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Bob Buckhorn once again all in in selling the ACA to the uninsured in Tampa

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

Sign-ups for the Affordable Care Act began last week, and once again Bob Buckhorn is all in in getting people to sign up for health insurance.

The Tampa Mayor participated in a conference call on Monday afternoon to discuss the  “Healthy Communities Challenge,” a White House-led effort that attempts to engage communities with large number of uninsured people to get them to sign up for the ACA, a/k/a “Obamacare.”

“It makes a difference, in a very, very tangible way,” Buckhorn said about getting people signed up for health care insurance. The mayor, who has worked hard on behalf of the Obama administration the past two years in getting people in Tampa/Hillsborough County signed up, boasted that Florida had more than 1.3 million people signup for the ACA in 2014, the most in the country, with over 77,000 of them coming from Hillsborough.

“Those are our friends, those are our neighbors, those are our constituents, those are people who now have a sense of security, a sense of hope, a belief that better days are yet ahead because they don’t have that ominous threat hanging over their head, that God forbid something happened to them and they not have heath insurance,” Buckhorn said.

The mayor later added that he intends to open up community centers throughout the city to allow so-called navigators sign up enrollees.

Tampa is one of 20 local communities fighting for the “Healthy Communities Challenge,” and as President Obama wrote in an op-ed in each of those 20 communities, he’ll visit the city who signs up the most (his local op-ed was posted by the Tampa Bay Times this weekend).

Since the ACA because available to sign up for two years ago, 17.6 million Americans have gained coverage, and the nation’s uninsured rate is the lowest its been ever, according to Kristie Canegallo, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation.

She says the vast majority of those looking to get on the ACA (more than 70%) can do so by paying just $70 or less (after tax credits go through).

The average rate increase in 30 of the largest insurance markets — which cover about 60% of the consumers in the 38 states like Florida that do not have their own heath exchange —  is 6.3% for the second lowest-cost silver plan, which is considered the benchmark plan used to determine tax credits, according to USA Today. Across all markets in the 37 states using Healthcare.gov for 2015, the cost of the benchmark plan will increase an average of 7.5 percent.

That’s up from an average increase of 5 percent for 2015. It doesn’t include tax credits, which averaged about $270 a month in 2015. Tax credits are available to consumers earning up to 400% of the federal poverty limit, which is about $95,000 for a family of four.

“If you look back before the Affordable Care Act, double-digit increases were the norm,” said Canegallo. For those who are seeing larger than 7 – 7.5% percent increases in their premiums, she said that the White House is “encouraging” those people to come back and shop around on healthcare.gov.

Of the approximately 10.5 million Americans who the government believes still need to get insurance, half are between the ages of 18-34, with 80 percent of them eligible for federal subsidies. More than a third of the uninsured are people of color – 17 percent Hispanic, 14 percent black and 2 percent Asian. And 57 percent are male.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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