Fla. over­comes bar­ri­ers to en­roll the unin­sured

Modern Healthcare - - REGIONAL NEWS -

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.

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