Monday, January 22, 2018
Health

So far, a 'very busy' year for Obamacare enrollment in Florida

Nearly 445,000 Floridians enrolled in new Obamacare health plans or renewed their existing coverage during the first four weeks of open enrollment, federal health officials said Wednesday.

No other state using a federally run marketplace had amassed as many enrollees. Texas and North Carolina came closest, signing up about 225,000 and 140,000 people, respectively.

The data mirrors what enrollment groups in Florida are seeing on the ground from experts known as "navigators," who help people sign up.

"Our navigators have been very busy," said Jodi Ray, the project director for Florida Covering Kids & Families at the University of South Florida, the state's largest recipient of federal funding for navigators. "Their appointments have been filling up very fast."

Ray said enrollment appeared to be on pace with the previous two years, when Florida was among the top states in the nation.

Consumers have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage starting Jan. 1.

The enrollment window doesn't close until Jan. 31. But those who select a plan between Dec. 16 and Jan. 15 won't be covered until Feb. 1, and those who select a plan between Jan. 16 and Jan. 31 will have to wait until March 1.

Anyone who forgoes coverage — and doesn't have health insurance through their employer or a federal program like Medicaid — will face a steep fine. Next year, the penalty will increase to $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever amount is greater.

"The tax penalties are painful," Ray said, noting that $695 could purchase between eight and 12 months of coverage.

So far, more than two million Americans have signed up for Obamacare plans this year.

Of that total, about 700,000 are new customers, according to the figures from the Department of Health and Human Services. The remaining 1.3 million customers renewed their coverage.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell had said enrolling new people would be tough this year because the so-called Obamacare holdouts would be hard to reach. But on Wednesday, she said she was "encouraged" by the numbers.

She projects about 10 million people will enroll by the end of 2016.

In the Tampa Bay area, Ray's group will continue to focus on young adults, as well as black and Hispanic Floridians.

Signing up has been easy so far, she said Wednesday.

"We're finding that the process has been much more streamlined," she said, adding that appointments with navigators are much shorter than in previous years.

Jessica Kendall, director of the non-profit Families USA Enrollment Assister Network, urged consumers to consider their options before selecting a plan.

"When you look at all marketplace enrollees, about eight in 10 folks can find a lower-premium plan in the same metal tier by returning to the marketplace," she said.

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, didn’t have dental insurance. His job as a delivery truck driver offered only a supplemental policy that was to...
Updated: 7 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 I’d like to get a "3-D" mammogram instead of the standard test I’d had in the past."It’s more accurate," she said.What do you say to that? "No...
Published: 01/22/18
Expect some pain. That’s what hospitals are starting to tell patients as concern spreads over opioids

Expect some pain. That’s 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 nation’s opioid crisis. In an effort to be part of the cure, they’ve b...
Published: 01/19/18
It’s flu season, and how: Here’s what you need to know

It’s flu season, and how: Here’s 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 didn’t 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 Owens’s father was 75, he gave his son some advice. "He said, ‘You 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 Trump’s first medical checkup in office. SLEEP Trump doesn’t 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 — 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 history’s most catastrophic disease o...
Published: 01/17/18
A popular school fundraiser is just ‘junk-food marketing to kids,’ experts say

A popular school fundraiser is just ‘junk-food marketing to kids,’ 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 — think Tyson’s Project A+ or General Mills’ 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 don’t 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 ‘There’s lots of flu in lots of places.’ And it’s 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