Lesser-Known Florida Insurance Exchange Spends $2.4M, Signs Up 50 People

The federal marketplace, healthcare.gov, was not the only place where Floridians could sign up for coverage during the 2015 open enrollment period, but it sure was better known.

The other alternative was Florida Health Choices, a voluntary marketplace created in 2008 for Floridians to purchase coverage. It operates independently of the federal exchange at healthcare.gov — which enrolled 1.6 million Floridians — and unlike the federal exchange, does not offer subsidies.

With the open enrollment period over on Feb. 15, the numbers are in. A total of 42 consumers enrolled for health care plans this year and another nine people obtained other insurance coverage on the state marketplace. Their total premiums: $253,170.

The state has spent $2.4 million to run the program, despite signing up fewer than 50 Floridians, said Rose Naff, CEO of the state exchange.

The average monthly premium for a plan at Florida Health Choices was $427, Naff said.said Rose Naff, CEO of the state exchange.

Still, Naff insisted it is not a healthcare.gov vs. Florida Health Choices issue.

“We are not in competition with healthcare.gov,” Naff said. “Our target audiences are miles apart from each other. We don’t offer any subsidies and we are not giving it away for free.”

She said about 25 percent of consumers who contacted the Florida exchange left to pick a plan on the federal exchange instead.

The Florida exchange, which started by selling discount plans with limited benefits, began selling Affordable Care Act compliant plans on Jan. 5.

Naff noted the exchange has only been open from that date to the end of open enrollment on Feb. 15. Open enrollment on the federal marketplace opened Nov. 15.

In an attempt to reach more consumers, Florida Health Choices spent $75,000 in a marketing campaign targeting the key uninsured markets of Miami, Tampa and Orlando with billboard and radio ads. Most of the signs-ups were in the Tampa and Orlando area, Naff said, as well as some Miami-Dade County residents.

In December, Florida Health Choices sent letters to presidents of 15 nonprofits who used some variation of its slogan, “The Health Insurance Marketplace,’’ a phrase Naff said infringed on the trademark protection of the Florida Health Choices brand.

Naff sent out another 11 letters earlier this month to those who had ignored her original request.

The brand dispute has not been resolved, she said.

Naff said the exchange will not expect to receive further state funding.

“This is going to be a self sustaining venture,” she said.

Miami Herald Staff Writer Daniel Chang contributed to this report.

Categories: Insurance, States, The Health Law