President Biden gives the green light to reopen enrollment in Obamacare, beginning Feb. 15


  • Photo courtesy Joe Biden/Facebook

How many more people want help getting health insurance in Florida? Well, the state is about to find out. President Joe Biden gave the green light to reopen enrollment in federally maintained health insurance created under Obamacare, beginning Feb. 15.

And that’s a significant development in Florida, where Republican elected officials loathe the law, but more than 2.1 million people took advantage of subsidized coverage through the federal health-insurance exchange last year.

[UPDATE: Rep. Anna V. Eskamani hosted a virtual event with Anne Packham of Primary Care Access Network on Thursday, Feb. 11, to discuss the reopening of the marketplace and took live questions from a Facebook audience. To access the Zoom recording, use passcode 8^iMdyKT ]

Biden approved the reopening of the exchanges operated under from Feb. 15 to May 15. The president said it was an important step in the ongoing fight against COVID-19.

Jodi Ray, who heads a group that helps find people and enroll them in the exchange, hailed the move. She said that, while a large number of people joined in 2020, she discovered that many others were not aware of tight enrollment timelines. 

“So many people missed the deadline because they just didn't know,” she said.

By the end of last year’s enrollment period, 2,120,350 Floridians enrolled in the exchange. That's more than any other state in the nation. Texas is second, with enrollment of 1,291,972. Nationwide, there were more than 8.2 million people enrolled in the federal health exchange for what is known as "Obamacare" coverage.

The special enrollment period, Ray said, will help displaced workers who missed the enrollment deadline. Additionally, people who bought short-term insurance plans without the benefits included in Obamacare could also benefit from the special open-enrollment period, she said.

Ray was hesitant, however, to put a number on how many additional people she thought could be enrolled in the coming months.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that it will conduct an outreach campaign in cooperation with community and stakeholder organizations, focused on education and awareness of the new opportunity to enroll, in English, Spanish and other languages.  Educational efforts will use a mix of paid advertising and direct outreach to consumers, CMS said.

It's not clear whether the federal government will make any additional funding available to states to assist with new enrollment. Florida "navigators" initially were appropriated $9 million to help find people and enroll them in health-insurance exchanges. Ray’s organization — Florida Covering Kids & Families at the University of South Florida — received the lion’s share of the money, with a $5.9 million grant.

Former President Donald Trump, though, drastically reduced the funding for navigators over the years, and the statewide allocation in 2020 was $1.6 million. Ray said she hasn’t heard whether the federal government will give navigators any additional funds for the open enrollment period.

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