Fla. overcomes barriers to enroll the uninsured
Florida’s Republican leaders have fought the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act at every turn, banning navigators from county health departments, offering no state dollars to boost outreach efforts to 3.5 million uninsured, and leading the fight to repeal the law. Yet the state has emerged as a tale of what went right with President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul.
More than 440,000 Florida residents had been enrolled through the federal marketplace through the end of February, putting Florida on pace to exceed the federal government’s initial projections by the time enrollment closes March 31.
The numbers are impressive for a state where Republicans control the governor’s mansion and both houses of the Legislature. By comparison, Republican-leaning Texas has enrolled 295,000 through the federal site, even though its population is about a third larger than Florida’s.
Florida’s success is due partly to infrastructure created in the swing state by Democratic-affiliated groups during the last three presidential elections. Also contributing is continued investment by the Obama administration and notfor-profit advocacy groups in the diverse state that will likely be competitive in November’s midterm election.
Groups helping customers enroll in ACA-related health plans have used many of the same people who ran Obama’s presidential campaigns, giving them five years of deeply entrenched relationships in communities, data to pinpoint the uninsured and veteran volunteers to track them down.
The successes and failures of the ACA also carry more political weight in a battleground state such as Florida where the new law will fuel election campaigns for Republicans and Democrats, said Democratic strategist Screven Watson.
The Republicans “are going to use Obamacare as a hammer over the Democratic candidates in November,” he said, adding that if Florida’s enrollment numbers were dismal, it could have big implications in 2016.
Florida’s Republican leaders chose not to spend any state money marketing the new health plans to millions of uninsured, so the work was supported by $20.5 million in federal grants plus manpower from the not-for-profit organization Enroll America.