By Carla Anderson
February 17, 2014
Florida continues to lead in the number of completed enrollments among the states using the federal marketplace. The number of individuals who selected a health plan increased significantly — from about 158,000 at the end of December to 296,892 as of Jan. 31. Florida lags only California in sign-ups since open enrollment began on Oct. 1. The latest report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also shows that 99,746 Florida residents have qualified for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
In Florida, 23 percent of those selecting a health plan are between the ages of 18 and 34. Kaiser estimates that young adults need to make up 40 percent of enrollment to keep rates stable. However, others say the age mix assumed by insurers is what really matters. If insurers were cautious and assumed a higher average age when setting 2014 rates, they won’t be forced to hike rates for 2015. Either way, Obama administration officials are hopeful that the relative percentage of young adults purchasing insurance will increase as the final 2014 enrollment deadline approaches.
Enrollment for private insurance in 2014 continues through March 31. Policies purchased by the 15th of the month will be effective the first day of the following month. Individuals who remain uninsured after March may face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater. Enrollment for Medicaid or CHIP continues throughout the year.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, has been an outspoken critic of the federal health reform law, including the health insurance exchanges. Florida legislators not only failed to approve legislation to create an exchange in Florida, they returned a $1 million federal planning grant awarded in 2010. And right after the Supreme Court ruling that upheld most of the Affordable Care Act in June 2012, Gov. Scott announced that Florida would not establish a state-based health insurance exchange.
Florida continues to fight against the Affordable Care Act and operation of the health insurance marketplace. In September 2013, the Florida Department of Health (DOH) banned navigators from all county public health facilities. Florida DOH officials have said the move is consistent with its policy of blocking outside groups that are not doing state business. They have also said the ban helps protects consumers from privacy concerns stemming from the collection of personal information for inclusion in a federal database. The Obama administration strongly criticized the ban on navigators, labeling the order “obstructionist” and “plain absurdity.”
The state supports Florida Health Choices, which is the state’s own version of an online marketplace. Florida Health Choices was established by 2008 legislation. About $1.5 million has been spent on the site, but it is not yet operational. Florida Health Choices announced it would launch in early 2014. However in mid-February, CEO Rose Nash announced another delay to allow for additional testing and set the launch for the end of the month.
Florida Health Choices does not comply with the Affordable Care Act. Florida Health Choice will not subsidize the cost of plans sold through the exchange for low-income individuals or offer tax credits to businesses. Nor does Florida Health Choices require a minimum set of benefits as the ACA exchanges do in the form of essential health benefits. Florida Health Choices will offer 15 to 20 discount only plans for on some health services, like dental services and prescription drugs. These plans are not health insurance, and purchasing one of them doesn’t protect you from the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act — you may still have to pay a penalty for being uninsured.
The CEO of Florida Health Choices says the exchange’s target market includes those in the coverage gap — people who make too little to qualify for premium assistance on the federal marketplace and too much to qualify for Medicaid. Because Florida rejected Medicaid expansion, nearly 800,000 people fall into the coverage gap and state health care providers miss out on $1.2 billion annually.
On the federally operated exchange, 10 insurers are selling ACA-compliant health insurance policies. Those insurers are Aetna, Cigna, Coventry Health Care of Florida, Florida Blue (Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida), Florida Health Care Plan Health Options, Humana, Molina Healthcare, Simply Healthcare Plan, and Sunshine State Health.
According to an HHS report, the average cost for a bronze plan —the lowest-cost option — in Florida is $257 a month. The national average for a bronze policy is $249 a month.
State Exchange Profile: Florida
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Florida’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Florida Health Choices
State exchange, which is not part of the Affordable Care Act, set to launch in 2014
Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
Assists consumers who have purchased insurance on the individual market or who have insurance through an employer who only does business in Florida.
(1-877-693-5236) / Out of State: (850) 413-3089
Subscriber Assistance Program – Agency for Health Care Administration
Serves residents enrolled in managed care; helps resolve grievance between managed care entities and their subscribers.
1-888-419-3456 (toll-free nationwide)
Let your Florida governor and legislators know how you feel about the state’s proposed health insurance exchange.Florida Governor Rick Scott