What: The county launched a program that offered subsidized coverage to residents who could not afford private insurance but who made too much to qualify for Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor. But a year after the program began, fewer than 500 people had signed up — less than a third of the number expected. Getting sufficient enrollment, especially from the young and healthy, is vital to holding down premium costs in those markets. The concern is that if all the sick people flood the exchanges and younger, healthier ones hang back, health-care costs will spike along with premiums.
Yet one of the biggest reasons for the anemic initial enrollment in the county program that began in 2006, called Vita Health, and similar programs is that many healthy people do not believe they need insurance and are reluctant to spend even nominal amounts to purchase it, organizers say.
“A lot of people who are uninsured and can afford it don’t buy it because they aren’t sick,” said Paul Gionfriddo, a consultant who formerly led an alliance in Palm Beach County to help the uninsured.
Why: “The ‘if you build it, they will come’ philosophy doesn’t work in health care,” said Linda Quick, president of the South Florida Hospital and Health Care Association.Enrollees would be able to buy policies for about $52 a month — far cheaper than what private insurers were offering.