Florida organizations get funds to hire enrollment navigators

Floridians signing up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act this fall will able to get help with the application process from three Florida groups.

Federal officials on Monday announced they would give a total of $6.7 million to the University of South Florida, the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners and the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida to hire “navigators” to lead applicants through the health insurance marketplace’s maze of questions and documents. All three groups received grants for the first enrollment period as well.

The Florida grants, announced by the Department of Health and Human Services, are part of $60 million in awards to 90 organizations around the country. The next open enrollment period for insurance through the marketplaces will be from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15 for coverage starting next year.

The University of South Florida is to receive the bulk of the money, $5.3 million. The USF navigators will be hired under a program run by Florida Covering Kids & Families, an initiative of the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies in the university’s College of Public Health in Tampa.

The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida’s grant, for $871,275, will enable the organization to continue its enrollment activities in schools, government agencies, hospitals and faith-based entities. Particular focus will be placed on Hispanic, African-American and Haitian consumers, as well as immigrants, people with disabilities, the LGBT community, and farm and migrant workers, a statement from HHS said.

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners will receive $535,156, the statement said, to assist in ACA enrollment among “vulnerable populations,” primarily the uninsured, in “a manner that is sensitive to cultural, linguistic, physical and educational differences.”

This story was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.