JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - U.S. Department Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius was in Jacksonville Friday to talk healthcare, specifically a milestone that she says is a big step forward for the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
"Today, we now have passed the 3 million person mark for sign-up in private insurance plans," Sebelius said during an appearance at the Bob Hayes Sports Complex Legends Center in North Jacksonville. "A family of four here in Jacksonville making $50,000 a year can get the entire family covered for as little as $163 a month."
Sebelius says you can look at those numbers if you need proof the federal exchange website is working properly. She says the next step in Florida is to get the legislature to sign off on Medicaid expansion because the state loses out on about $51 billion if it doesn’t.
"Just under 2 million Floridians would be eligible for new insurance coverage."
Sebelius said she was extending an offer to the Florida legislature to have a federal team of Medicaid advisors come to Tallahassee and bring with them the catalog of other Medicaid expansion plans that have been negotiated with other states. She says about 30 governors, including Florida's Rick Scott, have declared an interest in moving forward.
"We're very eager to work with people around what works here in Florida."
Joining Sebelius were State Representative Mia Jones, a small-business owner who had recently purchased lower-cost coverage through the federal exchange, and healthcare navigator Susan Perry, who said she's seen first-hand how much money insurance under the Affordable Care Act can save some people.
"I have signed people up for as low as $11 a month," said Perry
Representative Jones also announced that on Saturday, January 25 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. there will be an event at the Legends Center where the uninsured can come in, get help navigating the website and enrollment process, and talk to someone about what kind of coverage is right for them. She said there will be two more of these events in February and March.
The site launched October 1 and since then the law’s implementation has been widely criticized, with Sebelius taking a good part of that flak.
A statement from Republican Party of Florida chairman Lenny Curry reads in part "President Obama is once again dispatching Kathleen Sebelius to the Sunshine State today to sell Obamacare, a failed policy that has led to 300,000 Floridians losing health insurance plans they like.”
The deadline to sign up for health insurance through the federal exchange and not have to pay a fine is March 31.