Jacksonville is launching an initiative aimed at helping uninsured people get coverage, just as the season to enroll in health plans opens.
About 120,000 residents under age 65 don’t have affordable private health care, the city said Thursday in launching “Get Covered Jax.”
The program will help residents navigate the Florida Health Insurance Marketplace at Healthcare.gov to find affordable or even no-cost options, Mayor Donna Deegan said in announcing the plan.
“So no more is Jacksonville going to be a city that has the finest health care in the world but some of the poorest primary health outcomes,” said Deegan, a three-time breast cancer survivor herself. “I’ve been beating this drum, so hopefully all of you know this, but we have some of the worst maternal and infant mortality numbers not only in the state, but worse than some third-world countries, especially in our African American community, and that is absolutely unacceptable.”
Duval County ranks 46 of 67 Florida counties in health outcomes, so easier ways to get health insurance are needed, added Dr. Sunil Joshi, Jacksonville’s chief health officer.
“Our primary goal here is to improve the health of every corner of Jacksonville,” Joshi said. “There are many factors that have affected health in a community, and believe it or not, that care that we provide as physicians and health care providers in the room with a patient only makes up about 20% of the health outcomes. The other 80% are due to social and economic factors, health behaviors and physical environment.”
For Deegan, who said she had health insurance to help when she dealt with cancer, it was frustrating when she learned that so many others told her that “we are not all in the same position you are in.” The new program will also educate people who may not know what health care options are out there.
“This is really personal for me,” Deegan said. “I am so excited about this Get Covered Jax effort because the truth is that education is an enormous part of this, and the great preponderance of people that go to our emergency rooms every time they get sick could have health care at very little — $10 a month or no cost to them — through the marketplace.”
Those with insurance cannot be denied coverage due to preexisting conditions and have better access to primary care physicians for preventative care and treatment than those who are uninsured, Joshi said.
Get Covered Jax also offers ways to help someone with those navigators, as well as licensed insurance brokers to get through the application process and secure coverage, Joshi said. Many of those brokers will follow up with reminders about medical appointments and about renewing insurance plans in a year, he said.
City officials plan to work hard to get the word out, according to Lynn Sherman, executive director of health programs. That includes a new central hub website with easy access to enrollment, resource guides and more to help people make informed decisions about health care, she said. Social media will be used to hit the city’s diverse populations.
“Our goal is to ensure that the message reaches everyone regardless of their background, their language or their culture,” she said. “We are also working closely with our local faith community to provide information sessions in person, as well as virtually, in our effort to meet people where they are.”
The outreach includes handing out flyers for people who might not have access to social media, so “nobody is left behind,” Sherman said.
The “Get Covered Jax” website also has important dates for anyone considering health care. For example, the last day to take advantage of open enrollment for coverage to begin on Jan. 1 is Dec. 15th.