Record numbers are signing up for Obamacare in Florida as enrollment period draws to a close

Sandra Wells, right, a health care navigator at the University of South Florida, assists Tampa resident Lourdes Castellano, left, with her health care coverage options during an enrollment event last month at the university. People are signing up for Obamacare at a record pace, officials say. The deadline for 2018 coverage is Dec. 15. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Sandra Wells, right, a health care navigator at the University of South Florida, assists Tampa resident Lourdes Castellano, left, with her health care coverage options during an enrollment event last month at the university. People are signing up for Obamacare at a record pace, officials say. The deadline for 2018 coverage is Dec. 15. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published

With just four days left to enroll for health insurance on the federal exchange, advocates for the Affordable Care Act say Florida is headed for a record-breaking year.

In week five of the six-week open enrollment period, about 823,180 people signed up for health insurance on healthcare.gov, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. More than 3.6 million people have enrolled on the federal exchange for health insurance plans in 2018 since open enrollment began on Nov. 1. Florida has the most enrollees out of any state that offers the federal exchange, with 802,711 people having signed up as of Dec. 2.

Compare that to the just over 2.1 million people nationally and 514,580 in Florida who signed up for Obamacare during the first four weeks of enrollment last year.

"The last two weeks of open enrollment is generally when we peak," said Melanie Hall, executive director of the Family Health Care Foundation, a health care navigator organization in Tampa. "The end of enrollment is when all the auto-enrolled plans are processed, so we expect to see a pretty big spike for the last two weeks. But that 802,000 is a very nice number for us and clearly shows that insurance is beneficial and affordable for people in Florida."

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The majority of enrollees are consumers who are re-enrolling and have used the ACA for health insurance in previous years. However, local advocates in Florida say they’re surprised to see how many new enrollees are signing up this year.

"We’re getting a combination of people who are brand new, are looking at the marketplace and are pleasantly surprised," Hall said. "The other half are people we’ve worked with before who are re-enrolling."

The plans fall into four categories: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Consumers who choose bronze plans pay the lowest monthly premiums, but the most for care. Those with platinum plans have the highest monthly premiums, but the lowest cost of care.

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.

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