Obamacare

With the Oct. 1 Obamacare enrollment date right around the corner, Republicans in Congress are threatening a government shutdown.  South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist Michael Mayo argues that Republicans in both Congress and Tallahassee should give the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, a chance to prove itself before dismantling it.

Florida Department of Health

Floridians who use county health departments for primary care are mostly too poor to qualify for enrollment in a health plan through the online Marketplace to open Oct. 1, the Department of Health says.

So it makes more sense for “navigators” -- enrollment advisors for the uninsured who seek health coverage on the online Marketplace beginning Oct. 1 --  to go to other locations such as hospital emergency rooms, or county libraries, the memo says.

Small Firms Face Big Confusion

Sep 20, 2013
Jay Conner / Tampa Tribune

New federal health insurance rules are inching closer to a January 1st deadline. The requirement that most Americans obtain coverage is feeling very real for the uninsured or those who buy their own policy.

The Tampa Tribune’s Mary Shedden talked to some Tampa Bay residents deciding whether the Affordable Care Act will help their health, or hurt their bottom line. 

Bob Linde’s watched the Obamacare debate carefully the past five years. 

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: 

State non-career employees who work at least 30 hours per week can enroll in health coverage through the state health-insurance plan when open enrollment starts in October, the Florida Current reports. The Florida Legislature passed a bill last session to extend the coverage to these workers, known as "other professional services" or OPS employees, to avoid a $321 million penalty under the Affordable Care Act.

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

Florida officials are callous and secretive, willing to keep information from citizens that could save their lives, according to the Obama administration's top health official.  Meanwhile, those same officials accuse the administration of placing the public's safety at risk.

Business Leaders Push for Medicaid Expansion

Sep 17, 2013
Rolla Al-Abbasi / WUSF

Businesses and healthcare industry leaders on Tuesday publicly urged Florida lawmakers to use billions of dollars in federal funds to provide health coverage for about 1 million low-income adults in the state. 

Convincing state lawmakers to reconsider Medicaid expansion is a top priority for the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, said its president and CEO Bob Rohrlack at a news conference organized by the League of Women Voters of Florida. Rohrlack said the federal money would have a huge impact on the economy. 

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Jacksonville today for a meeting at the Sulzsbacher Center about the Affordable Care Act.

Sebelius sat down with Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown, Congresswoman Corinne Brown and some two-dozen leaders of Jacksonville’s non-profit community to address their concerns.

(Updated) Saying "Florida has done some pretty unbelievable things," top federal health official Kathleen Sebelius told Jacksonville leaders on Monday she hopes they will get the word out that help for the uninsured is on the way.

Tampa Tribune

Bob Linde, who runs a business in St. Petersburg, has been unable to get health insurance for a decade because of Gulf War Syndrome symptoms that dot his medical records. When it was available, it was unaffordable.

But he worries that a serious illness or injury could wipe him out. Come Jan. 1, that worry will go away for Linde and others who have been unable to obtain affordable and decent health coverage.

People who lose their jobs and the health insurance tied to them will have new coverage options when the Affordable Care Act's marketplaces open in October.

But consumer advocates are concerned many of these unemployed people may not realize this and lock themselves into pricier coverage than they need.

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.

As Chan Lowe with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel writes, it’s just a matter of time before the fight against the Affordable Care Act will die. As Lowe writes, it happened with Social Security and Medicare, once folks started to benefit from those programs. Lowe predicts that same thing will happen with the federal health law better known as Obamacare.

Chris Urso, Tampa Tribune

Anita Balch is a nurse, so everyone asks her about the Marketplace and other key features of the Affordable Care Act that are coming on line between now and Jan. 1. But she’s just as confused as everyone else, she says, because of the five-year political fight that Republicans have waged against Obamacare.

With the launch of new health insurance exchanges just about two weeks away, many of the questions in this month's mailbag focused less on the big picture and more on exactly how the law will operate for individuals.

We can't answer every question we get. But here is a sampling of questions that were really popular, or that would apply to a lot of people.

Florida's uninsured citizens, who are relying on the federal government to create and manage an online health-insurance shopping site called the "Marketplace," can relax a little, after months of hearing that the project won't be ready in time for the grand opening Oct. 1.

Florida’s uninsured citizens -- at least the ones who have heard about the health-insurance “Marketplace” scheduled to open Oct. 1 -- aren’t the only ones eager to see how it works. The same is true of insurers in the individual market who have to participate, despite their worries, for fear they will lose market share if they don’t.

Wikipedia.com

Michigan, which like Florida has a Republican governor and legislative majority, has voted to accept federal funds and expand its Medicaid program to the low-income uninsured. It is yet another GOP-dominated state that has done what Florida did not.

More than 1 million low-income uninsured in Florida are spared from paying any penalty for not having health coverage under the Affordable Care Act as of Jan. 1, according to the rules issued this week by the Obama administration.

Florida is facing a challenge: With the start of the health-insurance enrollment period less than five weeks away, paid “navigators” and volunteers are still unsure how they will find and sign up millions who qualify for and need coverage. State officials have not helped, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. 

Some of the large employers in Florida’s tourism and retail industries could get away with providing very cheap coverage -- so “skinny” it doesn’t even cover a hospital stay -- under one interpretation of the administration’s rules on the Affordable Care Act Rules, Kaiser Health News reports.

Given all the political fighting over the Affordable Care Act's online Marketplaces, many Americans likely think everyone will be shopping on them. In reality, most Americans won't be. The marketplaces are only for individuals who can't get (or can't afford) coverage through their employer. Small businesses will have their own Marketplace for shopping.

Medicare beneficiaries won't be on the new Marketplace. They have a separate system for enrolling in Medicare Advantage and prescription drug plans -- the same system they've been using for years.

Lottie Watts / WUSF

When the new online health insurance marketplace opens Oct. 1, millions of people will be able to buy insurance at the click of a mouse. The federal government has a website and a hotline people can call for help. But they'll also have people who can help face-to-face. They're called "navigators."

During a stop at the USF Tampa campus last week, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said "navigators" will assist many people who have never been enrolled in a health plan before. 


Health policy and political consultants say that for the Affordable Care Act to succeed, politically and substantively, organizing efforts must focus on three states with large numbers of uninsured: Florida, Texas and California. Unfortunately for Democrats and the law’s supporters, as Politico reports, two of those states are run by Republicans who are trying to hamper the enrollment effort.

Opponents of the Affordable Care Act rallied hundreds of conservatives at a Tampa hotel Wednesday night with a call for the Republican House to strip funds for the law out of next year's budget.

The budget vote is scheduled for right after Labor Day, in time for the 2014 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

"Can we defund Obamacare? Yes, we can!" declared Mike Needham, CEO of the host group Heritage Action for America. The crowd applauded heartily at his use of President Barack Obama's campaign slogan.

Supporters of the Affordable Care Act say Florida officials' concern about a program that will help uninsured people sign up for coverage has no foundation in fact.

There is no danger that so-called "navigators" will steal people's identities or feed information into a giant federal database, said Greg Mellowe, policy director for the consumer group Florida CHAIN. The group is one of the non-profits that will get a share of federal grant money for the "navigator" program.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, whose mother is enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan that drives her to doctors’ appointments, claims that such plans will be hurt by the Affordable Care Act. PolitiFact  checked out that claim.

State Cabinet officials expressed concern Tuesday that the federal government's "navigator" plan would place Floridians' personal information in danger. They urged citizens to use state-licensed insurance agents to get help deciding which is the best insurance plan when the federal online Marketplace opens Oct. 1.

Gov. Rick Scott said he fears that the federal government wants to amass a huge database of personal information on citizens' health.  He said he's worried that the navigators will turn over information for that database.

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