For 25 years, the Family Healthcare Foundation has been on a mission to increase equitable access to health care and reduce health disparities in Tampa Bay.
As the calendar turns to November and the holiday season picks up steam, the busy season also gets underway for the nonprofit organization and its team of navigators, who help enroll individuals, families and children in lower-cost and subsidized health insurance programs in a four-county area of Tampa Bay.
There's the 11th open enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act, which starts November 1st and runs through January 15th, 2024. There are also brand new eligibility changes to the Florida Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as Florida KidCare. Those changes, which take effect January 1st, expand access to health care coverage to tens of thousands more children statewide by increasing the household income eligibility threshold to qualify for subsidized health insurance through Florida KidCare to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. That is expected to make 42,000 children statewide who are currently uninsured eligible for subsidized, lower-cost insurance through Florida KidCare, according to the nonprofit Florida Policy Institute.
Family Healthcare Foundation Executive Director Katie Roders Turner says access to affordable, high-quality health care will get those children the regular doctor’s visits and routine medical care that are crucial to a child’s growth and development. Through that regular care, doctors and other medical professionals will keep track of whether children are meeting developmental milestones and “on track for success.”
The Florida Legislature unanimously approved the eligibility expansion last session.
Roders Turner says lawmakers and state officials recognized that families across the state were encountering a “subsidy cliff” situation, where a raise in pay at work or a higher-paying job pushed a household’s income to the point their children were no longer qualified for subsidized insurance.
“More working families will have access to lower-cost coverage for their children,” Roders Turner says. “We’re really excited for this change to get started. We’ve been spreading the word.”
A long history of local involvement
Since 2009, the University of South Florida's College of Public Health has received federal funding to provide statewide enrollment and outreach for the state’s CHIP program, Florida KidCare. Florida KidCare itself is actually an umbrella program for four separate government-funded children’s health insurance programs - Medicaid, MediKids, Florida Healthy Kids and Children’s Medical Services.
Since the USF College of Public Health first received that federal funding in 2009, the Family Healthcare Foundation has served as USF’s regional partner in Tampa Bay, providing enrollment and outreach for Florida KidCare in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk and Pasco counties.
The nonprofit organization actually dates back to 1998, the same year CHIP initially launched in Florida. That year, local leaders in Hillsborough County formed a nonprofit then known as the Hillsborough Kids Health Care Foundation to make sure eligible children in the county got enrolled in the health insurance program. In 2010, the name changed to the Family Healthcare Foundation.
When the Affordable Care Act health insurance marketplace launched in 2013, Family Healthcare Foundation navigators, who’d previously been known as assistors, started signing up individuals and families for that coverage as well. Roders Turner says the Affordable Care Act marketplace has been a game-changer. It’s allowed parents who had children enrolled in CHIP, but did not qualify for any subsidized health insurance program themselves, to get affordable coverage. It’s also allowed Family Healthcare Foundation navigators to take a comprehensive approach to addressing a family’s health insurance needs.
“We would be enrolling children into CHIP and we would be looking at mom and dad and saying, ‘I’m sorry but we don’t have options for you. We can get your kids covered but we don’t have anything for you,’ Roders Turner says. “But when the Affordable Care Act passed, we could get their parents covered too. Now, we can look at the whole family and say, ‘These are all your options for coverage. And we’re going to get every member of your family covered.’ We screen the whole family for coverage.”
That coverage may come through the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace, Florida KidCare, Florida Medicaid, the Hillsborough County Health Care Plan, Polk County Health Care Plan, or any other social service or publicly-funded health care program Family Healthcare Foundation navigators know about, Roders Turner says.
Thanks to a mix of local, state and federal grants and funding sources, all navigator assistance offered by the Family Healthcare Foundation is offered free of charge. The navigators are also available year-round, in-person and through virtual appointments.
The Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, Florida Healthy Kids, Hillsborough County government, Covering Florida, the Mary Ellen & Donald Gillette Foundation, the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp, BayCare, Foundation for a Healthy St. Pete, USF Federal Credit Union, Network Eye and Florida KidCare all contribute support.
There are 35 total navigators working in the area through the Family Healthcare Foundation and its partners at locations such as the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, BayCare Health System hospitals, Tampa General Hospital and two federally-qualified health systems, Premier Community HealthCare Group in Pasco and Hernando and Evara Health in Pinellas. Those navigators have trained throughout October on the changes and expanded eligibility for Florida KidCare. While those changes take effect on January 1, Roders Turner says navigators will work with individuals signing up for Affordable Care Act coverage and others seeking assistance to determine ahead of time if their children qualify for the expanded Florida KidCare eligibility.
For more information, go to Florida KidCare
and Family Healthcare Foundation.
For online navigator assistance, go to connect with a navigator.