Florida Blue Social Workers Continue Helping Those in Need

Posted on Jan 1st 2020 by Marilyn Young

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A woman and her 29-year-old son walked into a Florida Blue Center looking for a health insurance plan to better serve his needs for a rare condition he’s had since he was 2.

They left the Tallahassee center with life-changing help.

Tumors have been growing throughout the man’s body for 27 years. His premiums and prescription costs with a plan from another company were high. Plus, he and his mother had to pay travel costs to go to Gainesville several times a year to have the tumors removed. The bills were crushing them financially.

An agent found an Affordable Care Act plan that cost less, covered more services and had lower costs for medicine. The mom and son were thrilled. But there was more help to come.

The agent introduced them to Lynette Moriak, a social worker for 17 years who was hired when Florida Blue launched its community specialist program in July. The program (for which there is no charge) is available to anyone who needs help with things like medications, counseling, food and housing.

Moriak quickly found a program to pay the man’s $800 monthly prescription costs for a year. (He can seek a renewal each year.) She also found a medical grant through the National Organization for Rare Disorders to pay transportation and housing costs for their trips to Gainesville.

The mother’s tears were a mix of relief and gratitude. “Between me and Felicia (Cargile, the sales agent), she kept hugging us both,” Moriak said of the mom.

That was just one of at least a dozen situations during the Open Enrollment Period where Moriak found ways to reduce or cover all of someone’s prescription costs. Moriak said she gets most of her referrals through agents, whom she says build rapport with customers.

These kinds of results have been happening since the program started in the Florida Blue Centers in the summer. Through November, more than a dozen social workers have found nearly $4.3 million in aid for 3,613 Florida Blue members and 959 non-members. When fully staffed, there are 18 social workers.

 People who need help can call or visit one of the centers. (Click here to find a center near you.)

“Honestly, every month I continue to be amazed at the impact our social workers are having in our communities,” said Christina Barcellona, director of care programs for GuideWell Connect, which runs the centers for Florida Blue.

She said people who have been helped are talking about it to their family and friends, who then reach out for assistance. The social workers also go to community events like one marking the anniversary of Hurricane Michael, where a lot of help is still needed. (Click here to find out about relief efforts for the 2018 hurricane.) 

Moriak has many examples of people she’s been able to help the past several months, but she enjoys telling what she calls her Christmas story.

A woman in Marianna with sleep apnea was in danger of having her power shut off because she couldn’t pay her bill. Without electricity, she wouldn’t be able to run the machine that helps her breathe. The woman ran short because a surgery copay was more than she expected.

Moriak referred her to the local Salvation Army, which paid the bill. She felt it was likely the first time the woman had ever needed this kind of help.

What the woman did next was inspiring. She and her grandson rang the bell during the Salvation Army’s annual holiday kettle drive. It was her way of paying it forward for a gift she felt blessed to receive.


Filed under: Community  


Marilyn Young

Marilyn Young spent more than 30 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining Florida Blue.

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