Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Despite Obamacare rate hikes, advocates say many plans in Florida will be affordable in 2017

Dr. Avery Rosnick-Slyker, of  USF's Florida Covering Kids & Families initiative, helped 26-year-old Nickolas St. Cyr purchase individual health insurance in 2015. The next Obamacare enrollment period begins on Nov. 1, 2016. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]

Dr. Avery Rosnick-Slyker, of USF's Florida Covering Kids & Families initiative, helped 26-year-old Nickolas St. Cyr purchase individual health insurance in 2015. The next Obamacare enrollment period begins on Nov. 1, 2016. [WILL VRAGOVIC | Times]

Open enrollment for individual health insurance starts Tuesday — and local shoppers are already bracing for rate hikes.

Florida won't be immune from the increases that made national headlines this week. Premiums for plans offered on and off the Affordable Care Act exchanges will rise by an average of 19 percent statewide, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Still, advocates insist the plans will be economical. A study released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found 84 percent of Florida consumers will be able to purchase a plan with monthly premiums of $100 or less.

"It is reasonable and manageable for most families," said Melanie Hall, executive director of the Family Healthcare Foundation, which will be working to enroll people across the Tampa Bay region.

Hall noted that local consumers will have dozens of choices, including some new offerings that may be less expensive than their current plans.

This year's open enrollment period — the fourth since the marketplace made its debut in 2013 — runs through Jan. 31. The deadline for coverage that starts Jan. 1 is Dec. 15.

Consumers who had coverage in 2016 and miss the deadline may be automatically re-enrolled in their plans. But health officials urge all individuals and families to shop around.

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

Like last year, individuals who can afford health insurance but choose not to buy it will face stiff penalties. This year, the fine starts at $695 for an adult and increases based on income.

Federal health officials expect 13.8 million individuals to enroll in marketplace plans — an increase from the 12.7 million consumers who selected plans at the end of last year's signup season.

Florida will likely be one of the top states for enrollment. As of March, more than 1.5 million Floridians had purchased marketplace coverage. Of that total, more than 1.4 million received subsidies to help offset the premiums, according to the Health Department.

Others still may be eligible. A recent report from the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 614,000 uninsured Floridians could qualify for subsidies in 2017.

The rate hikes have drawn considerable attention, especially on the campaign trail. This week, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said President Obama's signature health law was "blowing up."

But experts say the increases were expected. They blame rising health care costs and the fact that more sick people signed up for coverage than expected.

Cynthia Cox, associate director at Kaiser, said some insurers had set their prices too low in previous years and had to make corrections. What's more, the federal government is phasing out payments to help insurance companies adjust to the marketplace in the early years of Obamacare.

This year's signup season will be key, Cox said.

"How consumers respond to these changes in premiums and insurer participation could determine whether this is a one-time market correction or whether this is a longer problem," she said. "If we see enrollment numbers fall, that could be a sign of challenges ahead for this market. If enrollment grows or holds steady, that will be a sign of stability."

Advocates hope the latter will hold true.

Starting next week, health care navigators will be seeking out new enrollees. They also will be assisting consumers who purchased marketplace plans in previous years.

Leah Barber-Heinz, the Florida spokeswoman for the nonprofit Enroll America, said consumers should not have to pay for assistance. "Free help is available," she said.

It should be plentiful in Tampa Bay.

On Thursday, the Obama administration identified Tampa as one of 15 "target markets," meaning federal health officials will help promote enrollment in the city. They plan to team up with Mayor Bob Buckhorn's office.

Additionally, the Family Healthcare Foundation is spearheading an effort called Covering Tampa Bay to connect consumers with navigators. The website provides a map of navigators throughout the region, as well as instructions for setting up a private appointment.

Hall, the executive director, says local families should take advantage of the help.

"That one-on-one assistance can make sure people enroll in coverage that they can use and that meets their needs," she said.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.


The cost

of coverage

Here's the monthly premium cost, with the federal subsidy factored in, for an average silver plan:

• For an individual earning $27,000 in annual income:

Hernando: $203

($10 more than 2016)

Hillsborough: $203

($6 less than 2016)

Pasco: $206

($8 more than 2016)

Pinellas: $202

(the same as 2016)

• For a family of four earning $53,000 in annual income:

Hernando: $448

($42 more than 2016)

Hillsborough: $447

($15 less than 2016)

Pasco: $457

($34 more than 2016)

Pinellas: $442

($6 less than 2016)

Source: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation

Speak out

The Tampa Bay Times wants to hear about your experience with health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Were you able to get coverage for the first time? Have you been satisfied with your marketplace plan? Have your premiums increased? Contact Times health and medicine reporter Kathleen McGrory at (727) 893-8330 or

Despite Obamacare rate hikes, advocates say many plans in Florida will be affordable in 2017 10/28/16 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2016 7:41pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 5 things to do under $5: Where to see solar eclipse, Bucs training camp


    1 Solar eclipse: Turn around, bright eyes. Monday brings a total eclipse of the sun, and you'll need protective eyewear to see it. The bay area won't be plunged into darkness for a few minutes like the middle of the country, but with solar lenses you can see this rare event. The Museum of Science and Industry, …

    This photo shows a “diamond ring” shape during the 2016 total solar eclipse in Indonesia. For the 2017 eclipse over the United States, the National Science Foundation-funded movie project nicknamed Citizen CATE will have more than 200 volunteers trained and given special small telescopes and tripods to observe the sun at 68 locations in the exact same way.
  2. Florida man has some of Princess Di's wedding cake, plus 13,000 other royal items (w/photos)

    Human Interest

    John Hoatson recalls the day it all began with perfect clarity.

    John Hoatson poses with a photo taken in 2006 when he met Sarah “Fergie” Ferguson, the Duchess of York, for tea at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in California.
  3. Pasco doubles tourist tax to finance sports complex


    DADE CITY — Pasco County is doubling its tourist tax to 4 percent to build an indoor sports complex in Wesley Chapel and improve its outdoor boat ramps in west Pasco.

    Pasco County's plan to double its tourist tax on overnight accommodations to 4 percent is intended to help finance a $25 million sports complex in the Wiregrass Ranch area of Wesley Chapel. It  would include a 98,000-quare-foot multipurpose gymnaisium of eight basketball courts and dedicated space for gymnastics, cheerleading and a fitness center. Shown here is the four-court fieldhouse with 50,000-square-feet of space for competitions at  Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex.  Times photo by James Borchuck (2007)
  4. Les Miller on Charlottesville: 'This is not what we should about'


    TAMPA -- In the aftermath of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., and ahead of today's continued conversation on Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller on Wednesday looked to inspire unity in an invocation that a colleague called "inspirational."

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller prayed for unity during Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, following the violent protests in Charlottesville that left 19 injured and one dead.
  5. Here's what Florida's gubernatorial contenders say about removing Confederate monuments from public lands


    Gwen Graham: "Our state's role in the Civil War and the deplorable promotion of slavery still cause deep pain today. We all have a responsibility to combat racism and hate wherever it …

    Protesters climb the Confederate Memorial in Tampa on Sunday night after more than 200 people marched down the streets of downtown Tampa to protest white supremacy. Members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and Hillsborough Flaggers plan are standing guard now to protect the statute.