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By Christopher Curry
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services this week awarded nearly $10 million in annual federal taxpayer-funded grants for “navigator” programs throughout Florida. The programs are designed to help citizens with the upcoming third year of Affordable Care Act enrollment.
The organizations are slated to receive grant funding for three years. The largest grant in the state, more than $5.9 million, went to the University of South Florida’s Florida Covering Kids and Families program. USF then contracts with organizations throughout the state to run navigator programs. In a 15-county region that includes Marion County, the nonprofit WellFlorida Council will continue to oversee the navigator program through its contract with USF.
In a press release, Enroll America, an Affordable Care Act advisory group, said research released in April showed that “individuals who received in-person application assistance were nearly 60 percent more likely to enroll compared to those who started the enrollment process on their own online.”
ACA enrollment for 2016 starts Nov. 1. During the enrollment period, navigators hold regular hours at libraries and other locations and attend special enrollment events and community events to assist people in signing up.
Marion County has almost 18,000 ACA enrollees, according to the latest statistics.
For the first time, Meridian Behavioral Healthcare in Gainesville has received a federal grant to establish an ACA navigator program. Meridian will receive $549,800 annually — and up to about $1.65 million over a three-year grant cycle.
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