Obamacare

Avalere Health

Despite state officials' opposition to the Affordable Care Act and the relative scarcity of helpers available,  Floridians are finding their way to Healthcare.gov and signing up for plans even beyond the growth in most states.

By the end of January, nearly 300,000 Floridians had enrolled in a new health plan through Obamacare -- a surge that left most other states in the dust.

Jodi Ray at University of South Florida, who leads the grant-driven effort to sign up the uninsured in most counties of Florida, said she's not in the least surprised.

Carol Gentry/HNF-WUSF

By now, the Republican Party’s view of the Affordable Care Act should be pretty familiar, as in this ad from David Jolly:

“I’m fighting to repeal Obamacare, right away. It’s bad for our families, and our economy.”

But not all Republicans agree; one is Irene Jacusis of New Port Richey, who was uninsured until now.

“I did not vote for Obama," she said. "But I am so in love with this plan, with this health care plan, what can I do?"

PolitiFact Florida recently tackled the politically sticky and academically difficult question of whether people will die sooner than they should because the state refuses to expand Medicaid to those with incomes under the poverty level. The short answer is yes, probably some will, but it's hard to know precisely how many.

The Congressional Budget Office put out a forecast this week that showed the Affordable Care Act will have a positive effect on the labor market, that it will enable 2.3 million Americans to either finally retire or cut their hours. They are no longer trapped in jobs they hate in order to keep health insurance.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Gasparilla is Tampa's version of Mardi Gras -- at least when it comes to the beads, the parade and the partying.

During last weekend's pirate invasion, as people walked around in their best pirate costumes, contractors for the federal government were trying to pitch health plans under the Affordable Care Act.

In the wake of President Obama’s State of the Union speech, which highlighted income inequality, health consultant Paul Gionfriddo points out there’s another pressing inequity: health insurance subsidies for some of the poorest Americans.

The state’s legal stance on gay marriage and Medicaid are not family friendly, say opinion columns from the Tampa Bay Times and Orlando Sentinel.

At his blog Our Health Policy Matters, consultant Paul Gionfriddo breaks down what he calls "fake facts" about the Affordable Care Act. Gionfriddo has a list of five things about Obamacare that are often repeated even though they're not true. 

The chief navigator for Healthcare.gov plans for Southwest Florida says a state report on costs that Florida families have to pay for health insurance greatly overstates the premiums.

"Their numbers were very high," said Lynne Thorp, who at the request of Health News Florida ran the numbers on the first case that was presented to a legislative committee on Thursday. "I can't figure out where they got them."

The number of low-income Floridians waiting in computer limbo for their Medicaid card is far higher than previously thought, according to the Department of Children and Families.

Ninety thousand Florida Medicaid accounts that cover 133,000 people have been stuck in the federal Healthcare.gov data system for weeks pending transfer to the state, said Jennifer Lange, project director for the Medicaid Eligibility System Project at DCF.

A state report on the price of plans under the Affordable Care Act has been politically distorted to make things look worse than they are, a health advocacy group says.

The report by the Office of Insurance Regulation is to be presented to a House committee today  at 2:30 p.m. The meeting is scheduled to be streamed live on The Florida Channel.

healthcare.gov

About 35,000 Floridians who found they were eligible for health coverage through Medicaid are still waiting for confirmation that they’re covered, Kaiser Health News reports.

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.

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.

At his site Our Health Policy Matters, health consultant Paul Gionfriddo writes that it’s incorrect that Republicans came up with no alternatives to the Affordable Care Act. They did, and some of their proposals were quite similar to provisions in the ACA, including state-based exchanges and prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

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.

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.

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.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

Less than three weeks remain for uninsured Floridians to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act if they want coverage as of Jan. 1.  So navigators were relieved to find the federal health website running smoothly on Monday. 

Commercial health insurers could be an alternative to the balky  Healthcare.gov if the White House grants a request from eight Democratic senators, including Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.  If the wish is granted, it could mean a huge influx of new customers for Florida Blue.

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.

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."

Florida has rejected an offer of more than $50 billion over 10 years from the federal government to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act. So the question remains: how will health care be funded for more than a million low-income Floridians? This week on Florida Matters,  a panel discussion that was held last week at Stetson University College of Law to discuss the options. It was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Healthcare Collaborative. 

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