Lake City Reporter
By Steven Richmond
GAINESVILLE — WellFlorida was selected by the University of South Florida to be one of 10 statewide partners helping uninsured Floridians enroll in health coverage starting in October.
Because the state of Florida opted out of a Medicaid entitlement expansion and insurance exchange as part of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, it became eligible for grant programs from the federal government to facilitate the transition into the laws taking effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Those without health insurance after Jan.1 will face a penalty of $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (up to $285 for a family) or 1 percent of income, whichever is greater.
USF was awarded one of several “Navigator” grants which will be used by organizations like WellFlorida to help uninsured Floridians enroll in programs.
“We’re … posting navigators where we know uninsured people are likely to congregate,” WellFlorida Council CEO Jeff Feller said. “We’ll be going to hospitals, United Ways, schools and other places that already have a referral system in place.”
Feller said the WellFlorida navigators will be able to help Floridians understand the dynamics of the new Health Insurance Marketplace opening Oct. 1.
Individuals who fill out applications with the Marketplace will be able to determine if they’re eligible for lower monthly premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
Each application will receive premium quotes from a list of pre-approved private insurance companies that all share what the government calls “essential health benefits,” which includes services such as ambulatory patient, hospitalization, maternity, preventative wellness and pediatrice services, among others.
Individuals are then able to compare plans and choose one based on their needs and budget.
Trained navigators from the WellFlorida Council will have computers and tablets set up, ready to explain the application process, program requirements and other details to families looking for a new insurance plan.
WellFlorida’s navigators will cover Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee and Union counties.
“The more people we can sign up for health insurance and pay for care, the less expensive it will be for the rest of us,” Feller said.
There will be several income-sensitive subsidies available for low-income families, as well.
“If you’re without insurance, this could be your pathway to gaining it,” Feller said. “You have nothing to lose. At least navigate and see what’s available to you. Knowledge is power.”