State Representative Janet Cruz holds ACA enrollment fair in West Tampa

Posted by Terrence Smith on Mon, Feb 10, 2014 at 10:30 AM

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With the March 31 deadline to sign up for the Affordable Care Act without risking a tax penalty fast approaching, State Representative Janet Cruz organized a enrollment fair Saturday at the West Tampa Library. The event was intended to draw those who may be uncomfortable with or unable to use the healthcare.gov website. The event was organized in conjunction with the Family Healthcare Foundation.

“You can access all this information on the internet, but a lot of people especially an older population or perhaps an immigrant population that may not be sure about what they're doing,” said Cruz. “So this is a chance for them to interact with some of the experts, talk about the plans and what is available to them and get answers to their questions if they're not sure what they're eligible for or what their family is eligible for.”

The event was fairly straightforward, with the presence of navigators who would be able to walk a person through the sign up process, allowing anyone to find out what they are eligible and sign up in less than twenty minutes. While the event started slowly, after two hours a steady stream of families began to arrive. A prominent feature of the event was the use of bilingual navigators, which allowed most of the early arrivals to conduct their sessions in their preferred Spanish.

“I feel that it's my duty as a representative to these folks to make sure that they have access and understand all the services that are available to them,” said Cruz. “Anything I can do to facilitate that is what I'm here for.”

Events such as these could be integral for those dragging their feet in signing up for insurance. Organizers are expecting a similar run up to the March deadline to the surge of late December, where sign ups improved to more than 2 million as people rushed to join before the deadline for coverage beginning January first.

“There was a big push in December,” said Melanie Hall, Executive Director of the Family Healthcare Foundation. “We thought that there would be a little bit of a slowdown after that but there hasn't been and I think as people are starting to realize now that there's only about six weeks left. I think people are really looking for those opportunities and answers to those questions and we're trying to avoid that rush at the very end like we saw in December. We're trying to be out and be as visible as we can, really encourage people to do this prior to that last week in March, so we don't have system issues with the website, with wait times at the call center, things like that. We're really trying to avoid that as much as possible.”

Cruz intends to continue these events in other neighborhoods of her district, eventually holding them in Town N Country, Lincoln Gardens, Carver City and Egypt Lake. The Family Healthcare Foundations next major events will be a presence at a visit by the Doctors for America bus tour on February 22 and the Gasparilla Distance Classic, along with smaller events throughout the Bay Area.

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