Obamacare on a roll in Florida despite sharp opposition

February 18, 2014 

Floridians are now flocking to Affordable Care Act plans with almost 300,000 residents enrolled through the federal exchange. The figure surged by 88 percent in one month as website obstacles were cleared.

In another dramatic development, Florida joins 11 other states in meeting or exceeding the Obama administration's enrollment objectives by Feb. 1. The Sunshine State hit the 100 percent target of a little more than 295,000.

This success comes despite fierce political opposition out of Tallahassee and elsewhere, resistance that included a fruitless and expensive federal court challenge to the constitutionality of the law.

Like it or not, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. Despite the rocky rollout of the federal insurance exchange marketplace, online registration is working.

As the Miami Herald reported last week, Obamacare would likely enjoy higher registration had states like Florida played a more vigorous role in administering the program. Instead, Florida's Republican leaders fought tooth and nail, refused federal funds to create a state exchange and rejected an expansion of Medicaid.

Oddly enough, some 100,000 low-income Floridians learned of their eligibility for Medicaid health care coverage via the federal exchange. Had Florida accepted $51 billion in federal aid to enlarge Medicaid, an estimated 1 million uninsured residents would have gained coverage.

Of the newly qualified for Medicaid, almost 22,000 are children. Think how many poor residents would have a clear path to health care cheaper than a typical solution, in expensive emergency rooms. But at least 100,000 residents are on the road to stronger health care.

Florida ranks second to California in ACA enrollment, quite an achievement and quite an indication of the need for affordable health care insurance. Some 56 percent of ACA enrollees are women, a national mark that Florida mirrors. As President Obama has stated frequently, being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition.

The number of young enrollees -- between the ages of 18 and 34 -- is rising but remains below the administration's hopes before March 31. Higher enrollment would help keep premiums from rising by balancing the risk insurers will be carrying.

While Obamacare cannot be declared an overall success yet, in many ways the signs are encouraging.

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