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  1. Health

Group helps spread word about upcoming health insurance options

Published Jul. 28, 2013

TAMPA — Two months ago, Erica Cano lost her job and with it, health insurance for her family. She wasn't sure what to do.

It's a story Shannon Almadrones hears often as field organizer for the South Tampa and Pinellas County branch of Get Covered America, a campaign led by the nonprofit organization Enroll America.

Aimed at educating the public about health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act, the group is reaching out to the uninsured to talk about the health insurance marketplace.

Cano, 36, was just one stop Saturday as Almadrones canvassed a neighborhood off Westshore Boulevard south of Gandy Boulevard.

A team of about 15 spread out through Tampa in one of many similar events happening across the state.

Many of the people behind the doors Almadrones knocked on already had health insurance, and even Cano said she was starting a new job in a few days that came with benefits.

Still, there's a need, Almadrones said, to inform people ahead of Oct. 1, when enrollment begins.

Coverage kicks off in 2014.

Many don't know what the marketplace is, she said, or where they can find information.

Sometimes called the exchange, the marketplace is where people can shop for plans and find out whether they are eligible for Medicaid or subsidies, said John Brushwood, Enroll America's regional organizing leader for West Central Florida.

"Of these folks who are uninsured and eligible to enroll, 78 percent of them don't know this exists," Brushwood said.

The group is nonpartisan, Brushwood said, and does not advocate for or against the Affordable Care Act.

"Our role is merely just getting out the message," Brushwood said. "The problem isn't that people are uninsured and don't want to be but that there are those who are uninsured and don't know how to be insured."

The group plans to continue canvassing and recruiting volunteers throughout the year and into 2014.

They are working on leasing an office for a year in the Egypt Lake area, Brushwood said.

Shelley Rossetter can be reached at srossetter@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3401.

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