Thousands of previously uninsured Floridians woke up Wednesday morning with peace of mind for the first time in years. More than half of Florida’s nearly 4 million uninsured are projected to qualify for coverage through the Marketplace. Another million would qualify if the Florida Legislature would permit it.
Going without insurance “is like gambling,” says a 43-year-old social worker. But the high deductibles of Affordable Care Act plans make them a hard sell, as the plans sold on the exchange are not as generous as employer-sponsored insurance.
The next three weeks are critical for consumers keen on getting health coverage as soon as the health law allows it on Jan. 1. People who desire coverage by then need to sign up in the new marketplaces no later than Dec. 23. Consumers can still enroll up to the end of March, but their coverage will begin later.
When setting premiums for next year, insurers baked in bigger-than-usual adjustments, driven in large part by a game-changing rule: They can no longer reject people with medical problems. It’s the double-edged sword of Obamacare–a crucial provision that comes with sticker shock for some.
While most of the uninsured will be able to get subsidized health coverage Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act, the poorest adults under 65 will be out of luck in many states, including Florida. Many are women in their 50s and 60s, too old to have children still at home so they can’t qualify for Medicaid. But they’re not yet 65 so they don’t qualify for Medicare, either.
The main reason insurers are cancelling policies offer is that they fall short of what the Affordable Care Act requires starting Jan. 1. By all accounts, the new policies will offer consumers better coverage, in some cases, for comparable cost — especially after the inclusion of federal subsidies for those who qualify.
Consumers shopping in the new health insurance marketplaces will face a bewildering array of competing plans in some counties and sparse options in other places, with people in some areas of the country having to pay much more for the identical level of coverage than consumers elsewhere.
The noon demonstration by the Flagler County Democratic Club marks the first day of Obamacare’s insurance exchanges, and protests Florida’s sustained opposition, and various obstacles, to the law, including the prohibition against use of local health departments to make it easier for the uninsured to get coverage.
Reform was supposed to do away with bare-bones health plans that could leave consumers who become seriously ill on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars in medical costs. It won’t, as plans with limited benefits may continue to be offered by some large businesses, especially those with low-paid workers such as restaurant chains and retailers.
There is no danger that so-called “navigators” will steal people’s identities or feed information into a giant federal database, said Greg Mellowe, policy director for the consumer group Florida CHAIN. The group is one of the non-profits that will get a share of federal grant money for the “navigator” program.