Jacksonville aims to expand health care citywide

Jacksonville is launching an initiative to help the uninsured get coverage just as the season for enrolling in health plans begins.

About 120,000 residents under the age of 65 cannot afford private healthcare, the city said Thursday as it launched “Get Covered Jax”.

In announcing the program, Mayor Donna Deegan said the program will help residents navigate the Florida health insurance marketplace on Healthcare.gov to find affordable and even free options.

“So Jacksonville is no longer a city with the best health care in the world but the worst primary health,” said Deegan herself, a three-time breast cancer survivor. “I’ve been beating the drum so hopefully you all know this, but our maternal and infant mortality rates are not only the worst in the state, they are worse than some third world countries, especially in our African This is absolutely unacceptable to the American community.”

Dr. Sunil Joshi, Jacksonville’s chief health officer, added that Duval County ranks 46th out of 67 Florida counties in terms of health and needs an easier way to get health insurance.

“Our main goal is to improve health in every corner of Jacksonville,” Josh said. “There are so many factors that influence community health, and believe it or not, the care we as physicians and healthcare providers provide to our patients in the room only accounts for about 20% of health outcomes. The other 80% is due to socioeconomic factors, health behaviors and the physical environment.”

Deegan said she has health insurance that can help while she’s dealing with cancer, but she’s frustrated when she learns that many people tell her “we’re not all in the same situation as you.” The new program will also educate people who may not know what health care options are available.

“This is really personal to me,” Deegan said. “I’m so excited about Get Covered Jax’s efforts because the truth is, education is a big part of it, and the vast majority of people who come to our emergency room every time they’re sick can be covered at a fraction of the cost ($10 ) access to health care for a month or free – through the marketplace.”

Those with insurance cannot be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions and have easier access to preventive care and treatment from primary care physicians than those without insurance, Joshi said.

Jax also offers ways to help people with these navigators and licensed insurance brokers complete the application process and obtain coverage, Josh said. Many brokers will follow up with reminders throughout the year for medical appointments and insurance plan renewals, he said.

Lynn Sherman, executive director of health programs, said city officials plan to work to get the word out. This includes a new central hub website with easy access to registration, resource guides and more to help people make informed decisions about health care, she said. Social media will be used to reach different groups of people in the city.

“Our goal is to ensure everyone can get the message across, regardless of their background, language or culture,” she said. “We are also working closely with local faith communities to provide in-person and virtual information sessions in an effort to meet people where they are.”

Sherman said the outreach includes handing out flyers to people who may not have access to social media so “no one is left behind.”

The Get Covered Jax website also provides important dates for anyone considering health care. For example, the last day to take advantage of open enrollment, which begins on January 1st, is December 15th.

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