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Daniel Tilson: Florida leads way on Obamacare, for better and worse

Overcoming epic rollout woes, constant conservative attacks, repeated Republican repeal attempts and nonstop negative media coverage, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has met and exceeded its benchmark goal of gaining 7 million enrollees by March 31. 

The ironic icing on the cake for Florida progressives is that infamous “Obamacare” opponent Gov. Rick Scott must endure news of its “Big 7” enrollment success, while his own “7-7-7” plan for job creation has been a controversial failure.

The 7-plus million figure released by the White House doesn’t even include millions of other Americans who also have new health insurance coverage, thanks to Medicaid expansion in states that unlike Florida, accepted federal money to expand health-care access for low-income residents.

Aside from sports, tourism and citrus fruit, Florida’s not used to being atop the national rankings in very many things — especially when it comes to making progress on health care and other human services.

But thanks in large part to the Health Care For Florida Now campaign spearheaded by Progress Florida and Florida CHAIN (Community Health Action Information Network), representing a Florida Health Alliance of 90 organizations, the state is “Number One” nationwide with upwards of 450,000 residents having signed up for ACA coverage since its October launch.

Those impressive enrollment numbers speak volumes about the tireless community education and outreach work these organizations have done, despite obstruction by Scott and fellow anti-reform Republicans in the Legislature

The numbers also demonstrate the enormous pent-up demand in Florida for the peace-of-mind and protection health insurance coverage provides.

Florida has been near the top of national rankings in numbers of uninsured citizens for a while now, about one of every four to five residents.

The abject failure to even begin to solve that crisis by the Republican Party of Florida in its 16-plus years of control over state government has cost thousands of lives and billions of middle-class taxpayer dollars.

Worse still, even with the heartening surge of newly Obamacare-insured Floridians, we’re nowhere near solving the crisis.

As much as the successful signup effort is a ray of sunshine worth celebrating, there remain many political clouds casting dark shadows of doubt about long-term hopes for successful health-care reform in the state.

Just as the likes of GOP U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate leader Mitch McConnell incessantly distort and defame ACA’s increasing success, so do leading Florida Republicans.

For purely partisan advantage, these so-called public servants continue to ruthlessly prey on and pump up people’s fears of government, and prejudice against Obama, and Obamacare.

Thus, we’re still suffering through a massive mainstream American/Floridian disconnect between the ACA’s wildly popular health-insurance industry reforms — from eliminating pre-existing condition exclusions, the Medicare RX “doughnut” hole and lifetime caps on benefits, to keeping kids on parents’ insurance until age 26 — and the “unpopularity” of Obamacare.

Ah, the name game.

Because too many people’s hot buttons are still pushed when they hear Obamacare, they’re not demanding legislative approval of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion plan, which would insure nearly a million more Floridians, save taxpayers billions and generate billions more in new jobs and economic growth.

For now, the Florida House still gets away with rejecting $50 billion in federal money and blocking that expansion, while Scott still shows no leadership in pushing them to compromise on the issue.

And so know that the Affordable Care Act is making major positive progress in Florida and nationwide.

But if more folks don’t stop worrying about Obamacare, that all may be for naught.

Daniel Tilson has a Boca Raton-based communications firm called Full Cup Media, specializing in online video and written content for non-profits, political candidates and organizations, and small businesses. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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