navigators

Odalys Arevalo works out of a shopping mall but she doesn't sell clothes or electronics or jewelry. She sells health insurance. And when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, she and her team of 600 brokers sell a lot of it.

Arevalo is co-founder of Sunshine Life and Health Advisors. The idea for the company began in a coffee shop. Operations started with a single mall kiosk and now the firm has eight outlets, including a 24,000 square feet "store" at the Mall of the Americas in Miami-Dade County.

Taber Andrew Bain, via Flickr Creative Commons

Some Central Florida hospitals are ramping up plans to get patients signed up for insurance - when they come to the emergency room.

Both Florida Hospital in Orlando and Orlando Health are expanding a program that puts federal health care marketplace navigators in the hospital during the open enrollment season under way.

Trained counselors are already in place at five Orlando Health locations, said Tom Yoesle, the chief operating officer of revenue management for Orlando Health.

Monday’s an important deadline for Floridians shopping for insurance on HealthCare.gov.

Nearly a million residents signed up on this federally run marketplace last year. Now those wanting to re-enroll -- or sign up for the first time for coverage -- must select a plan by Monday if they want to be covered starting at the beginning of the New Year.

With the March 31 deadline to buy health care looming, Florida ranks first in overall sign-ups for states with the federal government-run marketplace, at nearly 442,000. 

AP

FREEPORT  — In this rural part of the Panhandle, Christopher Mitchell finds few takers when he delivers his message about the importance of exploring insurance options under the federal health overhaul. 

Another $4.4 million is heading to Florida health centers to help them sign up residents for health insurance.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, announced that 46 community health centers will receive the federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers are hiring staff for roles including outreach workers, certified application specialists and navigators to help low-income residents apply for health insurance and possible subsidies through Healthcare.gov.

Navigators in Florida say they’ve had to re-do some of the applications for coverage on Healthcare.gov submitted during the first few weeks of open enrollment, McClatchy News Service reports. The lead navigator for Primary Care Access Network in Central Florida said many of the applications for the health insurance marketplace submitted over the phone, by mail and online have been lost.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Less than three weeks remain for uninsured Floridians to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act if they want coverage as of Jan. 1.  So navigators were relieved to find the federal health website running smoothly on Monday. 

The Hillsborough County Health Department showed up Tuesday on the list of  "navigators" to help uninsured people enroll in the federal online Marketplace. That was a real surprise since the state Department of Health made national headlines last month when it ordered local health department directors not to allow navigators on their premises.

After noticing the HCHD name on the navigators list at Healthcare.gov, Health News Florida asked the state DOH press office whether the agency had rescinded its controversial policy. The question apparently set off a scramble.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other Republican leaders have worked to block the Affordable Care Act since it was first proposed.

As Tuesday's opening of enrollment approached, Florida's Health Department said it wouldn't allow navigators and others to use its offices to educate and counsel people on the new law.

But others are eager to help. "We're ready to serve our community," says Efraim Monzon, director of a Florida Blue retail center in Miami. "We've been ready since 2010 when we heard it was coming."

Florida's online Marketplace for health insurance opened Tuesday for browsing at HealthCare.gov, with only 34 licensed "navigators" ready to offer advice to the millions who may need it.

That's only 1 navigator for every 100,000 uninsured people in the state who have to obtain coverage for 2014 to comply with the Affordable Care Act. 

Most of the enrollment advisors who will be available to help Florida's uninsured enroll in a health plan through the federal Marketplace will apparently not be covered by Florida's licensure law.

It's a good thing for uninsured Floridians that there is a six-month open-enrollment period for the federal online Marketplace. Most of the "navigators" who are being trained to help consumers enroll aren't licensed yet, and the Marketplace opens Tuesday.

According to a list released Wednesday by the Florida Division of Financial Services, only 57 of about 150 navigators for the state have applied to DFS for a license. Of those, only 11 had received one, the list showed.

At a stop in Tampa to discuss women’s issues, U.S. House of Representatives  Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized how Florida's leaders have handled the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the Tampa Bay Times reports. At the appearance with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, Pelosi noted Obamacare is moving forward and criticized Gov.

With the Oct. 1 Obamacare enrollment date right around the corner, Republicans in Congress are threatening a government shutdown.  South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo argues that Republicans in both Congress and Tallahassee should give the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, a chance to prove itself before dismantling it.

