This past Friday, South St. Petersburg community leaders – led by the NAACP, Pinellas County Urban League, along with clergy and community leaders, announced their joint push to double the number of Southside families who apply for health insurance on the state’s federally-supported Marketplace by the December 23rd deadline.
“Enrollments have been painfully slow. Outreach to the uninsured has been fairly weak by some of the agencies tasked with leading the enrollment push,” says Rev. Manuel Sykes, President of the St. Petersburg NAACP.
That combined with the government’s website woes has led to low numbers of people who’ve secured health insurance plans through the Marketplaces.
Although Florida had the nation’s second largest number of Marketplace applications behind California (150,142 and 250,838 respectively), Florida has seen a frustratingly low number of people who’ve completed the process. Only 6% of people seeking insurance have selected plans in Florida versus 24% in California.
Local civil rights leaders also say too few low-income people are completing the process. In California, over 70% of people deemed eligible to enroll in a Marketplace plan were also eligible for financial assistance to do so. In Florida, half that percentage (36%) were eligible for financial assistance.
Watson Haynes, CEO of the Pinellas County Urban League says “Our goal is to set the standard for a community-led enrollment strategy. For this first enrollment period, the lion share of federal resources and attention went to large navigator organizations to get the job done. For the next enrollment period, community-based organizations need to be front and center in getting people engaged.”
An Urban League analysis estimates that fewer than 200 South St. Petersburg residents have secured insurance plans through the exchanges. The NAACP is attempting to get a precise figure from federal officials.
Officials say that results in Florida lag so far behind California, in part, because the Sunshine State opted not to operate its own exchange and was much slower out of the gate in promoting the Marketplace.
The coalition is targeting as many as 400 new Southside applicants by the December 23rd deadline, beginning with a mass enrollment event on Tuesday, December 17th at 6:30 pm at the PTEC campus in South St. Petersburg (901 34th Street South).
They’re also asking for a dialogue with U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during her next visit in the area to request her support to pilot a stronger community-based strategy for the enrollment period that begins in January 2014.
An HHS official and enrollment specialists will be on-hand for the December 17th enrollment event at PTEC.