After years of delay -- and some last-minute website concerns that slowed things down a few more weeks --- Florida's state-based health exchange has finally launched at www.myfloridachoices.org.
Florida Health Choices was the vision of then-House Speaker now U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. But it has changed in scope over the years, partially because the federal insurance marketplace tied to the Affordable Care Act stole lots of thunder from Rubio's pet project when it launched last year.
The state-based exchange has taken a new direction. It offers discount cards and prepaid plans for services like dental and vision. There are even virtual doctor visits and access to a 24-hour nurse hotline that can be purchased. Unlike the federal site, Florida Health Choices does not offer insurance or provide financial assistance to help customers afford its options.
The Florida Health Choices board decided to target the uninsured who don't qualify for subsidies to afford policies on the Obamacare site, as well as people who may be looking for plans to supplement the insurance they already have.
The site's was delayed because news coverage of its pending launch caused web traffic to skyrocket, creating concerns about whether it could handle the demand. The site's administrators are planning for a soft launch and won't actively market Florida Health Choices initially to make sure everything runs smoothly.