In Florida, Insurer And Nonprofits Work On Enrollment
GREG ALLEN, BYLINE: I'm Greg Allen in Miami.
Florida Governor Rick Scott and other Republican leaders have worked to block the Affordable Care Act since it was first proposed. As today's opening of enrollment approached, Florida's Health Department said it would not allow navigators and others to use its offices to educate and counsel people on the new law. But others are eager to help.
EFRAIM MONZON: We're ready to serve our community. We've been ready since 2010 when we heard it was coming.
ALLEN: Efraim Monzon is the director of a Florida Blue retail center in Miami. It's one of 18 storefronts run by the Blue Cross/Blue Shield affiliate where consumers can learn about and buy individual coverage. With the rollout of Obamacare, Florida Blue expects the number of people coming in to buy individual policies will double. It's estimated there are about 2.7 million people without insurance in Florida who now can purchase coverage through a statewide exchange.
That includes Ernesto Gonzales, a self-employed 47-year-old who needs heart surgery but was unable to buy insurance because of his pre-existing condition.
ERNESTO GONZALES: I'm here October the 1st, 2013 to see if I can take care of that issue. And hopefully by January the 1st, I will be taking care of those two procedures in my heart.
ALLEN: Another customer, Nicole Robinson, says she works part-time as a retail clerk. She was shocked recently when her employer told her it was ending her health coverage and told her to check out the plans available on the statewide exchange.
NICOLE ROBINSON: They said this is better. And it goes by what your income is. My income is small. I'm a single mom, so we're going to see what my options are.
ALLEN: But in Florida, there's a large number of people who have been left out of coverage - an estimated 700,000. That's because state officials elected not to expand Medicaid to include more low-income adults, even though, for the first few years, the federal government would pick up the entire tab.
As Obamacare enrollment gets underway, healthcare advocates say they're ramping up lobbying efforts to get the Florida legislature to close that coverage gap by expanding Medicaid.
Greg Allen, NPR News, Miami. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.