Florida Keys News - Islamorada/KL Free Press
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Florida Keys not immune to Obamacare glitches

MONROE COUNTY -- Like elsewhere around the country, last week's roll-out of the new healthcare insurance exchange in Monroe County had kinks.

But there was also plenty of interest, according Kim Romano, executive director of Womankind in Key West, which is assisting people who want to participate in the insurance marketplace.

The marketplace is a key part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.

Over the first three days that the exchange was open, Romano said about 20 people each day had reached out to Womankind to learn their insurance options.

However, glitches in the online marketplace, many of them attributed to high traffic nationwide, had prevented the Womankind staff from getting anyone signed up.

"I'm not worried because we're taking people's name and number and we're setting up appointments," Romano said.

Individuals and families have until Dec. 15 to sign up on the exchange for a health plan that would take effect on Jan. 1. The new year also marks the beginning of Obamacare's individual mandate, under which people who don't have insurance are subject to a $95 fine.

The overburdened healthcare.gov website wasn't the only snafu with the start-up of the Keys insurance exchange.

Under Obamacare, the federal government is providing funding for workers who will help people navigate through the exchange and purchase a policy.

Community Health of South Florida, which runs a clinic in Marathon and several in Miami-Dade County, is tasked with hiring three such Keys helpers, one to be located at Womankind, another to be at Community Health's Marathon Health Center and the third to be based in an office at the Pink Plaza shopping center in Key Largo.

But as of last Thursday, Community Health was still in the hiring process, spokeswoman Tiffani Helberg said. She wasn't sure when the outreach assistants would be in place.

"As soon as possible," she said, adding that enrollment assistance also can be obtained by calling (786) 272-2100.

Meanwhile, the first week of the exchange offered a more detailed look at the cost of Keys policies on the insurance exchange. Two companies, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna, are offering a combined 38 different policies in Monroe, where the prices are the highest of Florida's 67 counties.

Actual premiums vary widely, based both on the age of the policy holder and such factors as the benefits, co-pays and deductibles that are included in each plan.

In addition, premium subsidies are available to many individuals making between $11,500 and $46,000 or families of four making between $23,500 and $94,000.

Subsidies excluded, the exchange's cheapest plan in Monroe County would cost $243 per month for a 27-year-old. That same plan would cost $414 for a 50-year-old and $820 for a family.

However, according to an online subsidy estimator posted by Blue Cross Blue Shield, a single 27-year-old in Monroe County who makes $30,000 this year would be eligible for a federal insurance subsidy of $122 per month.

A single 50-year-old who also makes $30,000 would be eligible for a monthly subsidy of $354. And a family of four in which the sole money maker is 50 and earns $60,000 would be eligible for a $649 monthly subsidy.

rsilk@keysnews.com

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