Florida Obamacare health insurance costs cheaper than expected

09/25/13 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Wednesday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: kathy castor, healthcare, wmnf, Obamacare, Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services

photo by Janelle Irwin/WMNF News

The department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that health costs through insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act will be even less than expected in Florida. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) celebrated the announcement at Tampa International Airport today before flying back to Washington D.C.

“HHS has reported that some of the rates will be around $100. I mean, that makes it very affordable for the young person who is out there working. I know President Obama said yesterday that some of these monthly health insurance rates are going to be lower than cell phone bills.”

A 27-year-old earning $25,000 a year in Florida could obtain a policy for less than $100 after tax credits. And a family of four earning $50,000 annually could find a policy as low as $104. According to the HHS report, only 15 other states will have rates lower than in Florida.

“Health insurance rates are going to be very affordable. They’ve come in lower than expected and even, many of the plans lower than the national average here in Florida even though the governor and the legislature took away the insurance commissioner’s ability to negotiate rates. So, that’s why it was a big question; where Florida’s rates would land.”

The insurance marketplaces established under the federal healthcare law will open on Tuesday. Jodi Ray is the program director of Florida Covering Kids and Families which received a more than $4 million grant to hire and train navigators to help people through the process.

“We already have been taking appointments for October 1st and HHS or healthcare.gov is hosting where people can get information local to them to find out where somebody is to provide the assistance they need. So, these navigators and their contact information and the kind of assistance that they can provide will be available on the website for consumers starting next week. So, they can go on there now and start setting up their accounts and start getting some information to get ready to apply and that’s what we’re encouraging families and individuals to do now.”

Governor Rick Scott and the Republican-led legislature blocked navigators from public health centers in the state. The move has been criticized by some for not allowing uninsured or under-insured people to have access to help in those kinds of facilities. Despite that, Ray said groups are making sure that navigators will available in a variety of places.

“We’re going to have people in Hispanic health initiatives and places where they’re dealing with people who have various disabilities and speak other languages. So, our focus has been focused on getting navigators into places where we know they’re going to have the contact and the reach for the populations we need to get to in a state that is as demographically and geographically diverse as Florida.”

Republicans who voted for the bill said it was to ensure privacy rights, but member of Congress Castor blasted them for the decision.

“It was kind of an absurd move by the governor to say that people that want to get to a doctor or see a nurse in an affordable way, these navigators won’t have access to folks in our public health centers.”

Florida also rejected $50 billion to expand Medicaid. That money would have funded insurance for 1 million more Floridians. Under the insurance marketplace, some of those people will get tax credits to help pay for their policies, but some won’t qualify for the subsidy. Castor said that could put a burden on taxpayers.

“Then in essence what you have is a Republican legislature and governor that are barring access to the doctor’s office. They’re standing right there in the door way and saying, ‘unlike other states across America, we’re not going to cover you.’ And what that does it makes it more expensive for people that have insurance because they’re still going to go to the emergency room.”

The HHS report also highlighted the choices that will be available to consumers. There will be an average of 53 plans from at least two different companies to choose from.

Florida Covering Kids and Families’ Ray will be a guest on the Last Call Thursday at 4:30 p.m. to answer questions about the insurance marketplaces and how to find a navigator.

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