Florida’s Obamacare enrollment grew tenfold between the end of November and the end December, as the deadline to buy a plan in time for Jan. 1 approached.
Enrollment jumped from about 14,000 to more than 140,000 by the end of December. That dwarfed the pathetic October signs up, which totaled little more than 3,500.
All told, 158,030 Florida residents signed up for a plan under the Affordable Care Act – more than any other state using the federal government enrollment site. Florida is among the states that chose not to run its own enrollment program.
Another nearly 58,400 have gained access to Medicaid in Florida.
The state’s rush to enroll reflected a national trend and showed that the troubled healthcare.gov has improved enough to allow hundreds of thousands to navigate the site successfully in the last month of 2013.
Across the country, 1.8 million Americans chose a plan during December, bringing total enrollment to nearly 2.2 million. Another 6 million qualified for Medicaid through the end of December, although some of them may have been renewals rather than new enrollments.
“Because of the new Affordable Care Act, it is a brand new day for health insurance and for millions of families and individuals both here in Florida and around the country,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who spoke by phone from Tampa, where she was promoting the law.
The Obama administration has 11 more weeks to meet its goal of enrolling 7 million Americans in new health plans, under the law. March 31 is the deadline to sign up to gain coverage in 2014.
The data released Monday gives the first indication of the demographics of Americans who are buying plans. Young Americans are signing up despite warnings that the technical problems that plagued the enrollment site would turn them off permanently.
Thirty percent of enrollees are from the key, under-34 demographic.
The health care plans were virtually guaranteed to be popular with older Americans who are statistically sicker and more expensive to insure. Many had been locked out of the marketplace due to pre-existing illness or high costs until the health care law made it illegal to reject them. Insurers need young Americans, too, to buy plans and help balance the risk pool. If not, rates will spike.
Not surprisingly, in Florida, the demographics tilt more heavily to older Americans than the national average. Only 25 percent of the plans so far have been bought by Floridians under 34.
HHS officials predict that the young will be the law’s procrastinators, waiting until the last minute to sign up.
“We think that more and more young people are going to sign up as time goes by, which is the experience in Massachusetts,” said Gary Cohen, deputy administrator and director of the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
Massachusetts’ health care reform experience also showed enrollment, in general, ramping up as the final deadline approached.
CMS Spokeswoman Julie Bataille said outreach efforts will focus on the young and on men. So far enrollment is tilting toward women, with men making up 46 percent of enrollees.
The data released by HHS Monday shows that marketplace plans are most popular with people who are getting some sort of financial assistance from the government.
Of those who have enrolled so far, 79 percent qualified for financial help. In Florida, 83 percent of enrollees received a subsidy of some kind.
It’s hard to know how many more Floridians will sign up for a plan. Applications covering more than half a million state residents have been submitted. Of those 486,000 have been deemed eligible to enroll and 247,000 received a notice indicating that they qualify for some kind of financial assistance.
After a disastrous enrollment roll-out, officials seemed optimistic Monday.
“The numbers show that there is a very strong national demand for affordable health care made possibly by the Affordable Care Act,” Sebelius said.
Health care enrollment
Sign ups cross the nation: