UPDATE on Marco Rubio's failed anti-Obamacare exchange: Only 49 enrollees to date
A week ago, I reported an update regarding the "Florida Health Choices" website, spearheaded by Florida GOP Senator Marco Rubio, which is a taxpayer-funded healthcare exchange to sell private insurance policies to Florida residents:
TALLAHASSEE — Last year, legislators allocated $900,000 to help Floridians find affordable health care through a new state-backed website.
At the same time, they refused to expand Medicaid or work with the federal government to offer subsidized insurance plans.
You know...Obamacare, without the "Obama" part.
It also doesn't offer any tax credits to make healthcare policies, you know, affordable.
Then again, that's kind of a moot point, since it doesn't actually even offer healthcare policies anyway--just "discount cards" for dental visits, prescriptions and prescription eyeglasses.
So...you know, it's basically a coupon store.
Oh, yeah...and even some of those coupons are kind of a scam:
Prescription drug discount plans are controversial because they sometimes charge fees for the same savings consumers could get without them. A 2012 Consumer Reports study said discount plans made it difficult to comparison shop and many national retail chains offer their own steep discounts on common generic drugs.
Shocking as it may sound, as of last August, Rubio's anti-Obamacare, anti-consumer coupon store only had a cumulative total of...37 customers:
Six months after the launch of the state's effort, called Florida Health Choices (floridahealthchoices.net), just 30 people have signed up. Another seven plans were canceled either because consumers changed their minds or didn't pay for services.
...which meant that the taxpayers of Florida had spent upwards of $30,000 per enrollee...or up to 46x as much as Healthcare.Gov, which enrolled 5.4 million people at a cost of around $650 per enrollee.
Anyway, after costing the price of a Hyundai Sonota for each customer they signed up, Florida Health Choices decided to change gears and start offering...Obamacare policies (except still without the tax credits):
A mandate-free health care “marketplace” established by former House Speaker Marco Rubio will start selling plans that are compliant with the federal health care law.
But a move to have the marketplace interface with the federal health insurance exchange so low income Floridians can qualify for tax credits hasn’t come to fruition, correspondence from Florida Health Choices Chief Executive Officer Rose Naff shows.
However, perhaps that's unfair. After all, the FL exchange had only been in operation for about 6 months at the time. Perhaps they just had startup troubles, the way that HC.gov did last fall. It's been another 4 months; how are they doing now?
In the past, the state exchange sold only limited benefit and discount plans that offered dental, vision, prescription and other services. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, then speaker of the Florida House, helped create the exchange in 2008 as a voluntary marketplace for consumers to obtain health insurance.
Only 49 people signed up for plans with the state last year, despite a budget of almost $800,000. Nearly a million Floridians signed up for comprehensive coverage on the federal marketplace.
Huh. OK, so apparently there's a discrepancy about how much taxpayer money was spent, and they did manage to get another 19 (paying?) customers. So perhaps I owe Sen. Rubio an apology: Instead of $30,000 apiece, his pet project may have only actually cost "only" $16,326 per customer. So, you know, "only" 25x as much as HC.gov instead of 46x.
Then again, perhaps that's premature now that they'll be offering actual ACA-compliant healthcare policies this time around (albeit without the tax credits to make them actually affordable for most people):
Naff said the state had hired another Tallahassee firm, On 3 Public Relations, to lead a $75,000 marketing campaign until the end of open enrollment on Feb. 15. The state exchange also has hired about two dozen insurance agents to operate a call center in Jacksonville, according to Naff.
"Maybe we're overstaffed but we don't want to have hold times," Naff said. "We don't want someone's first experience with us to be a busy signal."
Well, I'll be the first to admit that "busy signals" probably won't be a problem here.