WASHINGTON (News-Press) -- With nearly 4 million Floridians
lacking health coverage, the Obama administration and advocacy groups
are hustling to sign up hundreds of thousands of uninsured residents
under new health exchanges set up under the 2010 health care law.
are knocking on doors, manning phone banks, attending community
meetings and handing out information to prepare eligible Floridians for
Oct. 1, when, according to the current schedule, they can log into the
exchange online to compare health plans and find out which plan best
meets their needs.
aren't going to go the marketplace unless they know about it, and
that's been the core focus of our work - making sure people know what's
coming," said Nick Duran, Florida director of Enroll America.
nonprofit organization, which has deployed workers in 10 states with
high concentrations of uninsured Americans, is setting up shop at
pharmacies, community health clinics and churches where they hope to
find uninsured Floridians eligible - and eager - for coverage.
those efforts are getting little support from a state government that
has become a national symbol of opposition to Obamacare, officially
known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Florida was the lead plaintiff in the unsuccessful lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality.
GOP Gov. Rick Scott opposed expanding the state's Medicaid program
under the law, He later changed his mind, but the Republican-controlled
state Legislature rejected that expansion, which would have added some
1.1 million to the rolls of the insured.
makes the health exchange the most significant tool to help people gain
coverage in a state where nearly one-quarter of everyone under 65 lacks
health insurance, according to recently released Census Bureau figures.
Only Texas has a higher share of uninsured.
than 123,000 of Lee County's 471,610 residents under 65 - or 26.2
percent - lacked insurance, according to 2011 census data. More than
67,000 of Collier County's 235,342 nonelderly residents (28.6 percent)
did not have coverage either, according to the data.
The exchanges are designed to serve small businesses and people who
don't have access to insurance through an employer or aren't enrolled in
a government program such as Medicare.
than 900,000 Floridians buy insurance on their own. Hundreds of
thousands more - most of whom currently lack insurance - could enter the
individual market through the exchange.
Enrollment will continue through the end of March.
the 2010 law, beginning in 2014 most people will have to have insurance
or pay a penalty. Those who get insurance through the exchange are
eligible for a subsidy if their incomes fall between 100 percent and 400
percent of the federal poverty level - about $24,000 to $94,000 per
year for a family of four.
In Florida, more than 6 million residents fall into that range and would be potentially eligible for assistance.
have submitted their proposed rates and the federal government is
expected to finalize them in September. Plans in Florida will be offered
at four different levels of cost-sharing - bronze, silver, gold and
platinum - along with a catastrophic plan for those under 30.
Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty warned consumers in July they
could see premiums rise an average of 35 to 40 percent under the law.
health reform advocates say it's impossible to compare current plans to
ones that will be offered under the Affordable Care Act because new
plans will have to offer more coverage, such as maternity care and
prescription drugs, than existing ones usually do.
Premium costs also don't represent what people will actually pay, because of federal subsidies.
general, women and older and sicker consumers are expected to benefit
from lower premiums while younger, healthier and male consumers are
expected to have higher premiums.
addition to potentially being eligible for subsidies, those facing
higher premiums may also get help with out-of-pocket costs through lower
deductibles and cost-sharing limits.
could have opted to run its health care exchange. Instead, state
officials turned away millions in federal planning money and decided to
let federal regulators take over.
Florida is one of 27 states, most of them controlled by Republicans,
that have left management of the online marketplaces completely up to
Thanks mainly to federal
grants, about 200 trained "navigators" in Florida will be certified to
help people in every county understand their options, what they can
afford, whether they qualify for a federal subsidy and how to sign up
for insurance through the exchange.
contrast, Maryland, which has about 800,000 uninsured residents - a
fifth of Florida's total - has about 500 trained workers to help with
enrollment. Maryland is running its own exchange.
and other Florida officials have raised privacy concerns about the
navigators, saying they would have access to sensitive records of people
trying to enroll and won't be properly trained to safeguard such
But health reform advocates say no one will have to provide personal health information.
of the state's navigators are being hired and trained through the
Covering Kids & Families coalition through the University of South
Florida in Tampa, an organization that's spent many years signing up
families for public assistance, said Laura Goodhue, executive director
of the consumer advocacy group Florida CHAIN.
reform activists say misguided concerns over privacy and cost could
further slow the already daunting task of enrolling Floridians confused
about the law and unaware of the exchange.
national poll conducted for the independent Kaiser Family Foundation
found that 51 percent of respondents say they don't know enough about
the health care law to understand how it will impact them and their
sentiment was higher among the uninsured (62 percent). The poll also
found that only one-third say they've heard "a lot" or "some" about the
health exchange in their state.