The Affordable Care Act Marketplace opens October 1st. Despite considerable opposition from some residents and lawmakers, Floridians will be able to shop online for health insurance and compare rates for different levels of coverage.
The Affordable Care Act is for people who don’t have health insurance – or who buy insurance on their own instead of getting coverage through an employer.
Michael DeFilippi is 28 years old. He says he’s in good health – doesn’t drink, smoke or do drugs – and would rather pay a fine than pay insurance premiums.
“I don’t have health insurance", DeFilippi said. "I don’t see the need for it. I’m very healthy and active, so I just don’t have any interest in it.”
He’s part of the vocal opposition to the Affordable Care Act, which is designed to give more people insurance and lower overall healthcare costs for taxpayers.
“I don’t think I should be forced to buy health insurance", DeFilippi complained. "I have no problem taking the risk of just having good health and hopefully no accidents will happen.”
Florida’s Republican leadership also doesn’t agree with the health insurance mandate. The state won’t have any oversight regarding the cost of coverage, choosing instead to let the federal government handle it.
Naples Republican Rep. Matt Hudson says the country will have a shortage of 90,000physicians and 1.2 million nurses by the year 2020 because of the new rules governing healthcare. He recently told a House panel in Washington that the federal government is keeping states in the dark about the Affordable Care Act, or ACA.
“What we do know doesn’t look very good", Hudson said. "The ACA will make our health workforce shortage even worse and has led to skyrocketing premiums, has kept states uninformed and puts consumers’ privacy at risk through the insurance exchanges. Patients will face even longer wait times and worse access to specialty care.”
Figures just released by the federal government show Floridians will pay about $250 a month on average for the lowest cost plans. And that amount will be reduced for those who qualify for tax credits.
Damien Filer with the advocacy group Progress Florida says critics of the ACA should remember that nearly a quarter of Florida residents have no healthcare coverage. He says those shopping for insurance have nothing to fear from healthcare navigators - the people offering assistance.
“These are people that have received training, that understand what the laws are as regards people’s privacy. There’s really no difference between this and when people have questions about Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security", Filer said. "It’s simply a resource for people.”
Shoppers can create an account now at healthcare.gov. They won’t get much help from the state. Florida leaders – citing privacy concerns - have banned navigators from entering county health departments. But several counties, including Broward, Miami Dade, and Pinellas, say they will ignore the order.
The cost of premiums will be based on income, family size, and the level of coverage. There are four plans that range from bronze – the most basic coverage – to platinum. Geographic location will also factor in to the cost.
Carol Gentry with Health News Florida says the Marketplace will serve the uninsured of all ages as well as those who buy private insurance because they don’t have benefits at work.
“There are so many uninsured people from 50 to 65 who cannot get insurance. They have either been priced out of the market because of their age or they have a preexisting health condition", explained Gentry. "They will be definitely helped.”
Shoppers on the ACA Marketplace can compare plans and enroll starting October 1st. Plans are effective in January. Open enrollment for coverage through 2014 closes at the end of March.