The award, funded by the Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, was presented on September 2.
The USF Navigator program, operated in the COPH, is the largest awardee in the United States. USF has received a total of $21 million over the past four years to operate the program.
This is the second year of a three-year funding cycle for returning grantees that currently provide in-person assistance to help consumers navigate, shop, and enroll in the wide variety of federally-facilitated Health Insurance Marketplace coverage options.
“I’m really proud of the fact that we will be able to continue to support the infrastructure that we built. We know, because we’ve collected enough data, that it’s been really effective in helping consumers get access to health care coverage,” said Jodi Ray, program director. “We’ve had the largest impact in Florida, a state that had the largest uninsured rates.”
The USF Navigators, along with 11 Covering Florida consortium partners, cover the entire state of Florida, providing outreach and enrollment services to cover all 67 Florida counties.
The Covering Florida consortium consists of: Broward Regional Health Planning Council, Health Council of Southeast Florida, 90Works, Florida CHAIN, Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida, Primary Care Access Network, Health Planning Council of Southwest Florida, The Family Healthcare Foundation, Health Council of South Florida, Suwannee River Area Health Education Center, and United Way of Brevard County.
According to Ray, FL-CKF and its consortium of partners focus on advocating for and increasing access to care and services via enrollment and education services for individuals with limited English proficiency, disabilities, the LGBTQ community, college students, populations underserved in the current private health insurance market, and vulnerable populations.
Multilingual Navigators also attend outreach events, produce brochures in multiple languages, conduct workshops and give interviews in various languages.
“We’re talking about 100s of thousands of people that we’ve been able to help get access to health coverage and health care and also the millions that we’ve been able to inform around the state each year as a result of these grants as well,” Ray said.
Florida leads enrollment in the Marketplace for three consecutive years, according to Ray, with the state enrolling 1.7 million in 2016 and more than 90 percent receiving financial assistance to lower their premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
Ray was invited to attend an Affordable Care Act speech by President Obama held in Miami last month, where she got to speak directly with him regarding Navigator work over the years.
“I spent a good part of that conversation with him thanking me and me thanking him, and then me hugging him and then us thanking each other again,” she said. “He told me how proud he is of the work that they’ve [Navigators] have done, so it was really awesome to have the president of the United States tell you how proud he was.”
Open enrollment began on Nov. 1 and will continue through Jan. 31. Ray said plans must be chosen by Dec. 15 in order to take effect by Jan. 1.
“For people who have insurance, it’s important for them to look at what the new plan options are and to see that the plan they are enrolled in is still right for them,” Ray said. “Penalties also keep going up and it becomes more unaffordable not to have health insurance. If you’re planning on just paying the penalty, you have to keep in mind all of the out-of-pocket costs for any health services that you may need to have as well.”
The penalty for not having health care coverage will be $695 or 2.5 percent of your total household income, whichever is higher, according to Ray.
The complete list of Navigator awardees and information about Navigators and other Marketplace resources is published online.
Ray said to schedule an appointment with a Navigator anywhere in the state, visit coveringflorida.org. You may also reach a USF Navigator directly by calling (813) 803-0628.
Story by Lindsay Kuznia, USF College of Public Health, and Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health