Last year on Oct. 1, the opening day of the health insurance marketplace in Florida, Healthcare.gov may have been down but that didn't stop four navigators from the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida from meeting with the nursery workers of Plants In Design in Homestead to answer their questions about Obamacare. In March, the navigators returned, enrolling some of the employees in their first health insurance coverage.
The six-month period to enroll for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act ended on Monday much as it began in October: with computer problems that prevented consumers from signing up through the HealthCare.gov website.
But unlike the glitch-addled launch of the federally-run website that serves 36 states — including Florida — the closing day included tangible measures of success, with the Sunshine State emerging as a leader in enrollment.
Of the more than 6 million Americans who selected health plans through February, more than 440,000 were Floridians — exceeding every other state relying on the federally-run insurance exchange, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
An additional 125,000 Floridians were assessed eligible for Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poor, HHS reported.
Many of Florida’s sign-ups came from Miami-Dade, which is home to the state’s highest number of uninsured residents.
April Washington, a regional government relations director for HHS, said Miami-Dade led Florida in sign ups and was the nation’s second-most enrolled county as of March 15.
Yet even with those successes, questions about the health law remain. To what extent has the law reduced the number of uninsured Americans, estimated at 45 to 48 million people before October? Did enough young or healthy people enroll to balance out the sicker and older in the risk pool? And how many of those who selected a health plan have paid their first month’s premium?
Those questions might not be answered for months or longer as federal health officials analyze and release enrollment data.
But the demand for health insurance among Miami-Dade residents remained strong through Monday.
Strong interest lasted well into the afternoon, despite glitches with the federal exchange website, said Robert Linder, chief executive of Borinquen.
“People were coming in like a stream,” Linder said. “Today was the busiest day we’ve had, by far.” Read more.
Miami Herald staff photo/Video by Patricia Borns