In 2015, Florida achieved an impressive milestone, as the state's population reached 20.27 million. The Sunshine State now ranks as the third most-populous, trailing only California and Texas. Additionally, for the first time in a decade, Florida gained more people than California; 365,703, or more than 1,000 residents a day. This population growth illustrates the state's appeal, whether for employment, tourism or the natural beauty.
But many people are attracted to the state's healthcare system. Well into the third Affordable Care Act's (ACA's) third Open Enrollment Period (OEP), Florida's residents are signing up for health insurance in record numbers. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), as of Dec. 26, 2015, Florida had the highest enrollment numbers among the 38 states utilizing the government's Healthcare.gov platform.
Just the tip of the iceberg
The CMS noted that the eight weeks between the OEP's Nov. 1 start through Dec. 26, 2015, saw 1,556,551 Floridians enroll in ACA-compliant policies. But the state's success is only part of a nationwide effort. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS, which oversees the CMS) reported that as of Jan. 2, 2016, 11.3 million Americans have signed up in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This marks the first time during this OEP that nationwide enrollment figures have been released, including those for the 13 states (and the District of Columbia) running their own exchanges.
Florida's high enrollment figures are likely due to efforts to attract and motivate consumers. By enrolling during the OEP, residents are spared from having to pay substantial tax penalties. If found liable, consumers can expect to pay the greater of:
- $695 per adult and $347.50 per child, for a maximum of $2,085 per family; the 2015 penalty was $325 per adult and $162.50 per child
- 2.5 percent of your income above the tax filing threshold; the 2015 penalty was 2 percent
"We're reminding people the tax penalties are more painful," stated Jodi A. Ray, project director for Florida Covering Kids and Families, the nation's largest initiative focused on reducing the number of eligible, but uninsured children and adults through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) enrollment. "For the same money, most people can get health coverage for eight months to a year, rather than getting nothing for the penalty, she said. The penalty does not affect the majority of people in Florida or the country, who have qualifying health coverage from employers or government programs like Medicare."