Health Navigators help low-income locals sign up for health insurance

December 10, 2015




By Raphael Pires

A lack of exercise and high consumption of junk food are often associated with the American way of life. To some, these habits can be costly health risks.

Though life expectancy has improved and infant mortality has decreased for all Americans, some minorities still have higher risks of preventable diseases, death and disability than non-minorities, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Anne Packham, a marketplace project coordinator at the Primary Care Access Network in Orlando, Florida described cases of Hispanic immigrants who come to America in a relatively healthy state, but as they assimilate into what are commonly known as American customs, they become more prone to health risks, she said. This phenomenon has also been described by researchers as the “Latino mortality paradox. “  Packham stressed that because many immigrants of ethnic minorities have lower incomes and therefore may struggle to pay for high out-of-pocket medical expenses, it’s important to give them the opportunity to sign up for affordable health care.

Earlier this week, the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida and the Mobile Outreach Clinic held an event at the Cone Park Library in Gainesville, Florida where people with low incomes could get medical care and were offered the opportunity to sign-up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

“Getting health coverage is really important,”  said Tiffen Tapia, a health care navigator for the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida. “There are still a lot of people in [the] Gainesville area who don’t have health coverage.”

EFOF is an agency for epilepsy programs and services sponsored by the state of Florida, and health care navigators are trained and licensed to help people go through the health care application process.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Florida has the highest numbers of people signed up for health insurance during the Health Insurance Marketplace Open Enrollment period with approximately 450,000 people signed up through the end of November.

Tapia said another reason it’s important for EFOF to go out to underprivileged communities is because there are some people who don’t own computers or might not have the skills or knowledge of how to use them to sign up for health insurance.

At the event, people had the opportunity to sign up for a time to get help with their application or use one of the computers on site to fill it out with the necessary help.

“A lot of people don’t have the funds to see a doctor or get the right medical care […] We’re trying to prevent that and help people get the coverage that they need, hopefully at an affordable price,” Tapia said.

The navigators agreed when it comes to health, it’s better to be prepared.

“Preventing is much better than reacting to an illness,” Tapia said

There will be another event Dec. 12 sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida and the Gainesville Links at the computer lab in the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development.

The deadline to sign up for new insurance or make a change in coverage is Dec. 16.

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