “Nav-Lab” set up in the USF Marshall Student Center with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and Jodi Ray, project director for the Florida Covering Kids & Families (FL-CKF) program at the Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies, USF College of Public Health.

In a roped-off area of the Marshall Center lobby navigators from USF Health, joined by those from Florida CHAIN and Covering Tampa Bay, assisted eligible students and families in making informed choices about their health care insurance coverage and guided those interested in enrolling through the application process.  Sec. Burwell and Rep. Castor were able to see firsthand the personal assistance navigators give to enrollees, meeting with several to talk about their experiences.

They then joined representatives from USF, Enroll America and a USF Public Health student who is a local Marketplace consumer for a press conference to talk about the Affordable Care Act and the Open Enrollment period.


USF Health’s Dr. Ed Funai recognizes the DHHS for providing USF with the largest Navigator grant in the country.

In his welcoming remarks, Edmund F. Funai, MD, chief operating officer and vice president for administration at USF Health, said USF’s mission as a leading public research institution requires the university to be an economic engine and trusted resource for the region, state, nation and world.

“The program we are here to highlight today is a perfect example of the way in which we carry out that mission at USF each day, Dr. Funai said.  “We are honored that just a few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recognized USF’s commitment to these ideals and the incredible capabilities of our faculty, students and staff by awarding USF the largest Navigator Grant in the country this year.”


Jodi Ray, principal investigator for the USF Navigator grant and project director for Florida Covering Kids & Families.

“USF is extremely proud of the accomplishments achieved in Year 1 of the Marketplace initiative,” said Jodi Ray, principal investigator for the USF Navigator grant.  “Our reach was far and wide.  Close to 100,000 individuals received one-on-one education and application assistance from USF Project Navigators, and more than 230,000 consumers were reached through community outreach activities, in addition to 37 million individual hits reached through the numerous educational marketing and communication efforts.

“We’re excited to participate in Year 2, and this year USF and its 12 consortium partners will be on the ground providing outreach, education and enrollment support to the entire state of Florida.  We don’t take a top-down approach, but rather one built and designed by the local communities being served.”

U.S. Rep. Castor commended USF’s role in helping Florida lead the federal Marketplace.


U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor thanked USF for their efforts and encourage citizens to enroll for health care coverage.

“I’m proud of USF for their efforts,” Rep. Castor said. “The challenge is to replicate that and to sign up more this year.”

Then Sec. Burwell took the podium, sharing details of this year’s enrollment efforts and fielding questions from reporters.

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Sec. Sylvia Burwell explains Year 2’s enrollment and answers questions from reporters.

“Last year, we had 10.3 million fewer adults uninsured, a cut of 26 percent of the uninsured,” Sec. Burwell said to a room filled with local and national media. “So far, in the first two days of this year’s enrollment, we’ve had 1 million visitors, 200,000 calls, including 20,000 calls to our Spanish language lines, and 500,000 successful entries in the system.”

This year’s system is aimed at providing something more like window shopping, she said.

“We’re taking a targeted outreach approach in what is a shorter period of time (for enrollment), using what we learned last year,” she said. “How are people making decisions and what information do they need to do that? … The big focus is how we can serve the consumer this year, to get them the information so they can make good choices for themselves.”


Local and national media hear from Sec. Sylvia Burwell.

In 2013, USF’s FL-CKF received the second largest award nationwide out of $67 million in “Navigator” grant awards distributed to 105 organizations.  USF received the largest of these awards among eight recipients in Florida.

Just this September, USF was awarded a $5.38 million, second-year Navigator grant – the largest single award in the country and in Florida – to help enroll more eligible consumers and small employers in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

In its second year, FL-CKF expects to surpass its Year 1 accomplishments through one-on-one renewal and enrollment assistance and indirectly reach more than 1.5 million individuals through outreach activities in the 67 counties served by the USF Navigator grant, Ray said.

In addition to Ray, other members of the USF Navigator team at FL-CKF are Michelle Ray, Xonjenese Jacobs, Wendy Hathaway, Avery Slyker, Linda Detman, Jessica Berumen, and Tommi Rivers.

For more information, visit Or call (813) 803-0628 to speak with a USF Navigator.


Sec. Burwell hears from Ashley Brunson, who is re-enrolling for Year 2.


Navigator Maria Jimenez (right) helps Chris Villatte enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace.


Peggy Johnson (left) and Don Gray (right) enroll for coverage with help from Navigator Joanna Reid.


From left, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, U.S. DHHS Sec. Sylvia Burwell, and USF’s Jodi Ray at the USF Health Nav-Lab.


Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications.

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