By Nicholas Nehamas, Insurance News Net
December 30, 2014


More than 670,000 Floridians have signed up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act for 2015, the most of any state using the federal marketplace, according to federal data released Tuesday.

And 94 percent of Florida enrollees will receive financial aid from the government, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced.

The federal data track the number of consumers who signed up between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, the first month of open enrollment for the law popularly known as Obamacare.

This year’s enrollment has run far more smoothly than the disastrous inaugural sign-up period in 2013, when a glitchy healthcare.gov website prevented people around the nation from selecting a plan.

Fewer than 18,000 Florida residents were able to select a plan during the first two months of enrollment that year.

“We’re pleased that in Florida 673,255 people signed up for Marketplace coverage during the first month of open enrollment,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in a press release. “We still have a ways to go … but this is an encouraging start.”

Enrollment ends Feb. 15.

Florida leads the nation in the number of people signing up in the 37 states using the federal exchange at healthcare.gov, according to the recently released data. Texas was No. 2, with more than 379,000 consumers signing up.

Florida is the second-biggest state using the federal exchange after Texas. Some states with large populations, including California and New York, have established their own state-based marketplaces.

Percentage-wise, the state’s performance is on par with how it did last year, said Caroline Pearson, vice president at Avalere Health, a healthcare advisory firm in Washington, D.C.

“Last year at the end of open enrollment, Florida accounted for 18 percent of customers on the federal exchange,” Pearson said. “So far this year, it’s 19 percent.”

People who signed up last year said health coverage has helped change their lives.

Fabiola Alfred, 34, of Miami, said that before the health law went into effect she had never been able to afford health insurance despite holding several part-time jobs as a healthcare worker.

“I could afford to buy food or go to the doctor,” said Alfred, a mother of three. “But not both.”

Alfred had applied for Medicaid repeatedly, but each time state officials told her her income was too high. She signed up for Obamacare coverage last year after hearing an advertisement on television, and recently renewed her family plan for 2015.

Having health insurance was a “blessing” when she was pregnant with her youngest son, who is now 2 months old, Alfred said.

“I went to the doctor whenever I needed and the co-pay was only $15,” she said.

People who signed up last year but, unlike Alfred, failed to choose a new plan for 2015 were automatically re-enrolled in their existing coverage on Dec. 15.

The recently released federal numbers do not include state-level data on consumers who were automatically re-enrolled.

That means the actual number of Floridians with coverage for 2015 could be much higher than 670,000.

HHS likely will release the number of total sign-ups in the state next month.

At least 7.1 million Americans have selected a plan for next year, counting automatic re-enrollments, which are available at the federal level. The Obama administration has set a target of about 9.1 million enrollees for 2015.

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Carson Pedraza

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