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Healthy State tells the stories you need to know to stay well, with a special focus on Florida.We'll bring you the latest fitness trends, new research on preventing and treating disease, and information about how health policy impacts your pocketbook.We report on health using all the tools at our disposal -- video, audio, photos and text -- to bring these stories to life.Healthy State is a project of WUSF Public Media in Tampa and is heard on public radio stations throughout Florida. It also is available online at wusfnews.org.

FL Blue Acts When Story Airs


Two Florida Blue customers who had been caught in a major glitch in the company’s enrollment process say they received help immediately after WUSF's Health News Florida reported on their problem.

The radio story, which aired Thursday in Tampa Bay on WUSF 89.7 FM during "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered," was picked up by most other Florida public radio stations the same day or later. Among the stations that aired it was WJCT in Jacksonville, the home base for Florida Blue.

Merrie Beth Neely of Clearwater and John Challenor of Miami, who described their troubles with Florida Blue in the story, say that immediately after it ran they were contacted by company personnel and received the documentation of membership they needed in order to get treatment and prescriptions. They had been trying to get help for weeks.

“I’m in heaven,” Challenor said Tuesday. He’s already used his new member number to get his prescriptions filled.

Armed with her temporary card and letter of authorization, Neely is busy calling doctors’ offices to make sure her member number shows up in their computers. “So far so good,” she wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.

Neely, an oceanographer between jobs who is a member of an unemployment support group, said she’s now trying to get the same Florida Blue employee who contacted her to provide help to fellow group members who are also in limbo.

There have been so many knots in enrollment for Florida Blue customers that the company has posted a blog apologizing and has extended its call-center hours and payment deadline. 

But posts by angry customers who have paid but still have no member number -- despite numerous calls and e-mails -- are still popping up on Florida Blue's Facebook page.  Some say they have spent as many as 50 hours on hold.

Florida Blue, formerly Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida, is the state's largest insurer. It is offering 76 health plans on the federal marketplace at Healthcare.gov, more than all other companies put together.

The company's postings and e-mails suggest that the glitch in enrollment is a result of overwhelming response from new customers who can now get insurance under the Affordable Care Act. It is not clear whether any of the glitch is tied to software problems at the company or at Healthcare.gov.

Open enrollment for 2014 coverage continues through March 31 at Healthcare.gov or 1-800-318-2596. For coverage to be effective March 1, enrollment must be completed by Feb. 15.

--Health News Florida is part of WUSF Public Media. Contact Editor Carol Gentry at 813-974-8629 (desk) or e-mail at cgentry@wusf.org. For more health news, visit HealthNewsFlorida.org.

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.After serving two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Colombia, Gentry worked for a number of newspapers including The Wall Street Journal, St. Petersburg Times (now Tampa Bay Times), the Tampa Tribune and Orlando Sentinel. She was a Kaiser Foundation Media Fellow in 1994-95 and earned an Master's in Public Administration at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 1996. She directed a journalism fellowship program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for four years.Gentry created Health News Florida, an independent non-profit health journalism publication, in 2006, and served as editor until September, 2014, when she became a special correspondent. She and Health News Florida joined WUSF in 2012.
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