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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., shake hands before their debate at the University of Central Florida, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP photo) Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., shake hands before their debate at the University of Central Florida, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP photo)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., left, and Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Fla., shake hands before their debate at the University of Central Florida, Monday, Oct. 17, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP photo)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman October 18, 2016

Marco Rubio misleads about Floridians who will 'lose' insurance through Obamacare

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., continued his attacks on Obamacare during the first U.S. Senate debate against his Democratic rival, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Rubio said that Obamacare has "enormous problems."

"No. 1, it is running up our debt. No. 2, people are losing their coverage. In about three weeks over a half million Floridians are going to lose their coverage again," he said. "It is collapsing under its own weight because it doesn’t work."

We will fact-check if that many Floridians are poised to lose their health care plans.

Obamacare plans

Bloomberg News reported Oct. 14 that nationwide, more than 1 million people will lose plans -- and the largest number of losses will be in Florida with more than 400,000.

Bloomberg interviewed state regulators and learned a few health insurance companies are quitting the marketplace where people can shop for policies. Sign up for coverage begins in November.

In August, Aetna announced that it would stop selling Obamacare plans in 11 states, including Florida for 2017, due to significant financial losses. UnitedHealth is exiting the individual market, and Humana will withdraw from most of the counties it serves in the individual market.

As of May 9,  approximately 420,000 enrollees in Florida are expected to lose their plans due to withdrawals in the individual exchange marketplace with additional enrollees losing coverage off-exchange, according to Karen Kees, a spokeswoman for the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Floridians who lose their plan can sign up for another one.

Fifteen insurance companies have filed requests to sell individual coverage plans in Florida, including 11 insurers that requested to sell plans on the exchange.

"It’s not 400,000 are going to be uninsured. (It’s) 400,000 are going to have to switch insurers," said Timothy Jost, author of the Health Affairs Blog and emeritus professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law.

And many people each year change plans any way when they seek out a better deal, he said.

The premium could be similar for most shoppers since the amount is based on tax credits that are set based on a consumer’s income, Jost said. While the state said that premiums will increase on average 19 percent, Jost said that is before the tax credits that apply to many buying on the marketplace.

Jost said the irony in the disruption is that Rubio pushed to defund the risk corridor program that was intended to stabilize the market so that plans that made big profits would pay in and those with big losses would collect. In the end, those funds were limited. 

"Rubio has to take a lot of credit for Floridians losing coverage," Jost said. "Had the program operated the way it was intended to operate, a lot more insurers would still be in the marketplace."

Michael Tanner, a health care expert at the libertarian Cato Institute, said while these Floridians will still be insured a new plan could mean changes for them.

"Yes, they will get something of similar price and quality, but it won’t necessarily be in the same network, it may not cover their current doctor," he said.

However, it is deceptive to say Floridians will "lose" coverage without explaining that they will get a new plan, said David Himmelstein, professor in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College.

"Many Floridians will have to change insurers," he said. "Some will likely have worse, or more expensive coverage -- although we don't know how many at present. Is that losing coverage? I don't think most people would characterize it that way."

Nationwide, most consumers will have multiple choices but fewer than in the past, the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation found.

Rubio made a similar misleading statement before about people losing health care. In 2013, Rubio said that "300,000 people are going to lose their individual coverage because of Obamacare. Now those people next year, they don’t have health insurance." Since Florida Blue provided assistance with switching plans, we rated Rubio’s statement Mostly False because he jumped the gun by saying flatly that they wouldn’t have insurance. Ultimately, more than 80 percent of the approximately 300,000 members remained with Florida Blue.

This time, Florida Blue is expected to pick up many of those who will lose coverage with another carrier.

Florida Blue currently has about 700,000 people covered through the marketplace, which is more than any other carrier, spokesman Doug Bartel said. It will continue to offer plans in every Florida county.

"We fully expect based upon our products, price, network and benefits that we will pick up many of the consumers whose insurance company is leaving the marketplace," he said.

Rubio’s debate statement also ignores that due to the Affordable Care Act, more Floridians have coverage.

