Obamacare enrollment surging in Florida, totals still low

By Laura Green - Palm Beach Post Washington Bureau

More than 14,300 Floridians signed up for Obamacare plans in November, four times the rate of enrollment in the first month. In November, another nearly 6,000 Florida residents were deemed eligible to receive insurance through the state’s Medicaid program, according to data released Wednesday by the Obama administration.

Florida reflects a national trend. Enrollment is surging – though maybe not as fast as needed — as improvements are made to, the federal government website that was so plagued by errors it became fodder for late night comedians.

Nationwide, 365,000 Americans have signed up for a plan and another 803,000 have been found eligible for Medicaid in the first two months. That’s nearly 1.2 million Americans who are targeted to gain new coverage come Jan. 1.

“More and more Americas are finding that quality affordable coverage that meets their needs and budget is finally within their reach,” said Michael Hash, director of the Office of Health Reform at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Between the end of October and the end of November, enrollment quadrupled through the federal marketplace from about 26,000 to 137,200. The vast majority of Americans gaining coverage, however, are still getting it through state websites, which have generally worked much more smoothly than the federal site.

Florida’s enrollment figures out-shined every other state served by the federal marketplace. But enrollment was still a fraction of many states that ran their own online insurance market, even ones with far fewer residents.

For instance, enrollment in Florida nearly equaled Washington state, with 6.9 million residents to Florida’s 19.3 million.

States could decide whether to take control and create their own insurance sales website or leave it to the federal government.

Over the first two months of enrollment in the Affordable Care Act, more 17,908 Floridians have signed up for a plan and 18,822 will receive insurance through Medicaid, a program for the poor.

Since Oct. 1, 281,517 Floridians have taken the initial step of applying for coverage. Of them, 75,480 were deemed eligible for financial assistance to buy a plan.

That’s only about 26 percent of those who have applied. Earlier government estimates predicted that as many as 90 percent of people who applied for coverage would qualify for a federal subsidy.

That disparity will prove significant if consumers find that without federal help the plans are not affordable.

HHS officials were not able to explain why the numbers qualifying for financial help are so low.

“We are obviously early in the enrollment period,” Nancy DeLew, acting deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation said. “We don’t know if that will change by the time we get to the end of the 6-month period.”

Americans have until the end of March to enroll in a plan during 2014. To get coverage starting Jan 1, they must sign up by Dec. 23.

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