Tampa Bay remained among the top regions in the nation for Obamacare sign-ups in 2016, according to figures released Thursday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
More than 284,000 local residents chose health insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace during the open enrollment period that ended Jan. 31. Only seven metropolitan areas in states using a federally run exchange enrolled more people: Miami, Atlanta, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, Orlando, Chicago and Philadelphia.
"We beat expectations," said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat who supports the Affordable Care Act. "It's good news for our entire community. People will be able to see a doctor or a nurse and get the care they need … and those who already have insurance won't have to pick up the tab for other people."
Nationally, the number of consumers who signed up for coverage or had their existing plans automatically renewed for 2016 topped 12.7 million, according to federal health officials. The overall number included more than 4 million new consumers.
Florida once again led all states using a federally facilitated marketplace with 1.7 million enrollees.
Raymond Paultre, the Florida state director for the nonprofit Enroll America, said the figure "shows what we've been seeing in communities across Florida –— consumers continue to want affordable health coverage and jumped at the opportunity to protect themselves and their family."
But Paultre, whose organization held enrollment events across the state, said there is still work to do. A report issued before the end of the open enrollment period found Florida still had more than 2.8 million uninsured residents.
Castor pointed out that many of those residents fall in the so-called "coverage gap," meaning they make too much to qualify for Medicaid but too little to receive the subsidies that help offset the cost of Obamacare plans.
The state Legislature has repeatedly refused federal funds to expand health insurance coverage to 800,000 residents.
People who didn't enroll this year faced a tax penalty of $695 for every adult in their household or 2.5 percent of household income, up from $325 per person or 2 percent of household income last year.
Contact Kathleen McGrory at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.