2014 In Review: Floridians flock to Obamacare plans

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A glitchy website didn’t prevent hundreds of thousands of Floridians from buying  health insurance through the federal exchange (healthcare.gov) in 2014, the first year of available coverage under President Barack Obama’s signature legislation.

The Obama administration lowered its early estimates of enrollment, which placed the number of Floridians tapping into the federal exchange at 980,000. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation in the summer put the number of Floridians at 762,723. The OIR’s numbers include Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)-compliant plans sold outside the federal exchange.

The OIR estimated that in 2015, 1,072,513 ACA plans would be sold in Florida.

Florida–like many other Republican-controlled states–did not create a state exchange and the only way for individuals and families to  to tap into available subsidies is through the federal exchange.

Open Enrollment for 2015 started in November. The application process has been streamlined and small business can also use the exchange to purchase coverage through SHOP, or the Small Business Health Options Program.

Florida Health Choices–a program established by then House Speaker Sen. Marco Rubio, D-Florida–has shown an interest in coordinating its efforts with healthcare.gov to provide businesses and individuals access to the subsidies.

Meanwhile, the Florida Health Insurance Advisory Board on December 20 issued its annual report on the health insurance market. The report tracks and analyzes the commercial marketplace in 2013–the year before open enrollment in the federal health-care program.

The report shows that enrollment in the commercial market for 2013 dipped by nearly 6 percent with total enrollment down to 3.1 million covered lives. It is the fifth year that enrollment in those lines–which includes individuals, small group and large group.

The amount of commercial premium collected in 2013 was $12.57 million, also a dip from the previous year’s level.

Florida Health Choices Chief Executive Officer noted that the federal health-care law makes available a tax credit for small businesses that provide group coverage.

“It is not enough of an inducement to grow the small group market,” Naff said, noting that the Florida experience mirrors what’s occurring nationwide.

Instead,  employers are  moving toward defined contribution plans, which are not health insurance products. The plans allow employers  to fix their benefit costs and allow employees to reimburse themselves for the costs of individual health plans, the costs of which are paid by the employee.

The federal law made it easier for employers to make the jump to defined contribution plans  when it placed tiers of acceptable coverage into the law because it gave employers a  template they could follow and still be compliant with  all federal laws, including  ERISA and HIPAA, Naff  said.