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Free and low-cost healthcare options in Tampa Bay can help families dealing with pandemic job loss

The Family Healthcare Foundation can help to apply
Posted at 5:59 AM, Jan 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-01 08:14:31-05

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — As we work to rebound from the pandemic, many families across the Tampa Bay are are still facing job loss and underemployment. That means some are without health insurance for the very first time.

However, there are several options through your local county or through the State of Florida that can help bridge the gap, providing free or low-cost health coverage with a multitude of providers.

The Hillsborough County Health Care Plan is a program for people with limited income who also do not qualify for other health care coverage. This includes Medicare and Medicaid.

This free assistance plan provides primary and specialty care, outpatient treatment and help with prescriptions. Families across Hillsborough County can apply year-round. It's paid for by a special sales tax through Hillsborough County.

There are also similar programs in Pinellas County and Polk County.

For those who may be without insurance for the first time, navigators with The Family Healthcare Foundation say it's a great way to ensure you can still see a doctor.

"It's a very comprehensive safety net resource for people who are in need of medical care but are too low-income to receive subsidies to help pay for insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace," said Katie Turner, a navigator with The Family Healthcare Foundation.

Additionally, Florida KidCare offers quality health insurance and dental coverage just for children across the state for an affordable price. For those without health insurance now, this could be a great option and you can also apply year-round.

Florida children are eligible for coverage through this state-sponsored program from birth all the way through the end of age 18.
There are income requirements, but thousands of families across Florida qualify, even if one or both parents are working.

The Family Healthcare Foundation frequently sees families who either don't know about Florida KidCare, or had it and didn't re-apply, and so their coverage lapsed.

They say others, especially with the pandemic, lost their employer-sponsored insurance and have not been aware of Florida KidCare. But they say it's critical to ensure your child has health coverage.

"Getting your kid access to health insurance is going to make sure that they are with a medical home and that they have a doctor that they can see whenever they're sick," Turner said. "Then, they can keep going to those wellness visits as well and staying on track with vaccinations and with growth charts."

Some of the plans through Florida KidCare are as low as $15 a month for children. Coverage begins after your child's eligibility has been determined and the first month's premium has been paid, if that's required.

It takes about six weeks to process an application and places like The Family Healthcare Foundation have navigators who can help you apply for that for free. They can also assist with applying for coverage with the Hillsborough County Health Care Plan or insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.