January 24, 2020
The numbers are in and 1.9 million Floridians selected or were re-enrolled in health care plans in 2020 during the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) open enrollment period held from Nov. 1 to Dec. 21.
That’s about a 200,000 increase from last year, despite an 85 percent cut in grant funding, said Jodi Ray, a USF College of Public Health (COPH) instructor II and program director of Florida Covering Kids and Families (FL-CKF). FL-CKF manages the USF State Navigator Program and nearly a dozen other organizations (collectively referred to as the “Covering Florida” consortium) that provide Navigator services across Florida.
“I’m shocked, but happy,” commented Ray. “Previously we had a marketing budget and all this support to get information about health care coverage out there. But that’s now been cut. And they also cut enrollment assistance. Some states have completely done away with their Navigator Programs—they couldn’t support one on the money they were given. And despite the fact that the number of insured has gone down during this administration, Florida’s enrollment has actually gone up—every single year.”
How was ACA enrollment able to increase when the funding that promoted and facilitated it was cut to the bone?
Key, said Ray, was extending Covering Florida’s reach by teaming with community and government partners.
“We’ve been targeting a lot of vulnerable populations, such as those where English is a second language and those who are re-entering society after jail time,” commented Ray. “We’re also working with the Mexican consulate in Orlando, the Epilepsy Foundation in South Florida, Healthy Start and faith-based and LGBTQ partners—populations that we know are at risk of being uninsured or of not having access to health care. In addition, I work with a lot of elected officials. We’ve really pushed them to use things like social media to get the word out about Covering Florida so their constituents can get the ACA info they need.”
Another factor helping to drive enrollment: offering virtual sign-up sessions.
“We had to look at how we were going to serve the state with so much less in terms of money and personnel,” explained Ray, who noted that the number of state Navigators dwindled from a high of 152 a few years ago to a mere 25 now. “Virtual enrollment has really helped us serve people in an area where we don’t have Navigators on the ground.”
Despite the limitations, Ray said she’s proud of her FL-CKF team’s continued commitment to serving Floridians around the state.
“I’m really impressed with my team and their ability to go with the changes,” said Ray. “I’m so pleased with all that we’ve accomplished and with what we continue to accomplish.”
Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health