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Free Food, Celebrities Help in Final Enrollment Push

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

With just 10 days left to enroll the uninsured for health coverage, the drumbeat is growing louder, more rapid.

President Obama is sprinkling health care into every conversation, even those about the NCAA basketball tournament. Celebrities are plastering photos of themselves on social media, holding signs saying “#GetCovered.”

And across Florida, enrollment navigators are pushing the in-person approach: blitzing college campuses, community centers, hospitals and clinics before the March 31 deadline.

From Miamito Tampato Jacksonville,application counselors in this final week are holding dozens of events (see calendar), trying everything from free health screenings to face painting for the kids.

Most of the enrollment efforts are targeting young adults and families. Flyers touting March 29 community festivals at the health centers in Tampa and Dade City highlight free food, music and balloon animals before health insurance is mentioned.

Gerry Skinner supervises the Tampa Family Health Center’s certified application counselors. She said their event hopes to attract uninsured families at this last-minute event, especially those reluctant to use the website.

“We have some great workers there. They put you at ease,” Skinner said. “They’ll sit you down and answer all your questions…If you have a language barrier, we have bilingual counselors. Se habla Español.”

Through February, 4.2 million Americans have signed up, including 2.6 million of whom used the federal health care marketplace. Florida, with 442,000 enrollees, leads the surge on the federally run website.

The push to promote online or phone enrollment won’t stop until the deadline, said Xonjenese Jacobs, a navigator and project coordinator with the Florida Covering Kids & Families program.

“Up and through March 31, you will still be able to go on the website,” Jacobs said. “…In addition, those individuals that did submit an application – say they did it by paper – as long as it’s postmarked by March 31, they are still good to go.”

Local navigators who provide in-person assistance can be found by searching:

Mary Shedden is news director at WUSF.