Insurer Fills Last Hole In Obamacare Marketplaces For 2018

Aug 25, 2017

The lone U.S. county still at risk of leaving shoppers with no choices next year on the federal health law's insurance marketplace has landed an insurer.

Ohio-based insurer CareSource will step up to provide coverage in Paulding County, Ohio, in 2018, the company and the state Department of Insurance announced Thursday.

Streamlined Marketplace Site Unveiled

Oct 9, 2014

Consumers using the federal website when open enrollment begins next month should expect a faster website with a shorter application form and features making it easier to use on mobile devices, Obama administration officials said Wednesday.

In a briefing with reporters, they showed off a live version of the updated site and said it has already been used to enroll about 20,000 people.

Still, they did not promise that the website will be glitch-free when it opens for purchases on Nov. 15.

Florida Blue may have bitten off more than it can chew with its new plans under the Affordable Care Act. The company's customer-service apparatus and computer system appear to be overwhelmed and unable to cope.

Already the state’s largest insurer, with more than 1 million covered lives, Florida Blue is offering 76 different health plans through the new federally operated Marketplace. In fact, the company lists more plans by itself than all other insurers put together.

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. 

Federal contractors now say they’ve identified most of the main problems crippling, 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.”

About 1,000 people who work for Darden Restaurants, which operates restaurants including Red Lobster and Olive Garden, are losing access to company health insurance in 2014, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The Orlando-based chain says those employees didn’t work enough hours -- 30 or more a week -- to be eligible for health insurance, but the chain had allowed them to stay on their health insurance plan anyway.

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. 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, 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.

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.

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,, will work better than the day before, she said.

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. 

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

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.)

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

Florida's online Marketplace for health insurance opened Tuesday for browsing at, with only 34 licensed "navigators" ready to offer advice to the millions who may need it.

That's only 1 navigator for every 100,000 uninsured people in the state who have to obtain coverage for 2014 to comply with the Affordable Care Act. 

Health insurance coverage for the uninsured through the Affordable Care Act is more affordable in some Florida counties than others -- a lot more.  

The lowest-cost silver plan to be offered online for Floridians has a wide premium price difference depending on where you live.

A Health News Florida calculation found the premiums cost about 70 percent more in Monroe County than in Palm Beach County for two hypothetical uninsured shoppers ages 21 and 40.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Starting Oct. 1, millions of uninsured people around the country are going to have a new place to shop for health insurance, but many still don’t know about this provision of the Affordable Care Act. 

Take Maggie Banta, a St. Petersburg woman who works a part-time job that doesn’t offer insurance. She is likely to find affordable coverage on the Marketplace, but she said she didn’t even know that was an option.

In the race to inform the public about the Affordable Care Act, now that people are paying attention, Kaiser Health News offers two new groups of questions and answers.

The sticker price for a benchmark health plan in Florida's online Marketplace will average $328 a month, far below the price that had been forecast, according to a federal report released early Wednesday.

“We are excited to see that rates in the Florida Marketplace are even lower than originally projected,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a press release issued later.

One of the most popular aspects of the Affordable Care Act’s online Marketplace, which allows the uninsured to shop for their own plans, will be the likely death of COBRA, as Kaiser Health News reports.

Tampa Bay Times

Profiles of people who would have benefited from the Affordable Care Act's major features, which take effect Jan. 1, if they had been in place in the past were published in the Tampa Bay Times (caution: paywall):

Frank Cerabino, columnist for Cox Newspapers, writes that "it's impressive to see the lengths that Florida's leaders are going to keep state residents from getting health care insurance."

It's bad enough, he writes, that the state House blocked expansion of Medicaid -- even though federal funds would have paid for it, and even though Florida has the second-highest rate of uninsured people.  

There were so many important health stories this week -- mostly about policy and politics -- that we want to make sure you didn’t miss any. The newest development this morning is a vote by the Republican-controlled House to fund the government but eliminate funding for the Affordable Care Act. Here’s a roundup of the best stories from the week: 

Jane Meinhardt / Tampa Bay Business Journal

HealthPlan Services is bringing 1,000 new jobs to Florida, in part because the company says it will pick up a lot of new customers from the Affordable Care Act, the Tampa Tribune reports. Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most ardent opponents of the health law, was on hand to praise the company for adding new jobs in Florida.

Two Florida lawmakers were in Washington, D.C. Wednesday morning to share their perspective on the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  

Jay Connor/Tampa Tribune

Carl and Regina Warren of Tampa are better-informed than a lot of Medicare beneficiaries; they know they don’t have to go shopping on the federal online Marketplace that opens Oct. 1 because they already have health insurance.

The same is true for workers who get coverage through their job; most large employers are continuing to cover their work force to the same extent as in the past, a survey found.

What happens Jan. 1, 2014?  Two big things:

1) Everyone can buy health insurance. Insurance companies can no longer screen out people with health risks.

2) Everyone who doesn’t already have insurance needs to buy it, except for a few groups, including those who have incomes below the poverty level. (To check poverty levels, see this page.)

One company that was going to help enroll uninsured Floridians in health insurance through the federal online Marketplace has dropped out in the face of state officials’ continuing hostility to everything about the Affordable Care Act.