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Hospitals, community organizations team up to increase awareness and access to health care coverage in Central Florida with 2-1-1

Andrew Becker, 25, found out the hard way that health emergencies can happen to anyone.

“I was in a pretty bad car accident and had no health insurance,” said Becker. “I had high medical bills that sent me into debt. I never wanted to be in that position again so I signed up for insurance on the Marketplace.” 

Becker now has a plan that meets his needs for $48 per month.

It is stories like Becker’s that inspired Heart of Florida United Way, Orlando Health, Florida Hospital, Primary Care Access Network (PCAN), Enroll America and Search Research Analysis International (SRA) to form the Central Florida Enrollment Coalition, a group created to increase the awareness of health care coverage options available to Central Florida’s uninsured.

Today, the Coalition announced an easier way for Central Floridians to get assistance signing up for medical coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Consumers can dial the Heart of Florida United Way’s 2-1-1 Information & Assistance Helpline and schedule a free, in-person appointment with a Health Insurance Marketplace Navigator or Assister to determine what insurance options are available to them.

For 11 years, Heart of Florida United Way has operated 2-1-1, a vital resource providing information and assistance to those in need.

“As an organization, we know how important it is for adults and children of our Central Florida community to have access to health and wellness care,” said Robert H. (Bob) Brown, President/CEO, Heart of Florida United Way. “We are proud that our 2-1-1 Information & Assistance Helpline can serve as the first stop for those in need of health care coverage and excited to be a part of such a dynamic coalition.”

Now in its third year, the Health Insurance Marketplace’s open enrollment period runs from Nov. 1, 2015 through Jan. 31, 2016. More than 90 percent of families are eligible for some kind of subsidy when purchasing insurance through the marketplace.

For the first time, paying for health insurance in the Marketplace may be cheaper than paying the IRS tax penalty. The 2016 tax penalties for not having health insurance are due to increase from $325 to $695 per person, with a maximum of $2,085 per family. 

Navigators and assisters are trained to help consumers determine their eligibility for subsidies and understand the options available to them. 

“Our navigators will be available to help first-time enrollees navigate the system, as well as re-enrollees who may want assistance making changes in their current health care coverage,” said Anne Packham, Marketplace Project Director of the Primary Care Access Network, also known as PCAN.  PCAN is a collaborative among Orange County Government, primary health care centers, community agencies, hospitals and other social services.

“Inside hospital emergency departments, we see firsthand the challenges people face when they have a health emergency and don’t have health insurance,” said Michael E. Mueller, CFO of Orlando Health – Health Central Hospital.  “It motivates us to make sure that people in our community have affordable coverage so they don’t have additional financial stress during a medical emergency.”

The Coalition believes that when our neighbors have health insurance, we improve their experience of care by increasing access to health professionals. In addition, we improve the health of the community as a whole and reduce the cost of health care. 

“When more people have health insurance, it reduces the cost shift of some paying more for care than others,” said Jeff Hurst, senior vice president, senior finance officer at Florida Hospital. “When everyone has access to affordable insurance it helps keep the cost of care down for all.” 

Residents of Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Lake counties can begin dialing 2-1-1 immediately to schedule appointments with Health Insurance Marketplace Navigators/Assisters. Consumers can also text their zip code to 898-211 or live chat with a specialist online by visiting