Families USA is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan consumer health advocacy organization and provides awards annually to those across the nation who exemplify their four core areas of health equity, health care value, coverage and consumer engagement.
Ray was invited to Washington, DC in January to be honored for the award and represent consumer assistance and enrollment provided by Navigators across the country.
“It is a huge honor for me to receive this award,” Ray said. “I am so grateful for this high recognition of work that I’ve done, but I am more than aware that I haven’t done it alone—countless individuals across the country deserve to be distinguished for what has been accomplished to help numerous individuals access health care.”
Heather Bates formerly of Families USA and now director at Transform Health, a health care consulting firm lead by women based in California, nominated Ray for the award.
“I nominated her because of the work that Florida has been able to accomplish under her watch around enrollment navigation and post-navigation support in Florida. It wasn’t about just getting the consumer through the door to enroll, it was about the follow-through and the follow-up,” Bates said. “She’s really a leading example nationwide, and that is why Florida did so well. She inspires people and motivates teams that are effective, and that’s important and it shows.”
Ray has managed health care enrollment programs at USF for more than 20 years, including the largest Navigator grant in the country to help eligible uninsured Floridians get health care coverage.
She’s also partnered with key organizations statewide to provide enrollment education and outreach to vulnerable populations across the state of Florida.
“My team as a whole has led this work in Florida and is used as a resource nationally for how to do this work,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what is going on politically, this work continues, and in our current political environment, this work has been more important than ever.”
Despite cuts to funding and a drastically shorter open enrollment period—from three months to six weeks—she and her team enrolled 1.7 million people into coverage.
Ray said that any vision for health care models in the future should include consumer engagement at the core.
“Consumer assistance is the glue that bonds together coverage to care for millions of Americans,” she said.
Ray said earning this award was a recognition of how important consumer engagement is to any health care model’s effectiveness.
“It’s not singularly about me and my own accomplishments as an individual,” she said. “We have been able to engage a whole team of people across the state and have an impact—a real public health impact.”
Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health