Understanding Obamacare

Florida Blue, the largest health insurer in the state, says it will reinstate 300,000 policies it was planning to cancel, the Fort Myers News-Press reports. Bowing to pressure, on Thursday President Barack Obama announced that individual policyholders who saw their insurance policies cancelled because they didn’t meet the standards under the Affordable Care Act could in fact keep their policies if the company was willing to offer them.

Florida's insurance commissioner says the state will follow President Barack Obama's new transitional plan to keep health insurance coverage for Floridians.

Commissioner Kevin McCarty said in a prepared statement Thursday that most health insurers in Florida have already voluntarily extended coverage for affected policyholders through 2014. But for any companies that didn't, his office pledges to work with any company that chooses to continue coverage in accordance with the Obama's transitional policy.

Saying "I get it -- I understand how upsetting it can be,"President Obama said today he will help Americans who have received notice that their individual policies are being canceled because they don't comply with the Affordable Care Act. 

(See live coverage here.)

He said he would allow insurers to extend policies that fail to meet the health law's requirements for 2014.

From one end of Florida to the other, calls for Florida House leaders to accept $51 billion in Affordable Care Act funds to expand Medicaid to cover the state's low-income uninsured were renewed on Wednesday. Even Gov. Scott started flirting with Obamacare again. But the man who said no to the money before -- House Speaker Will Weatherford -- is still saying no.

Here's a quick look at the action:

About 3,500 Floridians selected a health plan for 2014 on the federal Health Insurance Marketplace last month, only a tiny fraction of the 3.8 million uninsured in the state, new data show. But that was expected, since the the balky Healthcare.gov website crashed on launch and has worked only intermittently.

Nationwide, 106,000 were reportedly enrolled in the Affordable Care Act's Health Insurance Marketplace, all but 27,000 of them through state-sponsored exchanges.

State Rep. Mark Pafford, the incoming leader of Florida House Democrats, says he will continue to press the issue of Medicaid expansion during the upcoming legislative session, the Florida Current reports. Republicans in the Florida House blocked  Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act during the 2013 session.

In many ways, our society still treats people with mental illnesses the way it did 100 years ago -- locking them up. But their future may  be better, writes Lake Worth-based health policy consultant Paul Gionfriddo.

Columnist Wayne Ezell of the Florida Times-Union excoriates the Florida House Speaker for placing politics -- opposition to anything President Obama supports -- above the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of the poorest Floridians.

Remember the New England Compounding Center, which sent out contaminated  pain injections that killed 64 people, including some in Florida? More than a year after that debacle, a bill  that nearly everyone in Congress supports is being held up by an opponent of the Affordable Care Act.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group founded by industrialists David and Charles Koch, has been running ads against the Affordable Care Act intended to wound Democrats as the midterm election campaign for 2014 heats up.

PolitiFact examined claims in four of the group's recent ads, and found them wanting: One false, two mostly false, and one half-true.

Lynn Hatter, WFSU

UPDATE--Florida's Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has withdrawn the subpoena against WFSU after it caused an uproar, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Florida's U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson said Wednesday he wants the Obama administration to hold the contractors accountable --"burn their fingers, make them pay" -- for the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov.

That's the online sign-up site for the uninsured under the Affordable Care Act. It has worked only intermittently since its launch Oct. 1.

Sixteen community health centers in Florida will share more than $8.3 million in new grants -- enough to care for about 73,000 new patients -- from the Affordable Care Act, federal health officials announced today. 

More than half of the grants are for amounts exceeding $500,000.

The Florida awards are part of a nationwide package of $150 million in "New Access Point" grants to 236 centers. They were announced by officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).

Around 17 million Americans, including almost 1.6 million Floridians, qualify for subsidized premiums for 2014 on the Health Insurance Marketplace under the Affordable Care Act, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. (The subsidies are actually tax credits taken upfront, at the point of purchase.) 

Meanwhile, a separate study from McKinsey & Co. shows that 20 to 25 percent of uninsured Floridians should be eligible for a plan with no premium, after discounts are taken. Nationally, the study estimates that 6 to 7 million could qualify for zero-premium bronze plans.

There's a company, Affordable Medical Imaging, that charges just $275 for an MRI, the same test for which a hospital charges thousands of dollars. The difference? The medical imaging company doesn't accept health insurance. No forms, paperwork or hassles.

Gary Stein, a former public health professional turned consumer advocate, says he attended a recent "town hall" meeting in Tampa sponsored by Americans for Prosperity. He said the meeting was aimed at spreading confusion about the Affordable Care Act and advancing the agenda of the Koch Brothers, far-right opponents of health reform and funders of the sponsoring group.

