If signing people up for healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act was a competition, South Florida would be winning.
For the first time, federal data released Wednesday calculated enrollment in the 37 states with a federally-facilitated marketplace based on metropolitan areas, or those with at least 725,000 residents.
The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area signed up 637,514 consumers since open enrollment began on Nov. 15 — more than twice as many as the No. 2 region, Atlanta.
Two other Florida metropolitan areas, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, were also in the top 10.
Never miss a local story.
Pamela Roshell, regional director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the Florida data highlight the importance of getting Floridians covered.
Florida holds the country’s second-highest uninsured rate, after Texas, and Miami-Dade County — where one in three residents are uninsured — leads the Sunshine State, according to the most recent U.S. Census data from 2011.
Some Floridians are getting coverage for less than $100 a month through HealthCare.gov, she said, and many are finding it easier to enroll than they did last year, when technical problems kept many people from using the website during the first months of enrollment.
She said federal health officials streamlined the process, reducing the number of screens consumers have to navigate from 76 last year to 16 this year.
“We’ve made the process simple, faster and more intuitive,” Roshell said. “We are very encouraged by our progress.”
The result: Since Nov. 15, more than 1.3 million Floridians have been automatically re-enrolled or selected a plan for the first time.
Of those, 93 percent received financial aid to cover the cost of their premiums — the second highest rate of assistance among consumers in the 37 states with federally-facilitated marketplaces.
As the open enrollment period comes to a close on Feb. 15, enrollment counselors are amping up efforts to reach uninsured Floridians who may incur a tax penalty for not being covered.
Nick Duran, Florida state director for Enroll America, a nonprofit focused on signing up consumers on the exchanges, said the group will be holding 70 enrollment drives across the state, including a bus tour that will pass through Miami on Sunday.
South Florida’s private insurance brokers, who now populate even malls and barber shops, have helped increase consumer knowledge and awareness in the area, Duran said.
“Florida continues … paving the way for a healthier, thriving state,” he 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.
Plan Selections Nov.15 – Jan.30
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL
North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL