COLLIER COUNTY Fla. - "We certainly have a lot of families who are uninsured, whether or not this will be cost effective for them, I'm not sure yet," said Caroline Brennan, Family Services/Mental Health Specialist for Head Start in Collier County.
And beginning Tuesday, October 1, that will change. Southwest Floridians will be required to enroll in a health insurance plan. Lynne Thorp is the first Navigator in the 10 county region of southwest and gulf central Florida.
"We are trained to work with people in the community from a social services background," said Thorpe.
That training involves a 20 hour web-based course and a background check. On Friday, we caught Thorpe talking to members of the Early Childhood Network about the Health Insurance Marketplace.
"Our capacity to help people one on one is growing and it will continue to grow throughout the next 6 months and the years to come," said Thorp.
In a region that includes Lee, Collier, Charlotte, and Hendry Counties, there are 18 different Navigators. They will work with individuals, families, and small businesses.
"Especially individuals who need extra help in terms of needing special assistance or accommodations, individuals with limited English proficiency, we can help them with all translations."
There are also Certified Application Counselors who are available to help.
"These are located through all of the federally qualified health centers throughout the region, additionally many of our local hospitals and social service agents have applied to be certified application counselors," said Thorp.
Thorp adds you don't have to use a Navigator or a Certified Application Counselor, you can always speak with an insurance agent.
There will be Navigators and Certified Application Counselors available through the following agencies in the following counties:
Charlotte County – Virginia B. Andes
Collier County – Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA), Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida
Hendry County – HPCSWF
DeSoto – HPCSWF, Manatee County Rural Health System
Glades – Florida Community Health, HPCSWF
Hardee – HPCSWF
Highlands – Heartland Rural Health Network
Lee County – Lee Human Service, McGregor Clinic, United Way of Lee County, Family Health Centers of Southwest Florida
Manatee - Manatee County Rural Health System
Sarasota – Comprehensive Care Clinic, United Way, Community Center of North Port, Manatee County Rural Health System
The Health Planning Council of Southwest Florida will open on October 1st, 2013 at 8:00 am. Their Toll-Free Number is 1-866-547-2793 and for toll free support at the national level 1-800-318-2596.