Florida Is Becoming an Unlikely Obamacare Success Story

Despite Florida Republicans pretty much doing everything within their power to derail Obamacare, more than 440,000 Florida residents have already enrolled Affordable Care Act through the federal marketplace website.

According to a report by the AP, the state is expected to blow projections out of the water by the time enrollment closes on March 31.

Florida GOPers, meanwhile, have done everything to block navigators -- workers hired to help people enroll -- from getting into county health departments, and offering no financial help for groups looking to help the nearly 3.5 million uninsured Floridians get enrolled.

See also: Broward County to Have Obamacare Navigators, Despite Rick Scott's Crusade to Ban Them

Another strong Republican state, Texas, has seen 295,000 enrolled so far. Other states, such as Arizona, and Georgia, are also lagging behind.

With all the obstructions by the Republican-led Legislature, Florida was considered an unlikely place to have so many enrolled, unlike states such as the Democratic-heavy New York, which has seen over 700,000 enrolled as of March 24. It's far more than Florida but, unlike the Sunshine State, New York was expected to see a big number.

"It's a system that works," Emily Wren, who works for one of the roughly fifty non-profits that employ navigators in New York, tells New Times. "People who couldn't get health care because of costs, are now able to do so. People are learning that it's not going to cost them a year's salary to get healthcare."

The high enrollment numbers in Florida will only be more fodder for both sides as election season starts to boil.

"(The Republicans) are going to use Obamacare as a hammer over the Democratic candidates in November," Democratic strategist Screven Watson told the Associated Press.

Florida is particularly tricky, because both sides of the aisle are known for bombarding the airwaves with ads, usually designed to scare the crap out of people to pick a side.

But Florida GOP leadership haven't been shy about derailing Obamacare.

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi have gone strong to the hoop in trying to derail navigators in the state, claiming that they're not properly trained to handle medical information.

Scott even tried to petition Congress to keep county health departments from allowing navigators in their buildings. Broward was one of the first counties in the state to defy Scott's navigator ban.

"Navigators are not allowed to recommend insurance companies to clients," Wren says. "All we do is sit down with them for an hour, help them sign the application, and guide them through the process."

Wren tells New Times that being a navigator is just about answering common misconceptions.

"People come into it thinking that they won't be able to see their doctor," she says. "They hear horror stories about the healthcare system in Europe, how they'll be forced to wait in endless lines and not even see their own doctor, but it's not like that."

The other misconception, Wren says, is that the Affordable Care Act is not, well.... affordable.

According to at least one report, Florida could bring coverage to 1.3 million low-income adults, and nearly $50 billion in federal funding over the next decade. Scott seems to know the reported benefits, which is why he came out in support for Medicaid expansion last year.

So, as it ever was, even with the roughly 6 billion people having signed up for it nationwide, Florida will be at the center of the politics of Obamacare's enrollment success.

No doubt Democrats nationwide will point to our state as election season gets rolling.

Send your story tips to the author, Chris Joseph.

Follow Chris Joseph on Twitter

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph