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Feds: Florida leads the nation in Obamacare enrollment for 2017

TALLAHASSEE — Florida is leading the nation in the number of people signing up for Obamacare for 2017, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported Wednesday.

HHS officials said 1.3 million people in Florida enrolled in a health care plan for coverage that begins Jan. 1, 2017. Nationwide, 6.4 million people enrolled in Obamacare, an increase of more than 400,000 from last year’s open enrollment.

More than 2 million people were new to the federal health exchange, while 4.31 million were consumers who were actively renewing their coverage, according to HHS.

The numbers reflect active plan participation selection only and do not include the number of people who were automatically renewed for Jan. 1, 2017 coverage, a departure from how the HHS released the information last year. The discrepancy in data makes it impossible to conduct a year-by-year analysis.

HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell attributed the difference in data to her desire to get the Obamacare enrollment numbers out to the media before Christmas. The federal agency will release updated data in January that includes the re-enrollment figures, she said.

Nevertheless, said Burwell, “the big takeaway is, there’s been growth.”

The new enrollment figures roll out as President Barack Obama prepares to leave office next month with his signature law in danger of being eliminated. It has helped provide health insurance coverage to more than 30 million Americans.

President-elect Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans have vowed to replace and repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. It is among their top priorities in the new year.

More than 2.4 million Floridians would lose coverage if the law was repealed and not immediately replaced by another law, according to a recent Urban Institute study. Nationwide, the number of uninsured would double from about 29 million to nearly 59 million in 2019.

Burwell on Wednesday said that there are ways the federal law could be improved by allowing for a public option in areas where there aren’t enough plans for people to choose from; increasing the number of people eligible for the subsidies; and, allowing the federal government to negotiate high drug prices with pharmaceutical companies.

“We know it’s impacting Medicare costs, it's impacting private sector costs,” she said.

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