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Local 'Navigators' Assist In Insurance Sign Up

Bob Barrett

Pensacola State College hosted an event Tuesday  to sign up people for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.  WUWF's Bob Barrett was there.

Kara Bryant is a health care navigator with Families Count in Pensacola.  As one of the trained navigators under the Affordable Care Act, she is able to help consumers and small businesses look for health coverage options through the national health insurance exchange, including completing eligibility and enrollment forms.

There were four navigators set up and ready to help people sign up for health insurance during the event at Pensacola State. 

Since signups for health insurance under the ACA began on October 1st, there have been close to 50 sign up events in north Florida where people can talk to navigators face to face to get more information- or to actually sign up for coverage.  Bryant describes a typical appointment with a consumer.

"First, if you want to do the process online, which is the fastest and most streamlined way to do it, you have to create an account in the online marketplace, which means you need to have an email account and be able to receive emails. You have to put your information in, name, last name, email address. Once you get the account set up then you can actually start the application process. Basically, social security number, date of birth, income information. You want to make sure you know what your income is going to be in 2014... Once you get past income section they will ask if you are eligible for coverage through your employer. Once you are past the employment section you can find out if you are eligible for subsidies or tax credits, then you can go in and view the plans that are offered to you."

So who is the average person applying for insurance?

"The average person is usually 50-63 that we are helping. That population that may have retired already, may not have benefits from work, but are not eligible for Medicare. That is a huge group or population of people that we are assisting."

While insurance is available for the majority of people living in Florida, there is a gap in eligibility for some.  The supreme court allowed states to opt out of the expansion in Medicaid benefits offered by the Affordable Care Act, and Florida rejected the aid. Kara Bryant says this has led to a coverage gap for those who can neither afford retail prices nor are eligible for subsidies.

There is hope that Florida may change policy and eventually accept the expended Medicaid funding. Dr. John Veasley is the president of the Pensacola branch of the NAACP and holds a masters degree in public health.

"Well the governor is reconsidering," Veasley shares that Governor Rick Scott and the Florida legislature are reconsidering their decision to block federal funding to expand Medicaid.

But will all of the shouting and propaganda that flew around about the Affordable Care Act, Kara Bryant says the most important thing she and the other health insurance navigators do is educate, and allay fears about the program.

"It is working. People have coverage," she says. You can learn more at www.familiescount.net

Bob Barrett, WUWF News. @BobWUWF

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.