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Obamacare Enrollment Surging in Florida Despite Resistance from State Officials

| February 18, 2014

Avalere Health, a consulting company, rates Florida as one of just 15 states closing in on projected enrollment for 2014. (Avalere Health)

Avalere Health, a consulting company, rates Florida as one of just 15 states closing in on projected enrollment for 2014. (Avalere Health)

Despite state officials’ opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the relative scarcity of helpers available, Floridians are finding their way to and signing up for plans even beyond the growth in most states.

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By the end of January, nearly 300,000 Floridians had enrolled in a new health plan through Obamacare — a surge that left most other states in the dust.

Jodi Ray at University of South Florida, who leads the grant-driven effort to sign up the uninsured in most counties of Florida, said she’s not in the least surprised.

“I have been saying all along that people want coverage,” said Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids & Families. “Finding the folks that want to apply has not been a challenge for our Navigators. We are limited only by the resources, but not at all by the demand.”

Health & Human Services gave USF $4.2 million in August to train and deploy licensed navigators, who understand the federal law and the tax credits available to most enrollees. As Health News Florida reported in August, HHS Secretary Sebelius visited USF to announce the grant, explaining that Ray’s program had done an outstanding job of getting uninsured children enrolled in federally-supported programs in the past.

“We really looked for already established groups who were ready to hit the ground running,” Sebelius said.

USF contracts with non-profits throughout the state to carry out the mission. In the counties that it doesn’t cover — Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe — other non-profits received grants to do the work.

In addition, Florida’s community health centers — which treat many of the uninsured on a sliding scale — received federal grants of over $8 million in July and $4.4 million in December to train certified application counselors. Those counselors receive training and certification from the federal government, but don’t require state licenses as navigators do.

According to the federal report released Wednesday, about 297,000 Floridians had selected a plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The national total, counting state-operated exchanges as well, was around 3.3 million, the report said.

Florida, like most states, elected to let the federal government operate the exchange instead of building its own. The federal site didn’t work for most of the first two months of operation, so enrollment in earnest began in early December. Since then, there has been a rush.

The Feb. 1 enrollment for Florida, means the state was already three-fourths of the way to the total enrollment that it was projected to achieve in 2014, according to Avalere Health. The consulting company is forecasting that 403,520 Floridians will enroll this year.

As of Feb. 1, Florida was among only 15 states that had reached the point of enrolling at least 60 percent of the annual projection.

Only six weeks remain in open enrollment for 2014, which is supposed to end March 31. Applicants are supposed to sign up by Feb. 15 to have coverage in effect on March 1, but actually they need to sign up by Friday, Feb. 14. The website will be down most of the weekend for maintenance.

More than 80 percent of those who have enrolled nationwide qualify for tax credits that reduce the price of monthly premiums, according to the federal report; it’s 88 percent for Florida, South Florida Business Journal reports.

Those who qualify for tax credits have household incomes of between 100 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level.

Under the Affordable Care Act, those who do not already have health coverage — such as through work or a government program — are legally required to buy it or pay a penalty. (Certain groups are exempt from the requirement, including those who have incomes under the poverty level and are in states like Florida that have not expanded Medicaid to cover them.)

The federal report shows that in Florida, 56 percent of those who had enrolled as of Feb. 1 were women. That’s similar to the national gender split, with women in the lead at 55 percent.

Even if Florida meets Avalere’s projected enrollment for the year, that will represent only one-tenth of the estimated number of uninsured in the state. Nearly 1 million of those without coverage were left out of the Health Insurance Marketplace by a legal quirk: The Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government couldn’t force states to expand Medicaid to cover those below the poverty level. Florida has so far refused.

Another several hundred thousand living in Florida cannot enroll because they are not in the country legally. The rest of Florida’s uninsured will presumably be covered next year or the year after, when the mandates for large and medium-sized businesses to cover their workers or pay a penalty go into effect.

The ACA had originally required employers with at least 50 workers to cover them in 2014. But the Obama administration extended the deadline after employer groups said they hadn’t had time to adjust.

–Carol Gentry, Health News Florida

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20 Responses for “Obamacare Enrollment Surging in Florida Despite Resistance from State Officials”

  1. Genie says:

    I think this is great, but unfortunately until the administration gives Congress access to the correct figures, I’m going to withhold my applause. I still know too many who can’t afford even Obamacare.

