Over 487,000 Floridians sought health insurance this year, report finds

Florida leads the nation with the most health insurance enrollees — 487,342 — through the state marketplace during the 2021 Special Enrollment Period (SEP), which concluded Sunday, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The SEP report estimates over 2.5 million Americans gained health coverage through HealthCare.gov and state marketplaces during the SEP.

 

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Image: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

 

Audrey Brown, president and CEO of the Florida Association for Health Plans put the increased enrollments in the context of the pandemic:

“The growth in enrollment during the national Special Enrollment Period reflects the recognition by Floridians that they need access to quality health care services. The pandemic has impacted everyone, so it is not surprising to see people choosing to find coverage. Florida’s health plans are here to ensure access to quality health care services for all of their members, whether they are Medicaid, Medicare or commercially insured.” 

Florida is becoming the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic, with over 20,000 new COVID cases as of Thursday, according to the Florida Hospital Association.  

A census analysis from the Florida Policy Institute estimated 13.2% of state residents were uninsured in 2019. Despite the increase in state marketplace enrollments and approximately 4.2 million individuals enrolled in Florida Medicaid and the Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as of March 2021, some Floridians are still without coverage. 

Florida is one of 14 states that has not yet adopted the 2014 Medicaid expansion, although the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities estimates 425,000 uninsured adults could become eligible. 

Lawmakers continue to debate the issue. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, an initiative to put Medicaid expansion on the 2020 ballot was delayed by its organizing committee to the 2022 ballot.

At the 2021 Florida State of Reform Health Policy Conference, Rep. Dotie Joseph (D, Miami-Date), proposed a reason for the delay: 

“I think part of what’s driving this [delay in Medicare expansion] is an inherent disconnect between the needs of the people, versus their personal experiences…[Most legislators] don’t understand the ramifications, financial or otherwise, of having to use your emergency health care system as your primary or maintenance care system.”

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Florida Medicaid) did not immediately respond to State of Reform’s request for comment.