HealthCare.gov CEO Advises FL Navigators

Dec 4, 2015

Florida is once again leading in enrollment on the federal health insurance marketplace, and that success has caught the attention of HealthCare.gov CEO Kevin Counihan. 

During a visit to Tampa on Friday, Counihan met with some of Florida's Affordable Care Act navigators during a Covering Tampa Bay coalition meeting. They asked him about the affordability of plans, technical issues with the website and how to guide consumers who want to make sure they have access to certain providers.

“What I always tell consumers, and I suspect you do as well, is if they really have a critical doctor or specialist -- primary care doctor or specialist -- they should call that doctor’s office to confirm they are in that product,” Counihan said. “Not just the company, like, do you take Florida Blue? Because you guys know, it's not that simple. The doctor's office will say sure, right? But is it Florida Blue HMO X Y Z? That's what the question has to be."

Federal health officials say more than 2 million people in 38 states signed up for a plan on HealthCare.gov during the first month of open enrollment. Floridians accounted for 444,711 of those sign-ups. About two-third were returning customers.  

“If you look at the results in Florida, it’s huge,” said Counihan, who pointed to the efforts of in-person assisters as one of the factors driving strong sign-ups in in the Sunshine State.

“We know that we try to make this simple. It's not that simple. We all know that,” he said. “Health insurance is complicated to begin with, so people need people that can help explain that to them, and that's what you guys do."

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about 2.8 million Floridians remain uninsured.   

Dec. 15 is the deadline to enroll in a plan for coverage that kicks in Jan. 1. Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31, 2016. 

The penalty for going without insurance in 2016 is $695 per person, or 2.5 percent of income, whichever is greater. 

Lottie Watts is a reporter and producer with WUSF in Tampa. Health News Florida receives support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.