This March, as an alternative of sorts to the Affordable Care Act, Florida’s Republican-led government launched a health insurance website called Florida Health Choices. It had no relation to HealthCare.gov, the federal Obamacare website, and offered limited-benefit options that cover things like prescription drugs and dental or vision services.
But since the launch of the Republican alternative, Florida Health Choices has signed up 30 people, the Tampa Bay Times reported Friday. By comparison, 984,000 Floridians enrolled in private coverage under Obamacare and 764,000 low-income residents were unable to obtain any kind of coverage through the federal law because the GOP- controlled state legislature refused to expand Medicaid.
As the Associated Press reported at the time of the website’s launch, it was hoped that those stuck in that Medicaid expansion gap would use Florida Health Choices. The concept actually dates back to 2008, the brainchild of then-Florida House speaker Marco Rubio, now U.S. senator. Rubio had secured $1.8 million in start-up funding at that time, according to Reuters, and the state legislature then authorized $900,000 last year to fully launch the website.
Florida Sen. Aaron Bean (R), who the Times reported was one of the website’s major supporters, acknowledged that people had flocked to HealthCare.gov, which offered tax credits and full insurance plans, instead of the Republican alternative, which did not.
“Obviously we wanted more (business), but the competition is giving it away for free,” Bean told the Times.
TPM asked now-Sen. Rubio’s office if he still supported the concept of Florida Health Choices after the reports of its low sign-up numbers.
“Yeah, we have nothing against free market exchanges,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said in an email.