Florida health care reform informers organize

pborns@MiamiHerald.comJuly 15, 2013 

Enroll America, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit whose mission is to educate Americans about their health care options under the Affordable Care Act, kicked off its Florida campaign in Miami recently with a training session for more than 25 newly hired organizers who will be reaching out to residents statewide.

Facing a Jan. 1 deadline for most Americans to get health insurance coverage, Floridians who aren't already insured or don't qualify for Medicaid will need to choose a health care plan, from the private market or one of the new health care exchange plans available Oct. 1.

The plans don't exist yet, and even the "navigators" who will help Floridians understand the new marketplace aren't yet known. Yet Enroll America and other groups are wasting no time getting the health care word out.

"Seventy-eight percent of Americans have no idea there's a health marketplace," Enroll America State Director Nick Duran said. Team members, many hired within the past two weeks, must be ready to recruit and train volunteers, bring local partner organizations on board, and start knocking on doors by the statewide "weekend of action" event starting July 27.

Nationally, Enroll America is funded by Kaiser Permanente, Families USA and other top donors to President Barack Obama's 2012 campaign.

Jimmy Tan, the organizer responsible for reaching out to residents in Miami-Dade County -- Enroll America's most critical Florida region -- is a veteran of Obama's 2012 Organizing for America campaign in Florida. Tan's seven staffers were chosen for their grassroots-organizing experience in targeted Hispanic and Haitian neighborhoods, where they'll be recruiting volunteers and partner organizations to help spread the word.

Florida Organizing Director Ray Paultre, who helped kick off the training session,

said he expects educating people on health care reform will take six or seven conversations per person to reach each "target" in his organization's database, which includes hundreds of thousands across the state. The conversations are aimed at individuals and families whose incomes qualify them to receive federal tax credits to offset the cost of a health care plan.

Others besides Enroll America are getting into the consumer education act, including insurance giant Florida Blue, which will be participating in the new health care exchange.

"One of the interesting things is that only 10 percent to 15 percent of Americans have ever purchased their own health insurance policy. Most go through their employers or are uninsured," said Florida Blue chief strategy and marketing officer Craig Thomas.

To help them, Florida Blue plans more than 3,000 seminars to demystify the new health reform guidelines.

This story was produced in partnership with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communication organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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