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Opinion

We need to demystify health insurance

Can it really be true that a whopping 94 percent of Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in the wrong drug plan -- defined as one that costs them more than they need to pay, an average of almost $550 a year? That's what a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded study found, as the Palm Beach Post reports.

I believe it, having tried to compare benefits of Medicare drug and HMO plans via the government's online plan finder. It takes hours of concentration and a facility with computers that pushed my own skills to the limit.

Also, sometimes plan descriptions are in jargon that only a broker could understand.

So it is crucial that consumers -- not just Medicare beneficiaries, but all of us -- have easy-to-understand comparisons and someone to call on for help with questions.

For that reason, I wish Florida would accept federal funds to work on a state-run health exchange, the online grid that non-Medicare-age consumers can use as of 2014 to compare plans and prices. Federal funds are available to build the exchange, but Florida won't apply out of stubbornness on the part of public officials -- Gov. Rick Scott and Republican legislative leaders -- who opposed the law that created the exchanges, the Affordable Care Act.

As Politico reports, states that are building their own exchanges have plenty of federal funds to use, but the states that said no are leaving citizens reliant on a federal exchange that may be skimpy.

There are hopeful signs that the attitude of  just-say-no to federal health grants may be thawing, with the acceptance of $1.5 million in epidemiology grants reported Tuesday.

We suggest that funds for the exchange would be just as helpful to the citizens of Florida. Accept the money.

--Carol Gentry, Editor, can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.