Understanding Obamacare

Gary Stein of Tampa, retired public health professional turned advocate for health reform, has written a column about the unfortunate stereotypes that some doctors (and others, including politicians) have about Medicaid patients.

To keep you from having to search for it in the river of news, we're putting some basic information on the Affordable Care Act as it pertains to Florida in a prominent place at our home page, HealthNewsFlorida.org

All of our Affordable Care Act coverage can also be found here, with the latest posts at the top.

President Barack Obama said Monday that "nobody's madder than me" about the problems infesting Healthcare.gov, the enrollment website for plans through the Affordable Care Act.

But he added with a chuckle, "That means it's going to get fixed."

In the meantime, he said, Americans can pick up the phone. There are operators waiting to walk Americans through the sign-up process at the Health Insurance Marketplace's toll-free line, 800-318-2596.

Joe Paduda, a consultant to many Florida employers on workers' compensation, writes at his blog Managed Care Matters that the Health Insurance Marketplace needs to be closed until it is really ready.

President Barack Obama will speak to the press shortly before noon about the problems still plaguing the Health Insurance Marketplace that is intended to help the uninsured in 36 states, including Florida, the New York Times reports.  

Confusion Still Major Hurdle for New Health Law

Oct 21, 2013

MIAMI — As federal health officials work around the clock to fix technology glitches plaguing the website where U.S. citizens can obtain health insurance under the new federal law, many Floridians still have little understanding of how the law works.

Trained counselors are spending the bulk of their time educating people about what the Affordable Care Act is, not signing them up for insurance.

Sources: 476,000 Obamacare Applications Filed So Far

Oct 21, 2013

WASHINGTON — Administration officials say about 476,000 health insurance applications have been filed through federal and state exchanges, the most detailed measure yet of the problem-plagued rollout of President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

However, the officials continue to refuse to say how many people have actually enrolled in the insurance markets. Without enrollment figures, it’s unclear whether the program is on track to reach the 7 million people projecting by the Congressional Budget Office to gain coverage during the six-month sign-up period.

Months after Florida House Republican leaders rejected federal money to expand health coverage for the low-income uninsured, a state agency will ask them to request money under a different Medicaid bucket to give to hospitals for charity care. 

This bucket, called the “Low Income Pool,” would be expanded from $1.4 billion a year to about $3 billion under the Agency for Health Care Administration’s proposal.

Some low-income Floridians who can't get Medicaid coverage now will qualify for it after Jan. 1, under new Medicaid eligibility guidelines that apply nationwide.

Savings accounts, a car and child support will no longer count against eligibility, which should make it easier for low-income parents to qualify, according to an account in the Orlando Sentinel.

U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster was a reluctant yes and Rep. Steve Southerland was a defiant no as 17 Florida members of Congress voted to re-open the federal government and raise the debt limit on Wednesday, and 11 said no.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was one of the "no" votes when the Senate took action in late afternoon. Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, voted yes with the majority.

The strange result of the Florida House's decision not to expand Medicaid is that there are 763,890  Floridians whose incomes are too low to receive subsidized health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

Pasco County is heavily Republican, judging by the party of almost all its officeholders and the fact that it went for Mitt Romney by 7 points. But in today's election a Democrat has at least a decent chance of winning the state House District 36 seat being vacated by Republican Mike Fasano.

Fasano was appointed as tax collector when the man who held that office died, leaving his seat up for grabs in a special election. (Editor's note: An incorrect office was listed in an earlier version.)

Generation Opportunity, which aims to undermine the Affordable Care Act, has launched a nationwide tour of college campuses that will include the University of Miami. Its young staff aims to talk 18-to-29-year-olds out of enrolling in a health insurance plan through the Marketplace.

As the Miami Herald and Kaiser Health News report, uninsured Floridians have different views on the Affordable Care Act but share a common concern: cost of coverage. One 28-year-old real estate agent, who says he doesn’t see the need for health insurance, says he’ll need to check in with his accountant to see if paying a penalty for not buying insurance makes financial sense.