More than 1.7 million Floridians purchased plans through the Affordable Care Act’s marketplaces between Nov. 1, 2015, and Feb. 1, 2016. So that’s more than the 400,000 who will "lose" their plan -- and they aren’t actually going to lose insurance.

Federal data shows that the percentage of insured in Florida has been steadily dropping. In 2013, 20 percent of Floridians lacked health coverage. In 2014, that number fell to 16.6 percent, and in 2015, it fell again to 13.3 percent.

The majority of Americans still get their insurance through their employer -- not the individual marketplace.

Our ruling

Rubio said in the Senate debate "in about three weeks over a half million Floridians are going to lose their coverage again" through Obamacare.

That’s a reference to more than 400,000 Floridians who are expected to lose their plans under the Obamacare exchange. However, Rubio omits that they will be offered another plan including by Florida Blue, which will remain in every county in Florida.

Rubio also ignores the fact that due to the marketplace, 1.7 million Floridians have signed up for coverage -- larger than the more than 400,000 who will have to switch plans. The percentage of Floridians who are uninsured has been dropping under Obamacare in recent years.

We rate this claim Half True.

https://www.sharethefacts.co/share/a3984dd1-6a9c-49c4-b904-7d9450263ba6

Our Sources

Bloomberg, "More Than 1 Million to Lose Obamacare Plans as Insurers Quit," Oct. 14, 2016

C-SPAN, U.S. Senate debate, Oct. 17, 2016

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Issue brief, April 2016

Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, Individual PPACA Market Monthly Premiums for Plan Year 2017

Health Affairs Blog by Timothy Jost, "ACA Round-Up: Discontinued Plans, Quality And Network Breadth Info, And More," Oct. 3, 2016

Health Affairs Blog by Timothy Jost, "Implementing Health Reform: New Guidance On Reenrollment Of 2015 Enrollees (Updated)," Aug. 26, 2015

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, "Preliminary data on insurer exits and entrants in 2017 Affordable Care Act Marketplaces," Aug. 28, 2016

Washington Post, "In North Carolina, ACA insurer defections leave little choice for many consumers," Oct. 14, 2016

Wall Street Journal op ed by Drew Altman, "The ACA Marketplace Problems in Context (and Why They Don’t Mean Obamacare Is ‘Failing’)," Aug. 29, 2016

Associated Press, "FACT CHECK: Rubio's single-handed 'Obamacare' win questioned," Dec. 15, 2015

Miami Herald, "Aetna dropping Obamacare coverage in Florida, other states for 2017," Aug. 16, 2016

PolitiFact, "Ad hitting Patrick Murphy revives zombie statistic of 300,000 losing plans due to Obamacare," Sept. 19, 2016

PolitiFact, "Marco Rubio: We 'wiped out' Obamacare 'bailout fund' for insurance companies," Feb. 25, 2016

PolitiFact, "Rubio says 300,000 will lose their individual health insurance coverage under Obamacare and won't be able to enroll in new plans," Oct. 25, 2013

Kaiser Family Foundation, "State Marketplace Statistics," Nov. 1, 2015 - Feb. 1, 2016

U.S. Census Bureau, HIC-4.Health Insurance Coverage Status and Type of Coverage by State--All Persons: 2008 to 2015, accessed Sept. 16, 2016

PolitiFact, "300,000 in Florida lose health plans? More to the story than that," Feb. 14, 2014

Interview, Michael Tanner, Cato institute senior fellow, Oct. 17, 2016

Interview, Timothy Jost, Emeritus Professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, Oct. 17, 2016

Interview, Dr. David Himmelstein, professor in the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, adjunct clinical professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and lecturer in medicine at Harvard Medical School, Oct. 17, 2016

Interview, Doug Bartel, Florida Blue spokesman, Oct. 18, 2016

Interview, Michael Ahrens, Sen. Marco Rubio campaign spokesman, Oct. 18, 2016

Interview, Karen Kees, Florida Office of Insurance Regulation spokeswoman, Oct. 18, 2016

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Marco Rubio misleads about Floridians who will 'lose' insurance through Obamacare

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