USF Magazine Summer 2012

Volume 54 | Number 2


Jodi Ray

| USF News

Jodi Ray

Photo by Aimee Blodgett | USF News

Since joining the College of Public Health in 1998, Jodi Ray has made it her mission to ensure that children have access to healthcare. Ray is project director of Florida Covering Kids and Families, part of the Lawton & Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies at USF.

Over the years, Ray has managed a network of collaborative partnerships and served as principal investigator on several federal, state and private grants aimed at increasing enrollment in Florida KidCare, the state's Children's Health Coverage Program (CHIP) and Medicaid. In January, her efforts earned national recognition. Ray was one of 10 individuals and organizations honored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services with the esteemed ECHOE (Excellence in Children's Health Outreach and Enrollment) award.

"I was really proud," says Ray, whose children often get involved in local efforts to help sign up families. "The award was recognition from my peers, nationally, for what I do."

USF: Why are uninsured children such a big problem?

Uninsured children have less access to healthcare; it's difficult to get the services they need. It can affect how well they do in school and impact the health in the community. It's such a domino effect.

Why are so many children uninsured?

We have high rates of unemployment. The average yearly cost for private health insurance for a family is $15,000. For a lot of families, affordability of coverage does not exist.

Why is the problem so much worse in Florida?

It's a combination of things. We have not taken advantage of some of the available opportunities that make it easier for families to get coverage or retain coverage. There are language and literacy issues, cultural issues and people coming in from other countries with eligibility issues.

Are we making progress?

We are! I had a meeting with the CHIP director today and learned that we just hit the 2 million enrollment mark for Florida KidCare — that's huge! Our enrollment is going up, but we still have more than 500,000 eligible kids who are uninsured.

How did you become so passionate about this issue?

It's easy, especially if you have kids. We all get overwhelmed, but imagine what it must be like to not have insurance—to not know what you'll do when your kids get sick.

What is the most important thing we can do to get children insured?

We need to make sure parents know that programs like Florida KidCare are there and are affordable. The program covers everything from checkups to transplants. It covers dental care, vision, hearing, mental health, prescriptions — everything.

What's next?

It would be nice to think that at some point we've done the job and there won't be a need anymore. I'm always looking for the next way to make this bigger and better.

Quick Takes

You in a word: Persistent

Parents or policy makers: Parents

Greatest accomplishment: My kids, Noah and Hannah

Hobby: I wish I had one

Favorite place: The beach