Sebelius and Buckhorn: We're Opening Up Tampa for Obamacare Navigators

By: Allison Nielsen | Posted: January 13, 2014 2:10 PM
Kathleen Sebelius and Bob Buckhorn

Kathleen Sebelius and Bob Buckhorn

Tampa mayor Bob Buckhorn is teaming up with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to bring Obamacare navigators to everyday stops in the Tampa community. On Monday, Buckhorn and Sebelius held a press conference to announce that Tampa would be opening its recreational centers to get more Americans to sign up for Barack Obama’s signature health-care plan.

Buckhorn, a Democrat, said 96,000 residents in the Tampa Bay community are currently without health care.

“If you think about what that means to them and to us as a community, that means that they are not getting the adequate health care that they need,” said Buckhorn. “We are opening up nine of our recreation centers … [and] will allow navigators to establish a presence here. We will have regular hours that our constituents ... who don’t have access to health care can come to our recreation centers and get signed up [for health care].”

Buckhorn also said various pastors would help reach out to the “faith-based community” to spread the message of getting health care under the Affordable Health Care Act.

According to Buckhorn, there will be no extra costs associated with the rec center program.

“This is not a bill. This is not a wish. This is not a dream. This is not debatable,” said Buckhorn. “This is the law, and we’re going to comply with the law, and we’re going to get our folks engaged and signed up.”

With only 11 weeks left until the open enrollment period ends, the Obama administration is moving full-speed-ahead to get as many people as possible signed up for health care.

“Here in Tampa, looking at the opportunity to open up rec centers and make sure that navigators are available is huge,” said Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who noted that 3.5 million Floridians are currently without health insurance.

Obama’s signature program came under fire after its debut in October, when its website,, was riddled with problems, leaving many unable to sign up for health care. Enrollment numbers showed the gravity of the situation -- in October, only 106,185 had signed up.

Sebelius noted that the Obama administration had fixed

“ is a very different website than it was on Oct. 1, thank God,” said Sebelius. “It’s easy to navigate [now], easy to use.”

Sebelius also criticized Florida’s decision to turn down expanding Medicaid, explaining that the expansion would be fully funded by the federal government. She said it does not add to the deficit. According to Sebelius, Florida would be eligible for $51 billion of federal funds over a 10-year period to help “expand health coverage in the state.”

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla., was also at Monday’s press conference, claiming a December enrollment figure of 6 million sign-ups, lauding the fact that the state of Florida ranked No. 1 in people signing up for health insurance.

The Obama administration said 1.1 million people had enrolled through by the December deadline. Adding that number to the preliminary data from the states means almost 2 million sign-ups through the exchanges, but that number is still about 40 percent below the Obama administration’s target of 3.3 million sign-ups by now.

Kathleen Sebelius has been at the center of much of the criticism regarding the health care rollout, with many Republicans calling for her resignation. When asked about these calls, Sebelius did not specifically address her critics and instead said she would be focused on making the most of the remainder of the open enrollment period.

“We made a commitment that the website ... would be a different experience by the end of November,” she said. “We delivered on that commitment. We want to move forward and take full advantage of the 11 weeks left [in the enrollment period].”

The Republican Party of Florida, however, wasn't too happy about Sebelius' stop in Tampa. 

"Kathleen Sebelius’ visit to Tampa today is yet another attempt to sell this terrible law, which gets worse by the day," said RPOF spokesperson Susan Hepworth. "No public relations campaign can undo the harm that Obamacare has done to hundreds of thousands of Floridians and millions of Americans.” 

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen at or follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

Comments (2)

9:14AM JAN 14TH 2014
Sebelius gets it wrong again. Scott did approve the Medicaid expansion:

"Scott said he'll support a three-year expansion of Medicaid that would need to be reauthorized. Federal funding would cover 100 percent of the costs during that time."

"Our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying heath care to our citizens, or using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other health care reforms."

Thank you Governor Scott for looking out for Floridians!
Dean Franklin
9:49AM JAN 14TH 2014
Actually JC, you got it part right. Scott gave a blah attempt to get the medicaid expansion, that his fellow republicants quickly stopped. Sebelius had it right.

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