Big Bend AHEC assists with health insurance

Photo courtesy Calandra Portalatin

The Big Bend Area Health Education Center, also known as Big Bend AHEC, is rolling out a new program to help the under-served obtain affordable health insurance.
It is now offering a navigator program for the Affordable Care Act federal health insurance program.

The program, which is also referred to as “Obamacare,” will help individuals get affordable health insurance.

Big Bend AHEC’s associate director, Calandra Portalatin, who began working at the agency in 2018, wants people to take advantage of the program and its benefits as much as possible.

“The program can benefit most individuals depending on your income and household size,” Portalatin said. “We plan to partake in existing events with our community partners to meet consumers where they are in the Big Bend region.”

Not only does the ACA program cater to people in Leon County, but it also helps surrounding counties, including Wakulla, Calhoun, Gadsden, Jackson, Madison, Jefferson, Taylor, Franklin, Liberty, Gulf, Bay, Washington, and Holmes counties.

Big Bend AHEC has been dedicated to helping underserved communities in the Big Bend for more than 25 years.

According to, “Big Bend AHEC continuously strives to eliminate barriers to health on the most basic levels by creating opportunities closer to home through our various programs, services and partnerships.”

Some of those programs include AHEC Scholars, Health Care Summer Institute, and Health Insurance Enrollment, to name a few.

As the ACA program is helping families get access to health insurance, one program is giving college students access to big opportunities.

AHEC Scholars has provided students majoring in the healthcare arena the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with clinical training and inter-professional education.

According to Ambreia Young at Big Bend AHEC, “These efforts support strategic priorities to increase diversity and distribution among healthcare professionals and enhance healthcare quality and delivery to rural and underserved areas.”

Ten Florida A&M University students were selected for the 2020-2022 cohort: Sierra Ennis, Racquel Melville, Oladipupo Dada, Leah Lunderman, Cole Mickens, Britteny Cherestal, Arionne Keaton, Anya Rambaram, and Amanda Collier.

It is part of AHEC’s mission to train and recruit diverse healthcare professionals to practice in minority communities, and they are doing just that.

Big Bend AHEC also plans to host partnered events with local hospitals, health centers, libraries and universities to spread awareness about its programs, especially the new navigator program for the ACA program.

Enrollment is now open and ends in January.