In 2010, 17.3 percent of adults in Florida reported they were unable to see a doctor in the past year due to cost. The Common Wealth Fund reports that between 2003 and 2009, the cost of health insurance policies for families in Florida increased 38 percent; the cost of policies for individuals rose 25 percent over the same period. Statewide, 20 percent of Floridians lack health insurance. Of those with health coverage, 42 percent are covered through their employers, 5 percent hold individual private policies and 33 percent are enrolled in public programs such as Medicaid and Medicare. 
Who are the uninsured in Florida?
At all income levels, the uninsured rate for adults ages 19-64 is 28 percent; among children, the rate is 14 percent. Among households with incomes less than 139 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, the uninsured rate is 53 percent for adults younger than 65 and 20 percent among children. Hispanics, excluding those who are 65 or older and eligible for Medicare, are uninsured at a rate of 36 percent. Among non-elderly Blacks, the uninsured rate is 28 percent, and 18 percent of non-elderly Whites are uninsured in Florida. 
What health care programs are available in Florida?
In 2008, to address the need for affordable health insurance, the Florida State Legislature created the Cover Florida Health Care Access Program. Six insurance providers contracted with the state to offer uninsured Florida residents primary and catastrophic care polices at affordable rates. As of January 2013, all six companies either have withdrawn from the program or have notified policyholders their insurance will not be renewed.  The state continues with its efforts to increase access to affordable healthcare with the Florida Health Choices program. Small businesses, with between two and 50 employees, may purchase plans through an online insurance marketplace. The state does not require a minimum benefit level for participating plans, nor does it offer subsidies to help defray premium costs. To be eligible for coverage, individuals must be employed by a participating employer.
How does the Affordable Care Act affect Floridians?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The law requires states provide their citizens with access to health insurance through a health insurance exchange. The current Florida Health Choices program does not meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. Under the act, policies offered through the exchanges must cover a core package of Essential Health Benefits (EHB). Lower income households may be eligible for tax credits to offset premium costs when purchasing a policy through the exchange. States have the option of setting up their own health insurance marketplace, running one in partnership with the federal government, or leaving the operation of the exchange to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The state of Florida has chosen not to launch a marketplace in compliance with the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, by default, Florida’s insurance marketplace will be run by the federal government.
Florida’s Health Insurance Marketplace
Beginning October 1, the federal website Healthcare.gov is the portal through which Florida residents may compare, select and purchase health insurance policies with coverage effective January 1, 2014. Plans available to Florida residents will have a package of Essential Health Benefits based on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Blue Options Plan. The federal website has a web chat functions and may be accessed with mobile devices. The site also offers information about available tax credits and subsidies. For assistance by phone, consumers may reach the call center 24-hours a day at 1-800-318-2596.
The Department of HHS offers funds to community health centers to provide in-person enrollment assistance and conduct community outreach events. HHS estimates that 48 health centers throughout Florida are eligible for these funds.
For information about the services provided by community health centers, or to locate a community health center in Florida, contact:
External Resources for Florida Residents
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Cover USA.org
- Florida Office of Insurance Regulation
- The Kaiser Family Foundation
- State Refor(u)m
Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.