Health News Florida
5:57 pm
Thu August 15, 2013

US Health & Human Services Secretary Awards Grant to USF

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was on the University of South Florida Tampa campus Thursday afternoon to hand out $7.8 million in grants to help Floridians with the Affordable Care Act. 

U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Credit Lottie Watts / WUSF

The money will be given to eight organizations around the state to hire staff to help consumers enroll in a health insurance plan. Starting Jan. 1, almost all Americans will be required to buy health insurance under the ACA.

"Now, here at University of South Florida, that means that the institute of higher learning will help local individuals and families apply for coverage, answer questions about coverage options and help them make the best possible informed decision about which option might be best for them," Sebelius said. 

The program based at the USF College of Public Health is getting more than $4.2 million to hire the ACA counselors called "navigators." The Pinellas County Board of Commissioners is getting $600,000.

Sebelius said competition for the grants was fierce -- and noted no one does a better job than Jodi Ray, project director for Florida Covering Kids & Families at USF, a program that helps connect children with insurance. 

"We really looked for already established groups who were ready to hit the ground running," Sebelius said.

The navigators from USF are expected to reach about two-thirds of the uninsured across Florida. They'll work in every county except Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward. 

"I'm just really excited that we can expand the best practices that we've already been doing in Florida," Ray said. "We're finding people who need the information. We've learned how to shake the bushes. We've done this for years and I think we know how to pull a plan like this together."

Ray said outreach will happen all the over the place, from community health centers to churches and gas stations. 

Navigators will have to complete at least 20 hours of training before they can start working with consumers, Sebelius said. Navigators will connect people, many who have never had insurance before, to coverage. 

"They're not going to be paid by a company or consumer to sell any product," Sebelius said.  

Around the country, 105 organizations will receive a total of $67 million in grant funding.

Open enrollment for the online marketplace starts Oct. 1. 

Grant recipients in Florida:

  • University of South Florida: $4.2 million
  • Pinellas County Board of Commissioners: $600,000
  • Epilepsy Foundation of Florida: $637,686
  • Advanced Patient Advocacy, LLC: $413,152
  • Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County: $446,783
  • National Hispanic Council on Aging: $646,825
  • Cardon Healthcare Network LLC: $238,000
  • Mental Health America: $683,691

--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Lottie Watts at 813-974-8705 (desk) or e-mail at lottiewatts@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.