CHOICES Closing Their Doors
Published December 30th, 2013
For eight years now, a health assistance program called CHOICES has helped over nine thousand Alachua County residents with their healthcare needs.
County commissioners set the program up to expire this year, and now those who need coverage can turn to the Affordable Care Act.
CHOICES provided healthcare to needy residents, especially to those in the workforce.
"I love helping people," said CHOICES employee and enrollee, Theresa Bright.
Theresa Bright has worked for CHOICES for a little over three years now and decided to enroll in the program close to a year ago so she could afford visits to the dentist not covered by her insurance.
"As you can see, I have a beautiful smile! And so he did help me with that," said Bright.
CHOICES helped thousands with issues like dental, everyday wellness and even chronic illnesses.
"CHOICES was a program that helped so many different people with their health needs," said Bright.
But Tuesday is the last day CHOICES will offering services to its 4,300 enrollees and that also means its Bright's last day on the job.
"Those who walk through the doors here at the Alachua County Health Department aren't going to have access to CHOICES anymore. So, they're going to have to find other ways to cover their health related expenses," said Lauren Lettelier, TV20 News.
"Some of them will move on to the Affordable Care Act, and others will go on to employee sponsored health services if they could, and others unfortunately will not have health insurance at this time," said Candie Nixon, CHOICES Director.
The December 24th deadline has passed for those looking to get coverage under the Affordable Care Act starting in January.
So, CHOICES enrollees who haven't registered by that date will be out of luck, for now.
"We encourage citizens to contact a local navigator to learn more about the Affordable Care Act and what can be done," said Nixon.
Bright says she has insurance now and hasn't decided whether to retire or not.
And still, she's trying to help as many people as she can while she still has time.
"People need to know and understand that there is help out there. They just need to do the research," said Bright.
In all, the amount of money collected from sales tax for the choices program since 2005 has been close to $67 million and Alachua County hasn't decided yet on what to do with the remaining balance.
The director of CHOICES said their advisory board is looking into creating a program similar to this one in the future.
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