Monday, January 22, 2018
Health

Florida drives surge in Obamacare enrollment

Despite the Affordable Care Act's uncertain fate, nearly 1.3 million Floridians have enrolled in coverage for 2017, up from about 1.1 million at this time last year for 2016 coverage, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said Wednesday.

Burwell said the 14 percent increase in Florida is due partly to a push by the state's navigators, who offer free, unbiased assistance to consumers.

Melanie Hall, who oversees a navigator program called Covering Tampa Bay, said her team was busier in November than any other month since Obamacare became law.

"We had several folks work 14 days straight in order to meet the demand," she said.

The total so far for Florida includes more than 214,000 people from the Tampa Bay area. Other large markets in Florida for enrollment are Miami-Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

The rise in Florida is in keeping with a national trend. Nationwide, 6.4 million people have signed up for coverage for 2017, an increase of nearly 7 percent from this time last year.

Burwell said the figures prove "that doomsday predictions about the marketplace were wrong" — and that people both want and need coverage.

"The marketplace is strong," she said.

The numbers will likely rise. While the deadline to buy coverage starting New Year's Day has passed, consumers have until Jan. 31 to select a plan for 2017.

Burwell said the federal health department is planning a "hard push" for the final six weeks of the open enrollment period.

She conceded the presence of "headwinds" — namely a promise from Republican lawmakers and President-elect Donald Trump to repeal the health law. But she stressed the Affordable Care Act is still "the law of the land" and each plan is a contract for 2017, regardless of what happens in Congress. "The best thing folks can do right now is to shop and get covered," she said.

Earlier in the day, a report from the nonpartisan Commonwealth Fund found the share of uninsured adults in Florida had dropped 9 percentage points since the ACA marketplace was enacted in 2013. The report also noted a 5 percentage point dip in the share of uninsured kids.

Still, the study characterized Florida's uninsured rate as among the nation's highest. Last year, one in five adults was uninsured, the report found. About one in 14 children lacked coverage.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at [email protected] or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

Comments
Free clinics respond as more people head to the ER with dental problems (w/video)

Free clinics respond as more people head to the ER with dental problems (w/video)

Charles Lee had been dealing with an excruciating toothache for days. The pain made it hard to eat or sleep or focus on work. But Lee, 54, didnít have dental insurance. His job as a delivery truck driver offered only a supplemental policy that was to...
Updated: 12 hours ago
When you need a breast screening, should you get a 3-D mammogram?

When you need a breast screening, should you get a 3-D mammogram?

When I went to the imaging center for my regular mammogram last year, the woman behind the desk asked me if Iíd like to get a "3-D" mammogram instead of the standard test Iíd had in the past."Itís more accurate," she said.What do you say to that? "No...
Published: 01/22/18
Expect some pain. Thatís what hospitals are starting to tell patients as concern spreads over opioids

Expect some pain. Thatís what hospitals are starting to tell patients as concern spreads over opioids

Doctors at some of the largest U.S. hospital chains admit they went overboard with opioids to make people as pain-free as possible, and now they shoulder part of the blame for the nationís opioid crisis. In an effort to be part of the cure, theyíve b...
Published: 01/19/18
Itís flu season, and how: Hereís what you need to know

Itís flu season, and how: Hereís what you need to know

Cristi Fryberger, a fifth-grade teacher, was headed back for the first day of classes at St. Petersburg Christian School after the Christmas break but didnít feel well. She left a couple of hours later and went to an urgent care clinic, where a swab ...
Published: 01/19/18
This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

This 66-year-old is about to run seven marathons in seven days on seven continents

When Robert Owensís father was 75, he gave his son some advice. "He said, ĎYou know, son, the sad part is when you get old they just put you on a shelf and you become irrelevant. Fight to stay relevant. Fight to stay in the game, otherwise they will ...
Published: 01/18/18
5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

5 things we learned about Trump from his medical checkup

Five things we learned about President Donald Trump from Navy Rear Adm. Ronny Jackson, the doctor who oversaw Trumpís first medical checkup in office. SLEEP Trump doesnít get much shut-eye. Jackson guessed that Trump snoozes four to five hours a nig...
Published: 01/17/18
A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

A century after the 1918 pandemic, science takes its best shot at flu

WASHINGTON ó The descriptions are haunting. Some victims felt fine in the morning and were dead by night. Faces turned blue as patients coughed up blood. Stacked bodies outnumbered coffins. A century after one of historyís most catastrophic disease o...
Published: 01/17/18
A popular school fundraiser is just Ďjunk-food marketing to kids,í experts say

A popular school fundraiser is just Ďjunk-food marketing to kids,í experts say

For 43 years, schoolkids and their parents have clipped the labels from cookie bags and cracker boxes as part of a popular rewards program called Labels for Education.Through this and similar programs ó think Tysonís Project A+ or General Millsí Box ...
Published: 01/17/18
Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Pinellas is at the center of a rise in Florida flu outbreaks

Feeling a little sniffly or scratchy or stuffed up? It may be the flu, and you donít want to wait around to see a doctor this year. This is not the time to write off flu-like symptoms, Tampa Bay area health officials and doctors warn. The influenza v...
Published: 01/16/18

CDC says ĎThereís lots of flu in lots of places.í And itís not going away anytime soon.

A nasty flu season is in full swing across the United States, with a sharp increase in the number of older people and young children being hospitalized, federal health officials said Friday.The latest weekly data from the Centers for Disease Control ...
Published: 01/12/18