A new study finds that 90 percent of Floridians who are enrolling in health plans under the Affordable Care Act qualify for tax credits amounting to an average of almost $3,000 apiece.
And yet only one in four Floridians who qualifies for a subsidy had enrolled in a plan by March 1, the study said. This indicates that more than 1 million people in the state who qualify for the financial help had not yet taken advantage of it as of the date when the federal data were released -- before procrastinators started a late-stage surge at Healthcare.gov and the toll-free line.
As of the beginning of this month the subsidies for Floridians totaled a whopping $1.17 billion, far more than any state except California, according to the report by Kaiser Family Foundation.
"While Florida officials haven’t exactly embraced Obamacare, people are signing up in large numbers in the state and receiving significant financial assistance with their insurance premiums," co-author Larry Levitt told Health News Florida.
To be sure, Florida's working-class, service-oriented economy, which is dominated by agriculture and tourism, has left close to 4 million uninsured. One in four of working age is uninsured, one of the highest rates in the nation.
But other states in the same fix haven't enrolled as many. Levitt and others give a nod to the hard work of insurers and a network of community organizations that made good use of federal grants. It didn't have to be invented; it was already in place.
The "Covering Kids and Families" program at University of South Florida in Tampa, led by Jodi Ray, has a successful track record of finding uninsured families and getting children enrolled in Florida KidCare -- Medicaid or the state's sliding-scale program for working families, Healthy Kids.
USF received a federal grant of $4.2 million to run the Healthcare.gov enrollment campaign in most of the state. USF in turn contracted with a dozen health-care programs that had experience with enrollment.
"They have the relationships," Ray told the Associated Press. "They're already trusted as credible sources of information about health coverage. That makes a big difference."
It is not too late for those who are uninsured to take advantage of the tax credits. The official deadline is March 31, but those who begin the process of trying to enroll by then will be given a few more days to complete it, until April 15.
Sliding-scale subsidies are available to those with taxable family incomes from one to four times the poverty level, so the discounts would be greatest for those at 100 percent of poverty: about $11,500 for an individual and just under $46,000 for a family of four.
The subsidies are actually tax credits provided upfront so that enrollees don't have to wait a year for reimbursement at tax time in 2015. They are calculated based on income, with consumers expected to contribute between 2 and 9.5 percent.
Floridians with incomes below the poverty level don't qualify for the help, despite their poverty. The health law was written to give them coverage through the state's Medicaid program with full federal funding, but Florida has declined to participate.
The tax credits are based on the second-lowest-priced "silver" plan (the categories, based on how much of a patient's health costs they cover, are bronze, silver, gold and silver). Enrollees who choose a plan with a higher premium than the benchmark must pay the difference.