With special enrollment all but concluded in this year’s Affordable Care Act health insurance sign up period, Miami-Dade County has claimed nearly 400,000 enrollments, more than any county in Florida and 43 entire states, according to federal data.
The state is a record breaker, too, leading nationwide enrollment with 1.6 million sign ups, surpassing expert projections for 2015.
The county breakdown, based on U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ZIP Code enrollment numbers through Feb. 22 and analyzed by nonprofit organization Enroll America, provides the first look at the distribution of enrollment throughout Florida’s 67 counties.
According to the data, Miami-Dade County leads the state with 392,231 plan selections, followed by Broward with 221,758 and Palm Beach with 136,612.
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Together, the three counties are responsible for more than 750,000 sign ups, or about 47 percent of Florida’s total enrollment. Orange and Hillsborough counties finish off the top five.
Monroe County enrolled another 6,844 consumers.
Milton Vazquez, Florida spokesman for Enroll America, said that from the beginning, the organization’s effort was particularly focused on South Florida because of its high uninsured rate compared to the rest of the state.
“Even knowing that, going in, it was really high, when I first heard that we were projecting 700,000 in these three counties, my mouth was open,” Vazquez said.
Together, South Florida — Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach counties — had more plan selections than 47 other entire states. Miami-Dade County alone surpassed enrollment in 43 states.
Cristina Calvillo-Rivera, a campaign outreach manager with the Young Invincibles, a national nonprofit group targeting millennial enrollment, said the game plan in Florida was to partner with and educate groups that could enroll consumers using health counselors who would be trusted in the community and speak the languages that are common, particularly Spanish and Creole.
“When we see large communities that are Hispanic, that are more likely to be uninsured, and you make services accessible by providing language. That is so important to these communities,” Calvillo-Rivera said.
According to 2011 data, more than one in three residents in Miami-Dade County were uninsured, or about 750,000.
What’s more, all of Florida’s counties increased the number of sign ups by at least 45 percent over last year, despite an enrollment period that was half the length.
Miami-Dade increased its enrollment by about 52 percent over 2014, while Palm Beach’s enrollment jumped by about 80 percent.
Dixie County, on Florida’s west coast, saw the greatest percentage increase in enrollment by about 210 percent, although the actual numbers were low: from 141 enrollments in 2014 to 437 in 2015. The other counties with the greatest jumps in enrollment — Hamilton, Holmes, Hendry and Jefferson — all saw an at least 120 percent increase in sign ups.
In these largely rural counties, word of mouth played a large role in pushing people to enroll, Vazquez said.
“In those areas, who is more trusted than your neighbor?” he said. “The word of mouth that comes from consumer testimony to their friends and loved ones really has a huge impact.”
But next year, enrollment is expected to slow, experts said.
Vazquez said Enroll America and its partners are working to redefine their strategy for next year.
“We are going to be focusing on what would work best in each region,” Vazquez said.
Follow @MHhealth for health news from South Florida and around the nation.
This story was produced in collaboration with Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation
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Source: Enroll America and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services