Understanding Obamacare

Most lawmakers aren’t going the way of Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, who has purchased a private health insurance plan and rejected a subsidy to buy coverage on the federal marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act. 

As the Tampa Bay Times reports, the subsidy pays for up to 75 percent of premiums for members of Congress.  The perk became a target in the political fight over the implementation of the law.  

The deadline to buy health insurance for the New Year is approaching fast. 

If you’ve waited until now to start shopping on the federal health insurance exchange, know you may not have coverage starting Jan. 1, the official start date of the Affordable Care Act mandate. The deadline to buy policies for coverage effective Jan. 1 is Dec. 23.

But know all is not lost. You still can shop up through March before any penalties will be imposed for not meeting the new requirement that most Americans buy health insurance policies.

Many who have health insurance policies that don't meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act protested loudly when they learned their plans would be canceled Jan. 1. The protest forced the Obama administration to grant a one-year extension, but policyholders who take it may regret it, say some patients who learned the hard way.

The experience Florida’s 1.5 million veterans have navigating the VA Health System provide a clue as to whether the “titanic” Obamacare system can succeed, Pete Hegseth writes in an opinion column for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The CEO of Concerned Veterans for America says the government should focus on fixing the backlog and other problems facing veterans first. 

Your Questions About The American Health Care Act

Dec 18, 2013

In recent months, NPR staff has published a series of questions-and-answer stories related to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Now we've compiled them into an interactive so you can explore answers that are most relevant to you.

There are nearly 80 questions, ranging from who's eligible to how much insurance might cost, among two dozen topics. Filter the list by selecting categories or asking questions.

Did we miss an important question? Let us know.

A Stuart-based insurance agency that’s the subject of an ongoing state investigation over its “Obamacare Enrollment Team” -- which has no links to any official agency -- is offering donations to nonprofits who help recruit people to sign up for health insurance plans, the Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau reports.

Another $4.4 million is heading to Florida health centers to help them sign up residents for health insurance.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, announced that 46 community health centers will receive the federal grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers are hiring staff for roles including outreach workers, certified application specialists and navigators to help low-income residents apply for health insurance and possible subsidies through Healthcare.gov.

President Obama's oft-repeated promise that "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" is 2013's "lie of the year," according to the fact checkers at the Tampa Bay Times' nonpartisan PolitiFact project.

PolitiFact says that:

WASHINGTON — Technology problems with President Barack Obama's health care website are forcing the administration to extend a federal insurance plan for some of the sickest patients by a month. 

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan was supposed to disappear Jan. 1, because starting next year insurers will no longer be able to turn away patients with health issues. The administration said Thursday the extension is meant to smooth the transition to new coverage, easing anxiety for tens of thousands of patients with serious illnesses such as heart disease and cancer.

AP

Gov. Rick Scott, who is running for re-election, chose not to answer questions Wednesday about whether he still supports Medicaid expansion -- for which the federal government has offered Florida $51 billion over the next decade as part of the Affordable Care Act.

More Floridians are signing up for the new federal health insurance program than residents in any other state, with nearly 18,000 registering over the last two months.

According to figures released Wednesday, nearly 14,500 Floridians signed up under the Affordable Care Act in November. That compares to about 11,000 in Texas.

Florida's November enrollment figures are considerably higher than the 3,500 in October when sign-ups were dwarfed by technical glitches with healthcare.gov. But it's still far less than what officials originally had projected.

Getting people to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act remains an uphill battle in much of Florida.

Politicians in the state erected roadblocks to the law from the beginning — from joining in the 2010 lawsuit to thwart the law to placing restrictions on what insurance helpers called navigators can tell people seeking advice.

AP

Some of the staunchest critics of the Affordable Care Act, including Florida’s Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, have decided to buy insurance on the health insurance exchange created by the law.  

Navigators in Florida say they’ve had to re-do some of the applications for coverage on Healthcare.gov submitted during the first few weeks of open enrollment, McClatchy News Service reports. The lead navigator for Primary Care Access Network in Central Florida said many of the applications for the health insurance marketplace submitted over the phone, by mail and online have been lost.

Technological glitches are being blamed for mistakes in up to a quarter of enrollment records filed in the first two months on the federal online exchange, the New York Times reports. Even now, roughly one in 10 applications being sent to insurance companies for processing could contain errors.

Federal health officials, after encouraging alternate sign-up methods amid the fumbled rollout of their online insurance website, began quietly urging counselors around the country this week to stop using paper applications to enroll people in health insurance because of concerns those applications would not be processed in time.

People filling out insurance applications on the federal marketplace may learn they're eligible for Medicaid and their information is being sent to state officials to sign them up. However, states are getting unusable information because of technical problems that continue to plague the website.

Even though Florida’s Legislature turned down federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving billions of federal dollars on the table, the state's health insurance program for the poor continues to grow.

At his blog Our Health Policy Matters, consultant Paul Gionfriddo writes about the bad reviews that the Affordable Care Act website has received.  While headlines have stated that the ACA “may be Obama’s Katrina, Iraq,” Gionfriddo writes that that is far from the truth.  He also writes about the Obamacare numbers.

Today the Obama administration is launching a campaign to promote the benefits of the president’s signature health care law.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, insurers can’t turn Bobby Cox away, even though he has advanced lung cancer. But even if he and his wife Karen can get through on Healthcare.gov and sign up, the coverage won’t take effect until Jan. 1. Tumors don’t wait. Cox, a 60-year-old retired construction worker, begins chemotherapy this week in hope of prolonging his life.  So the Coxes have been calling around to find the best prices for scans, biopsies, anesthesia and so on.

Florida Legislature

State Rep. Steve Crisafulli, in line to become Florida House Speaker in 2014,  says he will do the same thing that current Speaker Will Weatherford did: block Medicaid expansion.

And just like Weatherford, Crisafulli says he will refuse to accept the federal funds that have been earmarked for Florida over the next decade, News Service of Florida reports.

In January, part-time workers who have so-called mini-med health insurance plans with very limited benefits and annual caps on payments will begin to lose that coverage.

Under the health care overhaul, they can't be renewed after the beginning of the year. For some, that may be just as well. Part-timers likely will have better options in January.

Licensed navigators and certified application counselors are facing additional challenges as they help Florida’s Hispanic population sign up for health insurance on the new exchanges, the Tampa Tribune reports. About a half-million people are being targeted by Hispanic Health Initiatives, which does outreach in Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia counties.

Another day brings another delay for the federal health law known as the Affordable Care Act.

On Friday, the Obama administration announced that, starting next year, it is pushing back the start of the sign-up period for those buying individual and small business insurance until mid-November, rather than mid-October. That will give insurance companies some extra time to set their premiums, given this year's difficulties.

And, as some analysts point out, the delay may also ease some political concerns for Democrats.

Most Americans who hold individual health policies that don’t meet requirements under the Affordable Care Act for 2014 could get better plans with subsidies through the Health Insurance Marketplace, according to a consumer group.

About two-thirds of Floridians who hold such policies have incomes between 100 and 400 percent of the poverty level, the report from Families USA says. That means that if and when they check Healthcare.gov, they’ll find they qualify for tax credits that bring down the premium cost.

Consumer groups, hospitals and insurers are clamoring for Florida to take the $51 billion in federal funds that have been offered to the state over the next decade to provide health coverage to the working poor. But those who are tuned in politically --  even those who desperately want it to happen -- say it’s very unlikely in 2014.

“I think the right decision financially and morally is for Florida to take the money,”  Alan Levine, a Naples hospital executive and Republican insider, told reporters Thursday.  “But I would say (the chances) are very low, less than 30 percent.”

Why They Rolled Out Website Despite Warnings

Nov 21, 2013

By the time U.S. Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius arrived at North Shore Medical Center in Miami on Tuesday, Jacquie Basha had already been there for a couple of hours on her quest for health insurance that began seven weeks ago. 

Over a long period of daily attempts with the web site, she had opened an account, shopped for a policy and gotten a price. Finally, with the help of health care navigators on duty for the Sebelius visit, Basha got her health insurance. 

Lottie Watts / WUSF

John Petrila's health policy class at the University of South Florida is full of undergraduate students glued to their smartphones, tablets and laptops. A perfect place, he reasoned, to test the Healthcare.gov website. 

“These folks are savvy. Every person in here is a tech savvy person whose used to being online,” Petrila said. “No one's in here thinking, ‘Well, what's the Internet?’ If these folks can't navigate this website, then that's a serious problem."

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that eight of 10 people will be able to use the government's health care website to sign up for insurance by the end of the month. 

The Obama administration's top health care official was at Florida Technical College in Orlando Tuesday morning making her first of two stops in the state to talk up the Affordable Care Act as fallout of the new law grows. She was visiting Miami's North Shore Medical Center later in the day.

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