Lynn Hatter/WFSU / WFSU

Thirty or so attendees at St. Mary Primitive Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla., gathered on a recent evening to hear a presentation by the Obamacare Enrollment Team on their options to get insurance under the Affordable Care Act. 

"If anybody is interested in getting enrolled, we can get you enrolled tonight," they were told.

Signs outside the church looked official: A familiar, large "O" with a blue outline, white center and three red stripes.

CBS

Last week, a Winter Haven woman became the face of the Affordable Care Act backlash by complaining to CBS News that the law was forcing her out of her insurance plan. Diane Barrette, a 56-year-old real estate agent, choked up on camera as she said the replacement policy would cost her 10 times more.

As if the rollout of the federal health law didn't have enough problems, abortion is back in the spotlight.

How the various health plans in the exchanges would or would not pay for abortion was one of the very last issues settled before the bill was passed in 2010. Now abortion's invisibility on the federal HealthCare.gov website has some people pretty upset.

First, it was Florida's elected officials who went after President Obama's Affordable Care Act, filing suit against it and blocking it in any way they could. Now it's the private sector -- albeit unwittingly.

The data center host for Healthcare.gov, Verizon Terremark, has its world headquarters in Miami. It has gone down three or four times this week (accounts differ) -- most memorably while Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was testifying before Congress on Wednesday.

A majority of physicians who responded to a Florida Medical Association survey this month said they support expanding the Medicaid program to cover more indigent and working-poor adults, FMA reported Tuesday

But that's not the group's number-one goal for the coming legislative session, so it's unclear whether FMA will lobby for it.

Lake Worth-based consultant Paul Gionfriddo writes at his blog Our Health Policy Matters this week that Congress should leave its paws off the Affordable Care Act, rather than add to the list of compromises that have already weakened the law.

Florida Blue’s cancellation of 300,000 individual health-insurance policies in the state has led many to accuse President Obama of deliberately misleading the public when he said that if people liked their insurance policies, they could keep them, the Fiscal Times reports.

Monday was yet another troubled day for the Affordable Care Act.

Sunday night, the outside vendor that operates two key parts of the website that lets people browse and sign up for health insurance experienced a failure.

The failure took place at a vendor called Verizon Terremark and presumably affected other clients as well as HealthCare.gov, the federal website that people use to sign up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made the media talk shows on Sunday, discussing Obamacare and the recent government shutdown, the Tampa Bay Times reports.  Rubio stated on The O’Reilly Factor that Obamacare had caused 300,000 Floridians to lose their health insurance and owe the IRS money.  He also stated on Fox News Sunday that he didn't support the government shutdown.

Spanish Language Marketplace Site Up, But Not Running

Oct 25, 2013
CuidadoDeSalud.gov

Some Florida Latinos are waiting on the Affordable Care Act’s Spanish language website to become available so they can sign up for coverage. 

The Spanish-language version of HealthCare.gov, CuidadoDeSalud.gov, was supposed to be up and running this past Monday, but instead, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is directing users to its Spanish call center.

Altamonte Springs resident Miriam Lopez said she heard it’s better to apply online, so she’s been reluctant to enroll by phone.

Federal health officials have clarified the deadline people must meet under the individual mandate to buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, the Washington Post reports. Open enrollment on the new health insurance Marketplace runs through March 31, and so long as people buy a health plan by then, they won’t face a tax penalty for not having health insurance. It often takes a little time for coverage to kick in once someone enrolls in a plan. 

Carol Gentry / WUSF

While most of the uninsured will be able to get subsidized health coverage Jan. 1 under the Affordable Care Act, the poorest adults under 65 will be out of luck in many states, including Florida. 

    

You could call them “The Forgotten.”  Many are women in their 50s and 60s, too old to have children still at home so they can’t qualify for Medicaid. But they’re not yet 65 so they don’t qualify for Medicare, either.

Florida’s U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is calling for someone’s head amidst the finger-pointing in Washington over the failure of the online health insurance marketplace that was supposed to launch the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Weeks after its startup, many people report they still can't access the HealthCare.gov website to checkout their eligibility and insurance choices.

Federal contractors now say they’ve identified most of the main problems crippling Healthcare.gov, the main site of the online health insurance marketplace set up under Obamacare.

The serious flaws on the site have made it difficult, if not impossible, for many to sign up for health insurance, dogging the White House as Republicans still opposed to the law say “I told you so.”

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