  2. JL says:

    Of course the numbers of people enrolling is increasing, they have no choice. I personally have many friends who have experienced an increase in rates, huge increase in deductibles, and many that their employers dropped them totally. People can’t afford this. I wish that everyone could have health coverage. My sons don’t have medical coverage. So I am the first to say, that would be a dream to have everyone covered. But the reality is, it can’t happen. Not without people paying the cost. And now that’s what is happening. And what will happen in 3-5 years from now? Insurance companies will go out of business. Why? Because Obama is making them cover everybody, cover everything, and capping how much is out of pocket. Again, it would be a wonderful dream to make it where people don’t pay hundreds of thousands for an illness. But this wasn’t the way to do it.

    First, we should have capped lawsuits. People should not be suing and winning multi-million dollar lawsuits. It’s killing the health care field.

    And to give incentives for not working by giving them the biggest tax credits is insane. I read where a Democrat replied to this – well, this will allow people to quit their job. No one should work where they aren’t happy.
    Oh, ya, just quit and let everyone else take care of you. What has our society become? If you don’t like your job, you work hard until you find one you do like and can get it. But you don’t just Quit because you don’t like it, knowing the government will take care of you.

    This was the wrong way to go about insuring people. If anything, I think Obamacare will do more to ultimately hurt our economy. And it’s a shame people are realizing this too late.

    • The Truth says:

      Yea your right. We should have allowed your beloved insurance companies to continue to charge higher rates, post record profits, deny based on ‘pre existing conditions’ and allow people to be dropped at the blink of an eye. It amazes me when people complain about a law that is forcing insurance companies to be responsible instead of out of control like they have been for the last 20 years.

      • Genie says:

        @ The Truth: What’s changed? They’re still doing it, only now the deductibles are so much higher it’s like paying for coverage but never receiving any benefit?

        I am not seeing any signs of insurance companies being more responsible under this law.

        • A.S.F. says:

          Many people, who previously could not even GET insurance for their serious health issues, even if they COULD afford it, now will be able to do so. Many people are finding that they can now afford health insurance because their rates are LOWER than before. Insurance Companies can no longer drop people at the worst times in their lives because those people might hurt their profit margins. Those same insurance companies can no longer put “fine print” restricitions into individual policies that subscribers have no choice but to accept, and which tied the hands of their healthcare providers. People with addiction and mental health issues who need treatment will no longer be discriminated against, simply because of the nature of their disease. These are the ‘signs” of our healthcare system becoming more “responsible”. as well as more equitable.

  3. confidential says:

    Enrollment numbers are clear and tell the story. Health Care for all is here to stay and will work just fine.
    What really ruined our economy and still does it are these useless wars costing us trillions in $$ and even more in invaluable lives. The tax loop holes, breaks, refunds and incentives for the mighty multinationals, corporations and wealthy individuals. Remember Leona Hemsley’s words we (the rich) do not pay taxes only the little people do. How many here defending the GOP agenda and against Obamacare are just really little people like us, but feverishly believing they are not..?
    Always the lies that our workers quit their jobs because they don’t like it in this pathetic economy for what …a meager unemployment miserable check? Besides the fact that they contributed to their unemployment insurance all their labor life…and this GOPs denied to pay like in Fl. with a non working web site excuse that they wasted 63 million to install or extend the much needed unemployment. Please stop drinking your Kool–Aid. Then you conservatives wonder how come you lost 2 elections…keep beating up the same holed drum and will loose again!
    The wrong way was what Bush did; lie us into this billionaire wars for over 10 years promising an in and out. Wars that we can’t afford while gave tax breaks to the rich. He got a federal budget in surplus and turned it into the biggest financial depression since the 1930’s, that we are still enduring. Stop beating and blaming our displaced workers for the manipulations of our taxes to further benefit the elite. Quiet few residing among us in this County.

  4. Mary Cannady says:

    I think this is great too, but will hold my applause until everyone has some type of health insurance. Depending on what news station you watch it ranges from a communist plot to a God send for those who need insurance the most. Gone are the days where you have to mortgage your home to pay your hospital bill. Most of us have experienced the trauma of the bill for emergency room services and/or emergency surgery. Before my husband even talked to the surgeon we had exceeded our insurance coverage. it was a lousy policy under his employer but fortunately for us husband was hurt on the job, so Workers Comp took care of the bill. It was close to $80,000. How can anyone take on a burden like that? After all the dust is settled I think most of us will be pleased with affordable health care at last..

