Affordable Care Act Enrollment Underway
By Robin Williams Adams
WINTER HAVEN — Interest in getting or renewing health insurance coverage made more affordable by tax subsidies has been strong during the first weeks of this year's open enrollment.
That's despite the latest round of legislative efforts to gut some of the Affordable Care Act's key provisions and the president's promise to veto legislation seeking to do that.
"Enrollment is going well," said Ermelinda Centeno, director of enabling services for Central Florida Health Care, a federally qualified community health center with clinics throughout Polk County at which people can get assistance in understanding their choices.
Its local statistics for people enrolling through the Affordable Care Act marketplace are combined with those for Medicaid and other subsidized insurance, but she said the total number of applicants has been increasing each year the act has been in existence. This is its third open enrollment period.
Open enrollment started on Nov. 1. Nationally, 1.6 million people either enrolled or renewed during the first three weeks, said Jessica Kendall, director of the Families USA Enrollment Assister Network.
By November 28, the national number reached more than 2 million, including 444,711 in Florida, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
"We've been talking to folks all over the country," Kendall said. "Consumers are continuing to struggle with plan selection and renewal."
Centeno agreed, saying Central Florida's enrollment helpers often need to explain basic insurance concepts when people apply for the first time. Applicants typically have other issues to resolve as well, she said.
Florida Covering Kids and Families, which coordinates enrollment statewide, is trying to make it easier for people to enroll by linking them with assistance, Project Director Jodi Ray said.
"We're really trying to make sure people know how to get with a navigator," she said.
The group has a website, www.coveringflorida.org, and a telephone number, 877-813-9115, through which people can find a navigator or assister in their area.
They also can go to the federal website, www.healthcare.gov, for information, to enroll online on their own or find local enrollment centers.
Open enrollment lasts through Jan. 31, 2016. People who want insurance coverage to start on Jan. 1, however, need to enroll by Dec. 15.
A special enrollment event, with multiple people who can steer people through the enrollment process, is taking place from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 15 in the Winter Haven Hospital Grande Lobby. Healthcare navigators with its parent company, BayCare, will provide free one-on-one assistance, according to Cyndi Durham, a hospital spokeswoman.
Registration is required. People should call 855-404-3334 to make appointments for that event. They also can call that number, the BayCare Health Navigator Line, to make appointments at other times with navigators at Winter Haven Hospital and South Florida Baptist Hospital in Plant City.
Central Florida Health Care's numbers are: Frostproof, 863-635-4891; Lake Wales, 863-678-4360 Ext. 6504; Lakeland, 863-413-8600 Ext. 5002/5010; Mulberry, 863-425-6200, Ext. 1514; Winter Haven, 863-292-4280 Ext. 6004/6042.
Eligibility Screening Services for Community Health Systems, which has hospitals participating in East Polk, can be reached at 863-419-2438 or 863-678-2734.
Polk Indigent Health Care, which also can enroll people who qualify for the Polk HealthCare Plan, is at 863-534-5387.