By Daniel Chang, Bradenton Herald
January 14, 2015
With a month remaining to sign up for a health plan through the Affordable Care Act’s insurance marketplaces, Florida leads the 37 states using the federally run exchange in the number of people who selected a plan or were automatically re-enrolled, the Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday.
Nearly 1.2 million Floridians have signed up for a plan since open enrollment began Nov. 15, HHS reported, exceeding the Sunshine State’s total for the prior year, when 983,775 consumers selected a plan. That number was later reduced to account for those who didn’t keep up with their payments.
Nationwide, about 6.8 million Americans selected a health plan or were automatically re-enrolled during the current sign-up period, which ends Feb. 15. In the first month of sign-ups, about 87✔ percent qualified to receive financial aid to pay monthly premiums, HHS reported.
But while national enrollment numbers so far are on pace to exceed the prior year’s total of 8 million, government health officials and advocacy groups said they will focus outreach efforts in the final month on a particularly hard-to-reach group: Hispanics.
In a call with reporters Wednesday, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell said the federal government is spending more than it did the previous year to reach Hispanics through Spanish-language media — about one-third of the paid media budget, she said, compared with 10 percent last year.
Burwell said Hispanics should find it easier to enroll this year because of upgrades to healthcare.gov, including improved processing of hyphenated names, better verification of identity, and software that allows consumers to shop for a plan on a smart phone.
Nearly a third of those who visit healthcare.gov use a mobile device, she said, but on the Spanish-language website, CuidadoDeSalud.com, the number is nearly half of all users.
“We’re particularly focused on this community,’’ Burwell said, “because we believe there are health disparities that having health insurance will help.’’