HHS Secretary Visits FL, Defends ACA

Nov 17, 2014

The nation's top health official says the ongoing legal dispute over the Affordable Care Act won't stop people who want insurance from signing up.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently announced it will consider a challenge to the law, which could eliminate subsidies for individuals who purchased plans in Florida and dozens of other states via the online marketplace known as HealthCare.gov.

In Tampa on Monday, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said she encourages individuals wanting to sign up for 2015 plans to do so, regardless of what the court may decide months from now.

“Right now what I think is important for everyone to know is they are signing up, there is no change and when you go in and you can find your premiums, and you can find your assistance and your subsidy, that is all going forward,” said Burwell, who was visiting the University of South Florida in Tampa for an open enrollment event at the Marshall Student Center. “There is no change.”

Later this year, the Supreme Court will consider whether it is legal to allow tax credits for individuals in all 50 states. Opponents say that the language in the Affordable Care Act makes the subsidies illegal in states using the federal marketplace. That includes Florida.

Burwell, who has made a sweep of Florida and several other states since the federal marketplace opened Saturday, said the agency invested a lot of time in trying to avoid a repeat of last year's bumpy start for enrollment.

In the first two days, Burwell says, more than 1 million Americans visited the HealthCare.gov website, and more than 100,000 submitted an application. Another 200,000 reached out to the call center, including 20,000 to Spanish-speaking representatives, she said.

“The vast majority of users are having a good experience," Burwell said.  When problems crop up, she said, "we are tracking them down quickly."

She predicted that "There will be problems. It is a large and complicated website," but said the resources to fix them are in place. 

Enrollment on HealthCare.gov lasts through February 15.

--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Editor Mary Shedden at (813) 974-8636, on Twitter @MaryShedden, or email at shedden@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.