  5. joe dirt says:

    Makes sense to me that not only can I not afford to pay for it every month and get next to nothing if I could, I get fined at the end of the year for not being able to afford it. Crooks

    • I/M/O says:

      Only those who file an income tax return can be fined. They made the IRS the enforcement agent.

      You only need to file a tax return if you owe taxes or want some type of credit.

      An estimated 42,545,500 adults in this nation have a zero tax liability and therefore do not have to file a return.

  6. Mike says:

    Great, but how many have recieved subsadies to help pay for it? This law is criminal in nature, just because 20% of citizens do not have health care you do not force a plan on the other 80%. They need to help the people who need health care so they can see a doctor, but not force evry US citizen and company to help pay for it, costs are already high, just wait until 2016 when all the fee’s kick in to high gear, see how amny think this is a great idea

  7. Mary Cannady says:

    The percentage of uninsured is not what this program is about. have you not paing attention? The terms that are important are affordable, no longer denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, children can stay on parents plan til 26. How many on here fall under these terms? most of us probably. The percentage may not change but at least some of us are smart enough to know a good thing when we see it.

  8. Mary Cannady says:

    JL: stop listening to hysterical right wingers. Regarding people able to quit their jobs, this was so twisted around by Fox it is laughable. Insurance companies will NEVER go out of business. another joke spread by fears and lies. Please do yourself a favor and turn off your news source and reason for yourself.

    • I/M/O says:

      You do not need to listen to any news media outlet. All you have to do is speak to any Doctor. They will tell you they will not participate in these programs.

      Already we are seeing people who have signed up and need critical medical care being told that yes they have a policy but the there are no Doctors in their assigned network who can provide the care they need.

      If you are lucky and there is a Specialized Doctor in your network you cannot get an appointment for months. Well if you need back surgery you need back surgery. But then you also need a back surgeon in your network. If you have cancer you need an oncologist and what do you do when you are told the plan the navigator sold you on does not have any oncologists in it?

      I have an excellent young doctor who told me flat out in December if the government attempts to make him a federal employee or force him into a government network he will quit and do something else. THAT HE WILL NOT ALLOW THE GOVERNMENT TO TELL HIM HOW MUCH HE CAN EARN.

      joe dirt: Only those who file an income tax return can be fined. They made the IRS the enforcement agent.

      You only need to file a tax return if you owe taxes or want some type of credit.

      An estimated 42,545,500 adults in this nation have a zero tax liability and therefore do not have to file a return.

      JL: The 1 trillion dollar promised “BAILOUT” of the private insurance companies is really the “BUYOUT” of the private insurers.

      Did you think this ever would have gotten thru Congress if the private insurance companies were not guaranteed they would not be nudged into bankruptcy. The stock market would have crashed.

      “More than 80 percent of those who have enrolled nationwide qualify for tax credits that reduce the price of monthly premiums, according to the federal report; it’s 88 percent for Florida”
      South Florida Business Journal reports.

      Sustainable: Defined as “able to be maintained at a certain rate or level.”

      Tell me where will the funding be coming from when Florida taxpayers have to assume the costs of all this in 2016? Do you prefer a higher gasoline tax, sales tax or the implementation of an income tax.

      All they are doing is passing the costs of Medicaid and now subsidized health care insurance down to the individual states. The federal government stops subsidizing the plans and passes the costs to the
      states as per this legislation.

      The First Lady stated last night 2/21/14 that these young people who are turning 27 and need to come off their parent’s plans are a bunch of KNUCKLEHEAD KIDS who really need to sign up.

      She used the word KNUCKLEHEADS.

      The word KNUCLEHEAD has but one definition in a standard dictionary. That definition is “A Stupid Person.”

      So according to the FLOTUS our young people are all STUPID PEOPLE.

      confidential: “Bush got a federal budget in surplus and turned it into the biggest financial depression since the 1930′s, that we are still enduring”

      So how did Clinton balanced the budget? He took the last 5 trillion dollars out of the Social Security Trust Fund and put that 5 trillion dollars into the federal government’s general tax fund.

      Did he forget to mention doing that? Are you aware that Clinton and the Congress did that?

      Social Security taxes and funds are not part of the actual federal budget. Those taxes are separate and distinct from the funding of our government.

      You do it “Balance” the federal budget by adding to the deficit of another budget (-5 Trillion From the SS Trust fund) and then honestly claim you have balanced the federal budget.

