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Florida could surpass record Affordable Care Act enrollment in 2023

As the annual sign-up period begins, subsidies and a fix to the “family glitch” are expected to bring in scores who couldn’t enroll before.
Open enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act began Tuesday and runs through Jan. 15, 2023. This past year, a record 2.7 million Floridians were insured through the federal program.
Open enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act began Tuesday and runs through Jan. 15, 2023. This past year, a record 2.7 million Floridians were insured through the federal program. [ JUAN FIGUEROA | The Dallas Morning News ]
Published Nov. 4

The window to enroll for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act began this week with many experts predicting that participation in 2023 will likely surpass the record 14.5 million people who signed up for insurance through the federal program this year.

Florida, which led the nation with 2.7 million enrollees in 2022, could also surpass that number next year, said Jodi Ray, executive director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, which provides navigators across the state to help people pick and enroll in federal marketplace insurance plans. The uptick is expected to include some of the estimated 5.1 million families across the nation who were previously ineligible for health insurance subsidies because of a glitch in the rules.

“I expect this year to be busier,” Ray said. “We’re already seeing a steady flow of appointments and calls.”

Related: Florida sets new record for Affordable Care Act enrollment

Since it took effect in 2014, the Affordable Care Act — often called “Obamacare” — has made health insurance affordable to more Americans by creating health insurance marketplaces and subsidizing the cost of premiums.

A rule change made by the Biden Administration last month is expected to attract many more families to the program.

Previously, people with access to health insurance through their employer could qualify for a subsidy only if the premium was more then 9.5% of their household income. But the threshold applied only to the premium to insure the employee and didn’t consider the cost to cover their family.

The so-called “family glitch” left an estimated five million people ineligible for subsidies, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Even when family insurance premiums were as much as $800 or $900 per month, some low-income families couldn’t get help, Ray said.

“We’ve seen where it leaves people in the lurch,” Ray said. “We saw a lot of families over the years that couldn’t qualify for affordable coverage.”

Finding those families — many of whom may have given up on the program — will be one of the challenges of this enrollment window, Ray said.

The organization she leads this year received $12.9 million, up by roughly $1 million from last year, to market the health care program and provide navigators across the state. The group is trying several new approaches to reach families over the next two months. That includes a text message service and QR Codes, a barcode that can be scanned by a smartphone to direct users to information on the internet.

It has also partnered with the iHeart radio network to connect with families in hard-to-reach rural areas and to take their messaging into laundromats, barber shops and bodegas.

Some of the additional funding the group received this year is earmarked to raise awareness of a potential health crisis anticipated for early next year when the federal government is expected to rescind the public health emergency declaration put in place for COVID-19.

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Under the declaration, states were not allowed to terminate a person’s Medicaid coverage, even if they were no longer eligible because of an increase in household income or some other life change. That will likely mean tens of thousands of Floridians losing coverage all at once.

“Florida doesn’t have a plan that anyone is aware of to deal with this,” Ray said.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, speaks at an event to promote the start of enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Behind her are Gian Johnson, Director of Assister Programs, CMS Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, left, Ellen Montz, CMS Deputy Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and, right, Katie Roders Turner, executive director of the Family Healthcare Foundation.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, speaks at an event to promote the start of enrollment for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act. Behind her are Gian Johnson, Director of Assister Programs, CMS Consumer Information & Insurance Oversight, left, Ellen Montz, CMS Deputy Administrator, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and, right, Katie Roders Turner, executive director of the Family Healthcare Foundation. [ Office of Kathy Castor ]

Enrollment in the Tampa Bay region is being run by Family Healthcare Foundation, a Tampa nonprofit set up to help families and individuals in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Polk counties find insurance.

The group this year will receive $2 million in federal funds and pays to have navigators at Tampa General Hospital and at medical facilities run by BayCare Health System, Evara Health and Premier Community HealthCare Group.

“With those funds we can have 35 navigators over four counties,” said Katie Roders Turner, the group’s executive director.

Premiums for plans provided through the federal marketplace are about 4% higher than last year, according to an analysis by Kaiser. In Florida, the increase is about 3%. The subsidies mean that many families won’t have to pay the increase.

Health insurance company Florida Blue has offered federal marketplace insurance plans in every Florida county since the program began in 2013.

The extension of premium subsidies first passed as part of the American Rescue Act has made the program attractive to an increasing number of people, said Antonio Machargo, director of the Florida Blue Center in Winter Haven, where the public can walk in and get assistance finding insurance.

He recently found marketplace insurance for a 62-year-old woman who retired but is still too young to qualify for Medicare.

“We always encourage people who apply and didn’t qualify to come back and run the numbers,” he said.

• • •

Looking for health insurance?

The window to obtain insurance through the Affordable Care Act runs through Jan. 15, 2023, although the deadline is Dec. 15 for those who want their insurance to be effective by Jan. 1.

Visit coveringflorida.org or call 1-877-813-9115 for more information or to request an appointment with a navigator.

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