Nonprofit pushes Gators to sign up for health care by deadline

The Independent Florida Alligator
By Jessica Pereda

Nonprofit organization WellFlorida will be aiding students in the final stretch to sign up for health care.

The organization’s website,, allows users to reach out to trained workers — called navigators — for help. The program was started in response to the Affordable Care Act, which requires every citizen to be insured by March 31.

Under the act, young adults can stay under their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26.

Students have been a focus for these groups because they tend to fall into the gap between qualifying for Medicaid and being able to afford private insurance, said Jasmine Burney, a navigator for health advocacy organization Florida Chain.

“I think that it’s great that students stay on parents’ health insurance,” she said. “They don’t have to do the necessary steps to have to get health insurance.”

Belosmeli Leon, a UF second-year graduate student of public health and intern at WellFlorida, said students are important targets because they often fall behind.

“I think it’s really important to showcase this to other students ‘cause a lot of times they are the last ones to find out about these things or they think they are invincible,” she said.

Allyson Hall, a UF health services research, management and policy associate professor, said there has traditionally been pushback against public health care legislation.

“I think it was remarkable anything was passed at all,” she said.

Lauren Vagelakos, WellFlorida project coordinator, said the organization is a good opportunity for students to take advantage of the legislation and avoid the “young invincibles” mentality.

“Young invincibles” refers to young adults who feel they do not need to enroll for insurance, she said.

When students get into this mindset, they miss great opportunities, Vagelakos said.

“When you’re young, you think you can’t get hurt or you won’t get sick,” she said. “And sometimes that’s not the case.”

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WellFlorida Council, Inc. is a private, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization created in 1969. We are the state designated local health council for 16 counties in North Central Florida and specialize in health-related consultancy for clients and projects throughout Florida.

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Alachua, Bradford, Citrus, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Hernando, Lafayette, Lake, Levy, Marion, Putnam, Sumter, Suwannee and Union.

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