St. Petersburg, Florida - President Barack Obama says Americans will see immediate benefits from the landmark overhaul of the nation's health insurance system and he's urging Congress to reconcile their differences so it can be signed into law in the coming weeks.
But for those living each day without coverage, there's already help for many of the uninsured in Pinellas County.
Steve Steele is the general manager and owner of Rubino's Perfect Slice at 8400 4th Street North in St. Petersburg. Steele says good employees and the best ingredients are the key to their pizza. Steele was born and raised in St. Pete and, at 31 years old, he admits opening the business was a lifelong dream.
Steele says, "It's always a lot of hard work when you open a business, I'm seeing that now. Yeah, I work a lot."
Steele does just about everything at the restaurant. He even delivers the pizza. But he doesn't have health insurance and he hasn't had it for quite some time. He says, "And it was just something where I was, like, I'm in my 20s and if you're in your 20s, you don't feel like you need it."
But Steele wants health coverage now and he wants it for his employees, too. He says offering it is a good way to keep the best workers. "It brings up morale, you know, so you got to keep them happy."
The Pinellas County Health Department is working in conjunction with the Pinellas County Health and Human Services Department and their partnership could be the answer for Steele and his employees until his company can start offering health coverage.
The health department offers Primary Care health services for the uninsured. It allows clients the chance to see a doctor for a physical, wellness and prevention services, cancer screenings, and lab and pharmacy services for free.
Patricia Boswell is the Director of Clinical Services for the Pinellas County Health Department. She explains who qualifies for the program and how you can apply, "It's certainly for the uninsured but there are requirements in terms of residency, citizenship, and income."
In order to be eligible, you must
- Have no insurance (This includes Medicare and Medicaid)
- Be a Pinellas County resident
- Be between the ages of 18-64
- Be a U.S. Citizen, Naturalized Citizen, or Refugee with I-94 status.
- Meet low income requirements
You can apply at any of the following centers below or call (727) 820-4242.
Clearwater Health Center
310 North Myrtle Avenue
Clearwater, FL 33755
Largo Health Center
12420 130th Avenue North
Largo, FL 33774
St. Petersburg Health Center
205 Dr. ML King Street North
St. Petersburg, FL 33701
Tarpon Springs Health Center
301 South Disston Avenue
Tarpon Springs, FL 34689
Pinellas Park Health Center
6350 76th Avenue North
Pinellas Park, FL 33781
Willa Carson Center
1108 North M.L.K Avenue
Clearwater, FL 33755
If you don't qualify for the primary care coverage, there are still some options. "For those people that don't qualify, we do have what we call LIP - low income pool - funds available to serve the other portion of the uninsured - that would be a lot of the working poor - that don't receive health benefits through their employers."
Back at Rubino's, Steele says until he can start offering his full time employees health insurance, he's interested in the Primary Care Services. "Yeah I've dealt with the health department before - you know, free clinic and stuff like that - and they're very helpful down there, so I've never had a problem. So if you really need healthcare, you can always go down there and get help."
Last year, the health department anticipated enrolling 3,000 people. But more than 7,500 thousand people enrolled. The program is funded by Pinellas County.
Tammie Fields, 10 Connects