      By the way you totally forgot to mention the funding of Clinton’s War in Bosnia.

      As to the War On Terror if you add President G.W. Bush’s Spending and now President (I will end these wars) Obama’s spending as to the War Against terrorism together it totals 4.5 trillion dollars.

      Signing up for Medicaid thru the website is not purchasing insurance.

      This is why the Department of Health and Human Services is not reporting how many applicants have actually paid their first premium.

      There is no first premium. People are enrolling in Medicaid.

      As to bad mouthing the private insurance companies they did not vote for the Affordable Health Care Act which guarantees them a taxpayer funded bailout of over 1 trillion dollars if this fails.


      So hold on here comes another BAILOUT of private owned publically traded companies and this one is going to dwarf the BAILOUT of the banks and auto industry.

      • A.S.F. says:

        Doctors in countries with socialized medicine are often shocked when they hear how much money doctors in the US make, on average. If we expect talented young people to continue going into medicine we are going to have to make some changes in how they obtain their training and education. You cannot realistically expect an aspiring doctor to put himself or herself in untenable debt to become a physician and then not make enough money to pay off that debt. Then again, nurses, social workers and other health professionals make much less money than doctors and incur considerable debt during their years of training and education too. I would think, however, that the people who teach doctors to become doctors are going to have to bite the bullet and take a “pay cut” as well. Also, the roles and duties of Physicians Assistants and Nurse Practioners will, by necessity, have to change. They will be taking over more of the responsibilities previously assumed by doctors. This, in itself, is not necessarily a bad thing. In my profession, Psychiatrists used to do the weekly therapy and counseling that their patients required, as well as dispensing medications. Now, Psychiatrists mostly see their patients once a month (or less) for medication evaluation and review. The bulk of the hands-on therapy is done by other mental health professionals, such as counselors and social workers. It has made mental health services more cost-efficient and accessible. Change is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it is critical to our survival–Although the upheavel that invariably results during the actual period of change can be challenging. Many people said that Medicare would never work because the system had many problems in the beginning. We should expect the same with healthcare reform across the board. We all need to gird our loins and take responsibility in order to make it work–and that includes young people who, all too often and erroneously, believe they are invulnerable and, so, do not need the protection. I believe that the “fines” incurred by those who opt out of coverage should be put into a separate fund that will help pay their uncovered medical bills. The rest, they can take responsibility for, out of their own pockets, since they are willing to take that risk.

        @Genie says–On the other hand, how many previously uninisured people now HAVE insurance due to Obamacare? Some people are paying more. Many people are paying less. And many others now have better coverage then they ever dreamed of having before.

        • Genie says:

          @ ASF: If the law is costing people jobs and the loss of the insurance they had, then the law is screwed up and needs to be fixed. We are seeing the loss of insurance, the loss of jobs, but no fixing of the ACA. In this country, this is not acceptable. As long as there are those who cannot afford this, it is failing and needs to be reworked.

          • A.S.F. says:

            @Genie says–No one is arguing that the affordable healthcare initiative does not need more work. It obviously does…It is a work in progress. Medicare had quite a bumpy road at the time of its inception as well. Where do you think we would be now if we had given up on that program at first blush and scrapped the whole thing? We hung in there because it was necessary to do so and, now, not many people can imagine being without it. In fact, George W. Bush expanded the costs of the Medicare program greatly and added to our debt by including drug coverage. You didn’t hear too many howls of protest from Conservative quarters then, did you? In fact, Medicare recipients scream bloody murder when the more extremely cost-conscious Conservatives, like the Paul daddy and son team and Paul Ryan, talk about Medicare vouchers. I feel a little queasy when confronted by individuals who like to righteously preach about how others should tighten their belts and suck it up–but whine like little babies when it comes to discussing any decline in their own benefits. Some of those people also like to imagine that they are harder workers and more deserving citizens than anyone else–especially those less fortunate who might need a helping hand to literally save themselves. What truly charitable Christians and democratic individuals these patriots are–almost as good as they think they are…Not. The word “entitled” comes to mind–a term they often like to apply to everyone else but themselves.

  9. This is really a simple choice for uninsured people: pick from one of several huge insurance companies, all of compete against each other , and all of which agree to insure even if the applicant has pre-existing conditions. The choice is whether to get insurance with high annual deductibles for less ; or lower annual deductibles for more. The costs of each plan are displayed on the website.

  10. Genie says:

    How many have lost their insurance due to Obamacare?

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