Floridians who use county health departments for primary care are mostly too poor to qualify for enrollment in a health plan through the online Marketplace to open Oct. 1, the Department of Health says.

So it makes more sense for “navigators” -- enrollment advisors for the uninsured who seek health coverage on the online Marketplace beginning Oct. 1 --  to go to other locations such as hospital emergency rooms, or county libraries, the memo says.

Frank Cerabino, columnist for Cox Newspapers, writes that "it's impressive to see the lengths that Florida's leaders are going to keep state residents from getting health care insurance."

It's bad enough, he writes, that the state House blocked expansion of Medicaid -- even though federal funds would have paid for it, and even though Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured people.  

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most vocal critics of the Affordable Care Act, has spent the past month raising alarms that signing up for a health plan will put citizens' privacy  at risk.

He has managed to attract a lot of media attention, and the White House's effort to combat the rhetoric with explanations of the data hub security system -- a complex subject -- has been pretty much ignored.

In his latest column at Our Health Policy Matters, consultant Paul Gionfriddo pokes fun at the hypocrisy of Florida and other officials who are fanning fears of "navigators" -- enrollment advisors for the federal online Marketplace opening Oct. 1 under the Affordable Care Act.

At a community center named for Florida civil rights pioneer Carrie Meek, a few dozen members of Miami's National Church of God gathered over the weekend for a tea party — and to hear from a special guest, Monica Rodriguez of Enroll America.

The organization is working to spread the word about the Affordable Care Act, the federal law that will let people without health insurance shop for coverage starting Oct. 1.

One company that was going to help enroll uninsured Floridians in health insurance through the federal online Marketplace has dropped out in the face of state officials’ continuing hostility to everything about the Affordable Care Act.

Pinellas County officials say the state Department of Health has agreed that Affordable Care Act enrollment advisors can operate within the same buildings as the local health department staff. 

And DOH staff can refer uninsured patients to the advisors, called Navigators, for help in enrolling in a health plan on the Marketplace when it opens Oct. 1.

"What the state said was that we could not hire Navigators, but that we could refer people to county offices within our buildings," said DOH/Pinellas spokeswoman Maggie Hall. She said it amounts to a "compromise."

Pinellas County government officials suffered a blow Wednesday when they learned about the state Department of Health's order barring enrollment Navigators from local health department property.

The Navigators are supposed to fill a key role in carrying out the Affordable Care Act by helping uninsured people enroll in health plans that are to be offered through an online Marketplace, which is to open Oct. 1.

The Florida Department of Health has become the latest arm of state government to distance itself from  the federal Affordable Care Act. It has ordered county health units not to allow outreach workers called Navigators onto their property to help uninsured people sign up for subsidized health coverage.

'Intimidating' Letter Sent to 8 FL Groups

Sep 5, 2013

Eight groups that are hiring and training "navigators" to help uninsured Floridians enroll in Obamacare have been sent letters by a U.S. House committee seeking information on their activities  -- a letter that some have called "intimidating."

Two of the groups are public entities: University of South Florida and Pinellas County Board of Commissioners.

Two others are non-government groups based in Florida: Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County Inc. and Epilepsy Foundation of Florida.

On his blog Our Health Policy Matters, health consultant Paul Gionfriddo says that members of Congress who took time during their vacation to demand more information about health insurance navigators have bigger issues to worry about. The navigator contracts, Gionfriddo writes, are minuscule compared to defense service contracts that lawmakers aren’t scrutinizing.   

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act say Florida officials' concern about a program that will help uninsured people sign up for coverage has no foundation in fact.

There is no danger that so-called "navigators" will steal people's identities or feed information into a giant federal database, said Greg Mellowe, policy director for the consumer group Florida CHAIN. The group is one of the non-profits that will get a share of federal grant money for the "navigator" program.

In his Saturday address, President Obama complained that critics of the Affordable Care Act are trying to "gum up the works" to keep the health law from succeeding as implementation of its major features nears on Jan. 1, as Politico reports.

Finding uninsured people and helping them enroll in health plans through the new online marketplace -- set to open Oct. 1 -- will be hard. If they don't speak English, it will likely be harder still.

It presents an extra hurdle in states like California, Texas and Florida, as Kaiser Health News reports.