Obamacare

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. 

Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Tuesday that eight of 10 people will be able to use the government's health care website to sign up for insurance by the end of the month. 

The Obama administration's top health care official was at Florida Technical College in Orlando Tuesday morning making her first of two stops in the state to talk up the Affordable Care Act as fallout of the new law grows. She was visiting Miami's North Shore Medical Center later in the day.

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.

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.

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.

AP

President Obama, who is coming to Miami late today for fundraising, publicly apologized Thursday for over-promising on the Affordable Care Act in the past. He had assured Americans they wouldn’t lose their health insurance policies -- true for most people, but it turned out to be wrong for 5 to 8 percent of the population, those who buy plans in the individual market.

At his site Our Health Policy Matters, health consultant Paul Gionfriddo writes that he’s as sick of the Obamacare drama as anyone. So, this week, he said he’d opine about something not so contentious: the nation’s failed “War on Drugs.” 

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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.”

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.

As the Miami Herald and Kaiser Health News report, uninsured Floridians have different views on the Affordable Care Act but share a common concern: cost of coverage. One 28-year-old real estate agent, who says he doesn’t see the need for health insurance, says he’ll need to check in with his accountant to see if paying a penalty for not buying insurance makes financial sense.

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 HealthCare.gov, 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.

Floridians continue to ask questions about the Affordable Care Act's major provisions, which are unfolding between now and the end of March. Even though most people aren't affected by this rollout because they're already insured or have Medicare, the questions can be fun to read.

Sebelius to Visit Tampa Amid Obamacare Web Delays

Oct 8, 2013

The Obama administration promised "significant improvements" in accessing the federal health overhaul website this week, after taking down the system for maintenance over the weekend. But many in Florida were still unable to enroll at the start of week two. 

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