Obamacare Open Enrollment Begins Nov. 1
By Frank Gluck, Fort Myers News-Press
Open enrollment on the federal health insurance exchange that serves 38 states, including Florida, starts Sunday. Holdouts have a new incentive to get required coverage: a penalty of $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater.
Groups helping with the Affordable Care Act held a teleconference with Florida reporters on Wednesday announced a series of sign-up efforts that will run through the enrollment period, which ends Jan. 31.
A big piece of this year’s campaign will focus on populations that are still unfamiliar with the law, such as legal residents with language barriers, and those living in rural areas, said Jodi Ray, state director of Covering Florida.
Many of these people may never have held health insurance and have little understanding of coverage basics, such as setting appointments, finding doctors and medical services come with co-payments, she said.
“The only way that we’re going to retain enrollees, and the best way to retain enrollees, is to make sure the individuals who purchase insurance and participate in the insurance program know how to value it,” Ray said, adding: “It’s a continuous component of the outreach and enrollment work that we are doing.”
About 1.6 Floridians enrolled in health coverage during the last enrollment period, according to government figures. That includes nearly 42,000 people in Lee County, 23,000 in Collier County and more than 9,500 in Charlotte County. More than 90 percent received some sort of tax credit that reduced monthly premiums.
The upcoming $695 penalty is sharply higher than this year’s $325.
“The tax penalty will become much more severe this year,” Ray said. “That could potentially cover an individual for up to eight months, or they can pay the government a fee.”
Nearly 28 percent of Lee County’s adults between 18 and 64 are uninsured, according to Census Bureau estimates. Collier’s rate is 31.5 percent.
The Affordable Care Act requires adults to have coverage if they do not have a qualifying plan through work or through government plans like Medicare and Medicaid.
But the law allows exemptions for Floridians who would have qualified for an expanded Medicaid program, as envisioned by the health law. These residents, who earn between 100 percent and 138 percent of the federal poverty level (about $27,724 for a family of three) also don’t qualify for subsidies to purchase plans on the exchange.
Southwest Floridians can find more information through the exchange at healthcare.gov, or through the Health Planning Council of Southwest Florida (866-547-2793).
“I think we all can agree that no one should have to worry about a broken bone or an unexpected illness that could lead to bankruptcy,” said Kyle Simon of the health consumer group Florida CHAIN . “For Floridians who currently lack health insurance, the new health insurance options are there to cover the care they need and provide the security they need for their families.”