About 160 new people will be hired at dozens of community health centers around the state to help uninsured Floridians sign up for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, according to U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor.
The $8.1 million in grants from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration will go to 41 community health centers across the state to help people understand their options.
"We have just really been inundated with a lot of questions from people," said Pat Mabe, CEO of the Community Health Centers of Pinellas. "We are going to become as expert as we can become to help people get through this maze of questions."
The funds are to be used to hire outreach and eligibility assistance workers to help people enroll. Starting Jan. 1, individuals are required to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act unless they have incomes below the federal poverty level (about $12,000 for an individual).
Health News Florida, in combination with Kaiser Health News, reported the awards in May, although the formal announcement was delayed.
"People are going to have a lot of questions, so that's why it's so vital to have trusted neighbors like our community health centers and the people that work there helping folks to review the options in the online marketplace and explain a little bit about the tax credits that will also make the new health insurance policies much more affordable," Castor said.
A family of four with an income from $23,000 up to $94,000 will be eligible for tax credits on a sliding scale to help them buy health insurance coverage, Castor said.
Those who are below the poverty level will have few options, since the Florida Legislature turned down the federal funds that would have provided them coverage through Medicaid expansion.
Studies have found that nearly one-quarter of Floridians under 65 are uninsured.