Website launched to connect Jacksonville’s uninsured to health care: ‘This … could not have come at a better time’
Article by Beth Reese Cravey, The Florida Times-Union
JaxCareConnect, a new initiative developed to connect uninsured Jacksonville residents to primary care, has launched a website to build those connections online.
The site — jaxcareconnect.org — will use patients’ health care needs and location to match them to primary care providers in a network of free and low-cost health centers.
“We have actually been working with patients since March of this year as we started to receive referrals for primary care services from the local hospitals,” said Jenny O’Donnell, JaxCareConnect administrator. “Now that our website is live and our staff is trained and experienced, uninsured patients can sign up with us directly by completing the simple online form to determine their eligibility.”
Once they sign up, a patient health advocate will contact them for additional information to determine the primary care provider “best suited for their needs,” she said.
JaxCareConnect was developed by the Duval Safety Net Collaborative, a group of free and charitable clinics founded in 2019. They had two goals: connect about 2,000 uninsured Jacksonville residents to primary care and curb unnecessary emergency room visits.
The collaborative members are WeCareJax, which is the fiscal agent and administrative manager of JaxCareConnect, Volunteers in Medicine, Agape Community Health Center, Community Health Outreach, MASS Clinic, Mission House and Sulzbacher.
The project was developed with $525,000 from Riverside Hospital Foundation, Baptist Health, The Community Foundation for Northeast Florida and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund. In February the Jacksonville City Council approved another $200,000: $80,000 to WeCareJax for administrative costs, including O’Donnell’s salary, and $20,000 each to the other six partners to help them increase capacity.
The COVID-19 pandemic has only increased the need.
“The launch of this project could not have come at a better time,” said Angela Strain, executive director of WeCareJax, a volunteer coalition of medical professionals that has provided free care to the city’s uninsured population since 1993. “There’s been a major spike in the number of people without insurance in our community since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. This effort is helping those neighbors establish a primary care medical home.”
Also, it will reduce the uninsured patients’ use of emergency rooms for primary care, saving area hospitals an estimated $4 million once JaxCareConnect enrolls at least 2,000 patients, she said.
“We know, too, that if patients have access to care, they will typically seek care early, rather than wait until their condition becomes more serious because they didn’t think they had options other than the emergency room,” Strain said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”
JaxCareConnect is open to all uninsured adults in Duval County who are between ages 18 and 64, currently without health insurance and have a household Income at or below 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines. For more information go to jaxcareconnect.org, call (904) 595-7770 or email Connect@JaxCareConnect.org.
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