TAMPA — The city of Tampa signed up almost 114,000 people for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act during the most recent enrollment period that ended Jan. 31.
That number, which also includes people re-enrolling for health insurance, was up by 37,000 over the previous enrollment window and represents roughly half of the Tampa area’s uninsured population, city officials said.
That was good enough to earn Tampa 11th place out of the 20 communities taking part in President Barack Obama’s Healthy Communities Challenge to sign up the highest percentage of uninsured residents.
First place went to Milwaukee which signed up 38,000 residents, roughly 75 percent of its uninsured population. The Wisconsin city will receive a visit from the president as its prize.
Tampa opened community centers to make it easier for people to sign up under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, during the three-month enrollment period. Those centers were staffed by navigators, the name given trained workers who guide and advise residents on insurance options.
“I’ve said it before, there is nothing more fundamental in our society than the right to affordable health care and when our neighbors are healthy our city thrives,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn in a news release. “Having health insurance ensures that whether it is for preventative care or in an emergency situation, our residents are able to receive the treatment they deserve.”
Statewide, some 1.7 million Floridians are now enrolled in health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, the highest in the nation ahead of Texas and North Carolina. All three states have opted not to take advantage of a provision of the act and expand Medicaid, which contributes federal funds to help low-income employees pay for private insurance plans.
Florida Republican lawmakers say it would be a risk to take the funding because the federal government may cut off the funds in the future, leaving the state on the hook.
Some local health groups say that decision leaves out more than 500,000 Floridians who earn too little to qualify for the insurance subsidies but who don’t meet Florida’s strict Medicaid eligibility rules.
“Once again, Florida leads the nation in the number of people enrolled in the health insurance market places,” said Kyle Simon, a spokesman for Florida CHAIN, a statewide consumer health advocacy organization. “It is now incumbent upon law makers to close the coverage gap so more than 567,000 Floridians can have access to affordable quality coverage.”