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'Navigator' Grants: $4.2M to USF

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

University of South Florida will receive the lion's share of "Navigator Grants" being issued for Florida, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is to make the announcement at USF at noon.

The list of grants released for Florida totals around $7.8 million -- more than the $5.8 million that had been expected.

Florida Covering Kids & Families,part of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded national program that has its Florida base at USF's College of Public Health, is the winner of the largest grant in the state. Jodi Ray, project director, said Thursday morning that she had not received any advance word on whether her program would be chosen.

Covering Kids leads a state-wide consortium of 10 partners that will blanket the state to help uninsured individuals and small businesses figure out how to gain coverage through the online Marketplace, which opens Oct. 1.

Other single-state grant winners in Florida: Epilepsy Foundation of Florida, $637,686; Legal Aid Society of Palm Beach County, $446,783; and Pinellas County, $600,000. Florida will also get a piece of several multistate grants (see list).

The grants to Florida groups are part of a total of $67 million awarded to 105 organizations nationwide. The $7.8 million in grants for Florida is not expected to be enough to deal with enrollment in a state with 3.8 million uninsured people.

Many states with smaller uninsured populations are able to spend a lot more money on navigators because their governments have been working to implement the Affordable Care Act; Florida's state government has not.

For example, as the New York Times reports, New York will spend $27 million on navigators, Maryland $24 million, and Colorado $17 million. All those states are running their own marketplaces with major federal funding.

The navigator grants come in addition to those recently made available to community health centers to hire enrollment and outreach workers. Florida centers received $21 million in May.

In other news about the Obama administration's rollout of major parts of the ACA, several reports have come out lately saying the navigator funding and training is behind schedule and so are parts of the online marketplace security system, as McClatchy Newspapersreport. But spokesmen for HHS say the market will be ready for business on time, Oct. 1.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.