A screenshot of the Florida's Health Insurance Marketplace website. / Florida's Health Insurance Marketplace
(News-Press.com) - Florida Health Choices, the state's planned online health insurance marketplace, will need at least 67,000 customers over the next year for it to break even financially, the website's top administrator said Monday.
But site CEO Rose Naff said enrollment will likely start slowly when the little-advertised marketplace switches on this week or next.
"I don't expect there will be a million people to log on, on day one," Naff said.
It's unclear how easily the website will meet its enrollment goal. By comparison, the federal health exchange at healthcare.gov had processed nearly 560,000 insurance applications in Florida between Oct. 1 and the end of December. It had completed about 158,000 actual enrollments during that period.
Florida Health Choices promises to operate similarly to the healthcare.gov. But it is not affiliated with the federal site and will not offer its subsidized policies.
Instead, the state site will focus on plans for small businesses and coverage of extra health needs not specifically required under the federal health law, such as adult dental policies.
A Spanish-language version of the site won't likely be ready until at least the spring or summer.
Critics of the website, including the patient advocacy group Florida CHAIN, say it could confuse Floridians looking for comprehensive health coverage that is already offered by heathcare.gov. Many of the plans are likely offer incomplete coverage or will be just discounts for health services, according to the organization.
Two vendors have so far signed deals to offer products on Florida Health Choices: Frisco, Texas-based insurer Careington International Corp. and Chicago-based marketing firm Coverdell & Co. Inc., which offers health service discount plans.
Careington spokeswoman Jamie Saunders declined to comment about Florida Health Choices when asked about it Monday. Coverdell representatives could not be reached for comment after Naff's teleconference with reporters Monday afternoon.
Florida Blue and dental insurance providers Argus and Liberty Dental have expressed interest in the site but have not signed contracts with it.
Despite the promise Monday that the site will soon be ready, it has already been plagued by years of delays.
Florida lawmakers set aside $1.5 million in startup money for the website in 2008. Staff was not hired in 2010. And, despite Naff's promises in 2012 that the site would be ready by the end of that year, it has not been launched.
Naff blames earlier site launch delays on the new Affordable Care Act insurance regulations. "One thing we didn't want to do was build toward a moving target," Naff said.
The Legislature provided another $900,000 last year.
Site designers are now doing final tests to make sure it meets privacy and security standards, Naff said.
"We don't expect any issues, but it's absolutely imperative in my view that we don't have glitches when this rolls out," she said.