President Joe Biden’s decision to reopen the federal insurance exchange to offer health coverage has generated a surge of interest among Floridians.
Florida — whose Republican leaders have steadfastly refused to expand Medicaid as allowed under Obamacare — has led the nation for several years in the number of people who receive health coverage through the exchange.
And Floridians have continued to lead the way during a special enrollment period ordered by Biden.
More than 117,000 Florida residents enrolled in an Obamacare health plan last month and paid for coverage, bringing Florida enrollment in the exchange during the special enrollment period to 264,088.
Data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services showed that 939,575 people had enrolled nationwide in plans and paid for coverage — meaning that 28% of all new sign-ups were in the Sunshine State.
When it comes to Obamacare, Florida is a contradiction. Republican legislative leaders stand solidly against expanding Medicaid, a key feature of the federal law, yet the state leads the nation in overall enrollment in the insurance exchange.
Indeed, Florida is just one of 12 states that haven’t expanded Medicaid to low-income childless adults (the others are Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin and Wyoming). In lieu of using federal Medicaid funds to provide health benefits, the state has opted to tap into supplemental Medicaid dollars to fund what’s known as the Low-Income Pool, which provides payments to providers for treating uninsured people.
While Obamacare provided access to health plans with a certain set of benefits that had to be included, Florida lawmakers in 2019 passed a bill that allowed insurance companies to use rules issued by former President Donald Trump‘s administration and sell limited plans that don’t contain all the mandated benefits.
Yet Floridians continue to turn to the federal insurance program for coverage.
Florida’s enrollment in the exchange has outpaced any other state, both during the traditional annual open-enrollment period and now during the special period. Texas is second behind Florida during the special period, with 179,955 people enrolled.
Traditionally, Obamacare has included an open enrollment period and year-round enrollment for people who lose jobs, get divorced or become widowed.
Biden signed an executive order in January authorizing the special enrollment period because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Biden announced in February he would extend enrollment until Aug. 15, giving people time to tap into health insurance subsidies that were included in the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.
Republished with permission of The News Service of Florida.