Taxpayers float 91 percent of Florida’s Obamacare enrollees

By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Obamacare health plans obtained through Florida’s federal exchange are eminently affordable — when applying generous government subsidies.

AFFORDABLE?: New administration data shows 91 percent of Florida’s health exchange participants receive taxpayer premium subsidies.

On average, those subsidies cost taxpayers 80 cents on the dollar, new data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows.

The average cost of a monthly premium for a Florida plan is $347, according to an HHS research brief, released Wednesday. The average tax credit — paid directly to insurance companies — is $278, or 80 percent, making the end cost to the Obamacare enrollee only $68.

Floridians making more than $46,000 a year and applying as individuals receive no financial aid, pre-existing condition or not.

Newly confirmed HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell lauded the assisted premium prices and cited the department’s data as evidence the health-care overhaul is living up to its billing.

“What we’re finding is that the marketplace is working. Consumers have more choices, and they’re paying less for their premiums,” Burwell said in a statement.

“Nearly (seven) in 10 consumers who signed up (nationwide) for marketplace coverage are paying $100 or less for that coverage. When there is choice and competition, everybody benefits,” she said.

But the so-called marketplace doesn’t seem to benefit people who don’t qualify for subsidies. Just 9 percent of participating Floridians aren’t getting government assistance.

Of the reported one million Florida enrollees — the most of any of the 36 states with federally run exchanges — 91 percent received taxpayer-funded premium assistance. Even more, 98 percent, received subsidies for the exchange’s mid-level silver plan, the most popular selection.

Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Naples-based Foundation for Government Accountability, a free-market oriented nonprofit specializing in health policy, said the price the consumer sees is misleading.

“The Affordable Care Act does almost nothing to reduce health insurance premiums, the subsidies on the exchange simply mask the full cost of premiums as federal taxpayers are paying the vast majority of the cost,” Archambault told Watchdog.org.

“Obamacare coverage expansions are paid for with huge tax increases, and reductions in Medicare payments for our nations’ seniors,” he added.

A Forbes analysis, published the same day as the HHS data, found premium prices for individual-market plans in Florida increased an average of 46 percent for men and 34 percent for women since the ACA was fully implemented.

Lee County, encompassing Fort Myers, has the highest rate of increase — 132 percent for men and 96 percent for women.

Many individual-market plans were canceled as result of the health law’s new regulations. Those that were reinstated after President Obama issued a public reprieve are slated to be canceled by the end of 2014, if not before.

Contact William Patrick at wpatrick@watchdog.org

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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