Monday, April 23, 2018
Health

Final tally shows nearly 1 million Floridians signed up for health insurance

Nearly a million Floridians signed up for health care plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, the most of any state that used the federal marketplace rather than create one of its own.

But the final enrollment counts, released Thursday by the Obama administration, can't yet answer the question of how the law is affecting Florida's high rate of residents who have no health insurance. Administration officials acknowledged they don't yet know how many of those who signed up for plans were merely switching from other insurance and how many previously had no coverage.

Still, officials said they were pleased that the final tally exceeded expectations, despite the many challenges people faced navigating the marketplace, including a government web site that didn't function when it rolled out. "Together we are ensuring that health coverage is more accessible than ever before," said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Overall, more than 8 million Americans picked a plan through government exchanges, more than the 7 million that had been expected. Just under 30 percent of enrollees are ages 18 to 34, a group insurers covet since they generally have fewer health expenses than older people.

Insurers, who can no longer discriminate against people with pre-existing health conditions, are counting on a good mix of customers to keep their plans affordable.

Some studies consider 40 percent in the young adult age group optimal to stabilize the market. Still, 30 percent is a higher share than the exchanges initially saw.

The young adult population makes up about 27 percent of Florida's signups, an improvement from January's 20 percent. Many experts had expected young adults to wait toward the end of the enrollment period before signing up.

The new report also released for the first time a breakdown of consumers by race. In Florida, about 20 percent of people who purchased plans are Latino and another 20 percent are black. Whites made up the majority of the people who chose a plan, about 54 percent.

Overall, Florida's enrollment more than doubled over the month of March, the third biggest jump in the nation.

The Congressional Budget Office estimates another 5 million people nationwide bought individual coverage directly from private insurers. Those consumers don't get tax subsidies since they didn't go through government exchanges, but the policies they buy meet the new federal coverage requirements.

The 2014 private insurance market is now closed for business except for consumers who qualify for a special enrollment period, such as those who have lost a job or had a baby. Plans for next year go on sale this fall.

Nearly 3.8 million people in Florida lacked health insurance as of last year.

An estimated 800,000 will remain uninsured due to the Florida Legislature's decision to reject $51-billion in federal funding to expand Medicaid eligibility, a key part of the Affordable Care Act. Because of the way the law is written, those Floridians fall into a coverage gap: They can't qualify for Medicaid but they're too poor to qualify for tax subsidies to buy coverage.

Florida's political climate is widely seen as hostile to the Affordable Care Act, yet consumers still enrolled. Obama administration officials credited an outreach campaign that included local organizations and popular enrollment fairs.

That work "really helped to make a difference in that state," said Julie Bataille, spokeswoman for Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, released a statement touting Florida's enrollment figure, officially 983,775.

"One million Floridians are breathing easier as affordable health insurance that was previously out of reach now provides financial security. Despite political obstruction and scare tactics, Florida and Tampa Bay navigators and health care outreach partners successfully aided scores of our neighbors," said Castor.

Jodie Tillman can be reached at jtillman[email protected]

Comments
Do not eat any romaine lettuce, the CDC warns

Do not eat any romaine lettuce, the CDC warns

Public health officials are now telling consumers to avoid all types of romaine lettuce because of an E. coli outbreak linked to the vegetable that has spread to at least 16 states and sickened at least 60 people, including eight inmates at an Alask...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida hits a milestone: More than 100,000 people are registered to use medical marijuana here

Florida has hit a milestone of sorts as it slowly moves toward wider availability of medical marijuana.The number of patients in the state who are registered to use the substance has surpassed 100,000 for the first time, according to Florida Departme...
Published: 04/20/18
Florida Hospital Carrollwood spending $17.5 million to expand emergency department

Florida Hospital Carrollwood spending $17.5 million to expand emergency department

Florida Hospital Carrollwood is expanding its emergency department. The hospital, 7171 North Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa, is spending $17.5 million to add 15 new private treatment rooms, new pediatric rooms and waiting areas, and new technology, acco...
Published: 04/18/18
Barbara Bush’s end-of-life decision stirs debate over ‘comfort care’

Barbara Bush’s end-of-life decision stirs debate over ‘comfort care’

As she nears death at age 92, former first lady Barbara Bush’s announcement that she is seeking "comfort care" is shining a light — and stirring debate — on what it means to stop trying to fight terminal illness.Bush, the wife of former President Geo...
Published: 04/17/18
Preparing for the worst, staffers at Johns Hopkins All Children’s learn through simulation

Preparing for the worst, staffers at Johns Hopkins All Children’s learn through simulation

When the patient got violent, Dr. Michelle Hidalgo didn’t have time to think. She had to react. The woman was moving strangely and seemed erratic. Hidalgo had to make a tough call — it was time to physically restrain her for everyone’s safety.Then th...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18

Lung cancer patients live longer with immune therapy

The odds of survival can greatly improve for people with the most common type of lung cancer if, along with the usual chemotherapy, they are also given a drug that activates the immune system, a major new study has shown.The findings should change me...
Published: 04/16/18
Thousands of pounds of prepackaged salad mixes may have been tainted with E. coli, officials say

Thousands of pounds of prepackaged salad mixes may have been tainted with E. coli, officials say

A Pennsylvania food manufacturer is recalling 8, 757 pounds of ready-to-eat salad products following an E. coli outbreak that has spread to several states and sickened dozens of people.Fresh food Manufacturing Co., based in Freedom, Pennsylvania, is ...
Published: 04/15/18
St. Anthony’s Cancer Center installs bell dedicated to survivors

St. Anthony’s Cancer Center installs bell dedicated to survivors

ST. PETERSBURGSister Mary McNally, vice president of mission at St. Anthony’s Hospital, stood in front of a room of cancer survivors to unveil a silver bell surrounded by butterfly stickers mounted to the wall of the Cancer Center lobby. "So often pe...
Published: 04/13/18
Hand dryers could leave your hands dirtier than you think

Hand dryers could leave your hands dirtier than you think

Washing your hands after you use the bathroom is a good idea. But using a public dryer could undo all that hard work, according to a new study.A study, published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, examined 36 men’s and women’s bat...
Published: 04/13/18
Meek and Mighty Triathlon draws the young (siblings who are 7, 9 and 11) and not so young

Meek and Mighty Triathlon draws the young (siblings who are 7, 9 and 11) and not so young

The annual St. Anthony’s Triathlon has for years attracted elite athletes from around the world, making the St. Petersburg race one of the premier triathlon events in the country. There’s a big incentive to run fast, swim hard and be the best on a bi...
Published: 04/13/18