Florida leads states in Obamacare enrollment

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THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

Florida led the nation with 1.3 million residents signing up for 2017 coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act by a Monday deadline, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday.

Floridians seeking health insurance through the federal marketplace were up more than 14 percent from the 1.14 million Floridians who had signed up during the same time last year, federal officials said. More than 1.5 million Floridians were covered by the federal program, which is also known as Obamacare, in 2016.

The 1.3 million Floridians signed up for 2017 coverage will grow, as the number does not include consumers who were automatically enrolled in the program, federal officials said.

More to come
The number also only reflects those signing up for coverage beginning Jan. 1. Floridians can still enroll in Obamacare through Jan. 31, with the coverage beginning March 1. Updated numbers, including the automatic enrollees, will be released next month.

In a phone conference with reporters, Sylvia Burwell, the Health and Human Services secretary, said the Florida numbers, and the record 6.4 million consumers who signed up nationally for the Jan. 1 coverage, reflect the fact that the federal health care program “is vital to them and their families.”

Burwell said the federal health care program faces “head winds” as President-elect Donald Trump and Congress have vowed to repeal Obamacare. But she said Floridians who sign up for the 2017 coverage will be covered through next year, as the debate evolves over repealing and replacing the program in Washington, D.C.

Still no plan
Congressional Republicans are considering a “lightning-strike” rollback of Obamacare early next year to kick off the Trump era, but first they have to agree on a plan.

The Republican plan would take advantage of “reconciliation,” a budget-related mechanism to circumvent the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and prevent Democrats from being able to block legislation on their own. By striking early, the GOP could set itself up to invoke the same procedure again later in the year on a broader range of targets, including tax cuts.

Passing something in Trump’s first 100 days would allow Republicans to claim a big win early on, and conservatives are demanding the GOP deliver quickly.

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