Doctors for America kicks off bus tour in Tampa

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Alice Chen speaking to the crowd
  • Alice Chen speaking to the crowd
The race to enroll the millions of uninsured Floridians who have yet to sign up with the Affordable Care Act continued Saturday morning at the North Nebraska Avenue Tampa Family Health Center, where the organization Doctors for America held their first stop of a statewide tour.

“We're winding down on the enrollment coverage period, which ends March 31,” said Gerry Skinner, a manager for Tampa Family Health Centers. “We're trying to get as many people in and educate them. We need to educate the public, because a lot of people are not exactly sure how it runs or what it means. So what it means is if you educate them, then they will be able to get the insurance they need.”

Chair of Doctors for America Mona Mangat echoed Skinner's sentiments and also offered support for TFHC.

“We expect lots of people that need help coming out to get educated so they can make informed decisions on their health care options. We have been planning this event for several months and this seemed to be an ideal choice. They're well seeded into the community and they have a great operation here. They've been very welcoming and great to work with”

Other organizations involved in Saturday's event included Enroll America, Planned Parenthood, MomsRising, Protect Your Care, Organizing for Action and National Congress for Black Women. From Tampa the tour heads north, stopping in Orlando and Jacksonville before ending in Tallahassee.

“It's really amazing,” said Alice Chen, Executive Director of Doctors for America. “When you look at the papers and on the news, it looks like a very political situation. But when we actually get on a bus and go into a community, and actually talk to real people who are struggling in their lives, they totally get it. They understand why this is important and their excited to get healthcare.”

Among those is Tampa resident Karen Clay. The health insurance provided by the ACA allows her to have one less worry as the time constraints of taking care of her disabled son prevents her from having a regular job.

“I take care of my son who is disabled for almost 34 years, and when I was no longer able to work because I needed to be with him all the time I had no employment. So, now he is under one of the medicaid waivers that allow family members to be caregivers, but I still couldn't afford insurance with that and I also had a preexisting condition. When I tried to get insurance it was almost $1000 a month. With the Affordable Care Act, it's considerably lower and I get the tax credit. It's just that families of people who have disabilities really need to get on the website and find out not only that they can get insurance, but more than likely they are saving. If we're not healthy, then we can't take care of our loved ones. There's a large segment of the population in the United States who are in the same position as I am. We initially had full time employment, then you go to part time employment, then you go to not having a job at all. That's the sacrifice that we make and without the Affordable Care Act, we'd never be able to get insurance.”

Notable attendees included Mayer Bob Buckhorn and State Representatives Janet Cruz and Betty Reed. Acknowledging the political elements of the ACA, Representative Reed hoped successful events of Saturday would lead to softening stance on the issue by the state government, where the ACA and more specifically Medicaid expansion has proved to be a divisive topic.

“Tallahassee is not accepting the money to do the expansion and I am not happy about that. We are still trying to work through the issues, but we have to provide some type of insurance and that's where we are right now, we've got to do something, we can't just walk away and leave these people. … What I see happening with events like today is that they have to recognize that these people.”

“In Florida we have so many people who can't get health insurance, but we also have an entire gap of people who will not be able to get covered, because the governor and the legislature haven't expanded medicaid,” added Chen on the topic. “I really hope that those people who are in a position to demand decisions really look at their communities, look at the people who are benefiting from health care and do the right thing.”

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