Seven Floridians organizations were awarded $9.95 million to help with the third year of enrollment on the federal marketplace.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday nearly $67 million in navigator grants nationwide. The following Florida groups received awards:
1. Community Health Interventions & Sickle Cell Agency, Inc. - $489,170
2. Epilepsy Foundation of Florida - $1,852,600
3. Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc. - $549,800
4. National Alliance for Hispanic Health - $256,352
5. Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners - $580,000
6. The Public Health Trust (Jackson Health System) - $309,900
7. University of South Florida (Florida Covering Kids And Families) - $5,912,400
Jodi Ray is director of Florida Covering Kids and Families, the largest grant winner and a major participant in Florida's enrollment the past two years.
She said it's important for navigators to not only enroll people in insurance plans, but teach them how to use their coverage.
"We want people to keep it and use it correctly because the benefit of the health insurance is not really clear until you use it, until you need to use it, and teaching people the best ways to get the most out of their health coverage,” Ray said.
Florida Covering Kids and Families, like other organizations, will use the grant money to continue and expand the navigator program, Ray said. Their target populations this year include, uninsured African American, Hispanic and Latino populations, rural consumers, migrant workers, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
More than 1.6 million Floridians already are enrolled in plans on HealthCare.gov. Karen Egozi, CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, said that it's important to teach residents how to re-enroll and how to use their coverage.
"A lot of what we try to do also is educate people on how to use their insurance, how to call a doctor and get their appointments, what is a co-pay?” Egozi said. “It's very easy when you're sitting with them and explain it all but its another thing when they try to put it to use."
Nick Duran, Florida director for Enroll America, said this is the first year that grants have been awarded on a three-year cycle. That means the groups named Wednesday will be helping Floridians navigate the federal marketplace through 2018.
"That is a positive development that is going to allow our partner navigator groups to provide free, unbiased in personal application assistance to Floridians across the state and help them enroll in and qualify for affordable health insurance,” Duran said.