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Pandemic Plays Role In Expected Record Year For Obamacare Enrollment

screenshot of healthcare.gov website that says "Open Enrollment is over. Still need health insurance?"
If the pandemic causes more job changes in the future, those affected can still sign up for plans. Loss of employment qualifies people to enroll year-round.

Job changes caused by the pandemic meant people who normally relied on employer-sponsored insurance needed a new way to get coverage.

It's shaping up to be another record year in Florida for Obamacare sign-ups.

Open enrollment wrapped up on Tuesday.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has not released the final numbers yet, but as of the fifth week of enrollment, 1,119,200 Floridians had signed up for health insurance plans on the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

During the same period last year, that figure was 796,858.

By the end of last year's enrollment period, more than 1.9 million Floridians were signed up for 2020 health plans, which was more than the previous year. The trend is expected to continue this year, and sign-ups could top two million.

Jodi Ray, Director of Florida Covering Kids & Families, a group that helps people get coverage, said job changes caused by the coronavirus pandemic likely played a role in the spike.

“I think a lot of people who have historically relied on employer-based insurance are finding that safety net of having that for coverage is not there,” she said.

Ray said the economic uncertainty also posed challenges for enrolling. People's projected income for 2021 determines how many tax credits they can use to buy plans, and that wasn’t always an easy figure to calculate.

“We don't want somebody to underestimate income too much and then owe back-tax credits, and the other thing is if you overestimate your income, maybe you should have gotten more tax credits and you didn't,” said Ray.

Ray said people can adjust income on their account throughout the year if needed and said navigators are available to help with that.

Anyone who missed the deadline to sign up for health insurance won’t necessarily have to wait until next year, Ray said. Job loss, getting married and aging out of parents’ health plans are some examples of life changes that can qualify someone to sign up for plans year-round.

For more information about health plans available to Floridians or to get help signing up for one, visit this website or call 877-813-9115.

I cover health care for WUSF and the statewide journalism collaborative Health News Florida. I’m passionate about highlighting community efforts to improve the quality of care in our state and make it more accessible to all Floridians. I’m also committed to holding those in power accountable when they fail to prioritize the health needs of the people they serve.
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