Obamacare enrollment is off to a strong start in Florida and around the nation, according to national data and those who help people sign up for health insurance.
Compared to last year, the number of people selecting plans through healthcare.gov nationally during the first two weeks of enrollment increased by 46 percent.
Data for Florida hasn't been released yet, but those in the field say they have been busier than ever.
People who help consumers sign up for Obamacare have reported extremely busy phone lines and enrollment events across the state, said Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families, the state's largest Obamacare enrollment program.
“I have heard, for example, even from some of our rural areas that they've been busier than they have ever been in the past and that they have received more community support than they have received in the past,” Ray said.
Rural communities, she said, have been more supportive by providing more space for her navigators to sit down with consumers to do enrollment assistance.
Nationally, more than 1.4 million people enrolled in Obamacare during the first two weeks of enrollment. Through the first two weeks of last year’s enrollment, just over 1 million people had signed up, according to figures from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The latest data cover 39 states served by the HealthCare.gov website. The overall number of sign-ups is higher because states running their own health insurance markets are not counted in the HealthCare.gov data.
The share of new customers for 2018 coverage stayed at about 23 percent, the report said.
Ray thinks enrollment is going so well because people still need healthcare and this year, the time they have to sign up for it has been cut in half from 12 weeks to six weeks.
“When you think about it, this year we have half the time to help the same amount of people,” Ray said. “So technically, we should be busy, right?”
Another factor could be that subsidies to cover premium increases have increased, meaning some people could find better deals on the exchanges.
Ray sat down with one consumer who had a mid-tier silver plan this year but found that her doctor was no longer covered. The consumer switched to a higher-tier gold plan and ended up paying less.
“Where people are finding their deals, it’s all over the place,” Ray said.
Ray’s group has had fewer resources to deal with the influx because her budget was slashed by $900,000.
Still, she said her navigators will continue taking appointments from consumers who need help signing up for health insurance.
“Until it’s just physically impossible to accommodate anymore … we won’t turn anyone away,” she said.
The numbers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services come as Republican senators are pushing to pay for tax cuts by repealing the "Obamacare" requirement to carry coverage.
If Congress repeals the requirement that people buy health insurance, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 13 million more people would be uninsured by 2027.
To get help from a navigator to enroll in Obamacare, click here or call (877) 813-9115.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.