By Cindy Swirko
While the navigators had no one to guide through the Affordable Care Act at an outreach event Saturday, they said plenty of Alachua County residents are enrolling — many of whom had been getting health care through the county’s now defunct CHOICES program.
CHOICES, which had been funded with local quarter-cent sales tax, provided limited health care for the working poor. It expired last year just as the federal Affordable Care Act was starting.
“I have gotten a number of people who were on CHOICES. I think they are coming in because they got the word from CHOICES about being cut off and because they have some experience of having some type of coverage,” said navigator Ronnie Lovler. “I’ve also seen a good number of Hispanics and Latinos. I speak Spanish, and I think they are thrilled to find somebody who can speak Spanish and help them.”
Navigators were at the University of Florida’s HealthStreet facility off Archer Road on Saturday in an event sponsored by Enroll America, a nonprofit with the goal of maximizing the number of people receiving health care coverage.
Officials said the rain and other factors resulted in a low turnout but added more events will be held before the March 31 deadline for enrolling in the program.
Enrollment nationwide was hampered at the start by a sorely inadequate website. About two months and millions of dollars were spent rebuilding the site, and enrollment picked up after that.
Enroll America’s Dave O’Malley said Saturday that it’s not easy to get people to enroll.
“There have been some surveys done recently that people who are not ensured at this point haven’t been paying too much attention,” O’Malley said. “They don’t really know or care that the website had problems. They maybe had previous experience with insurance and think it’s too expensive for them. They may be stressed financially and working a couple of jobs.”
People interested in enrolling who would like the assistance of a navigator have other opportunities before the deadline.
Navigators will be at the downtown Gainesville library on Monday, on Feb. 24, on March 10 and on March 24 from 5 to 9 p.m. The library is at 401 E. University Ave.
They will also be at the library in Alachua on Feb. 17 and on March 3, 17 and 31 from 4 to 7 p.m. The library is at 14913 NW 140 St.
Navigators will be at the Live Oak library at 1848 South Ohio Ave. on March 9 from 1 to 3 p.m.