John Petrila, professor at University of South Florida's College of Public Health, writes in a column published by the Tampa Tribune that there is a very good reason why the Florida Chamber of Commerce and other groups are asking the Florida Legislature to accept the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

HealthCare.gov is still inaccessible to millions, and word is that insurers are telling agents to wait until November to start enrolling consumers on the Marketplace, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The site requires people to register before they can view plans and subsidies, a requirement experts say has contributed to the bottleneck.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Florida's online health insurance Marketplace has been open for business since Oct. 1. But more than a week later, people are still having trouble with HealthCare.gov, the website consumers use to shop for health plans. 

Maggie Banta of St. Petersburg is one of millions of visitors to the site since it opened for business a little more than a week ago. She’s been trying to log on for days, but like many others, she can’t.

Floridians continue to ask questions about the Affordable Care Act's major provisions, which are unfolding between now and the end of March. Even though most people aren't affected by this rollout because they're already insured or have Medicare, the questions can be fun to read.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has become the Obama administration's envoy to Florida on behalf of the Affordable Care Act. She has visited the state half a dozen times since June, trying to get the word out to the state's millions of uninsured to sign up for a health plan.

This week she visited the University of South Florida's Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation, where Health News Florida editor Carol Gentry spoke with her.

Leonard Pitts Jr., Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Miami Herald, unfurls some of his colorful phrases to say just what he thinks of the "right wing of the right wing" of the Republican Party is holding the nation's economy in crisis in a childish tantrum over the Affordable Care Act.

Here's a sample:

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who swooped into Tampa for a 90-minute visit on Tuesday, said "today is better than yesterday" for the still-balky Health Insurance Marketplace. Each day the online enrollment site, HealthCare.gov, will work better than the day before, she said.

Sebelius to Visit Tampa Amid Obamacare Web Delays

Oct 8, 2013

The Obama administration promised "significant improvements" in accessing the federal health overhaul website this week, after taking down the system for maintenance over the weekend. But many in Florida were still unable to enroll at the start of week two. 

The White House is still blaming the overwhelming turnout for the difficulties millions of Americans encountered when they tried to enroll in the health-plan Marketplace after its rollout last Tuesday. But a tech expert interviewed by the Washington Post said that’s only one of the two problems; the other is bugs in the software that there weren’t time to fix before launch. 

Unbeknownst to the public, the current government shutdown was planned in February, right after President Obama was sworn in for his second term, the New York Times reports. That planning meeting was organized by Edwin Meese III, a Reagan administration official who resigned following a Defense Department scandal called Wedtech.

Floridians have enrolled in health insurance plans offered by Cigna using the new online insurance Marketplace, the Washington Post reports.

It’s been one heck of a week for reporters, what with half the government shutting down and the rest trying to get the federal health-plan exchange up  and running.  WUSF’s Craig Kopp talks with Health News Florida Editor Carol Gentry about this crazy week. 

Craig:  There's a lot to talk about, but before we get into that, let's look at something that shows just how confused the American public has become from health-care politics. A CNBC poll found 46 percent are opposed to "ObamaCare." But just 37 percent are opposed to the "Affordable Care Act."

The Hillsborough County Health Department showed up Tuesday on the list of  "navigators" to help uninsured people enroll in the federal online Marketplace. That was a real surprise since the state Department of Health made national headlines last month when it ordered local health department directors not to allow navigators on their premises.

After noticing the HCHD name on the navigators list at Healthcare.gov, Health News Florida asked the state DOH press office whether the agency had rescinded its controversial policy. The question apparently set off a scramble.

When the uninsured ponder which health insurance plan in which to enroll on the federal online Marketplace, there is more to consider than the cost of the premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. (Florida's plans and prices are listed by county here.)

There is no charity in the hearts and souls of the members of Congress who are trying to block the access to health care of working families who for too long have been unable to get health insurance, writes health policy consultant Paul Gionfriddo of Lake Worth.

He says the views of Rep. John Culberson of Texas were particularly unsettling in a CNN interview, where the Texan when he said, “We do not want the federal government socializing health care as they have in England and in France.”

Floridians don’t have to wait until the crowds and glitches diminish on the federal website to see which local plans are available. They can view a PDF with all of the plans available in Florida and can also download information about the plans and prices for Florida and other states at this site