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Seven million enrolled

Miami played key role in Obamacare ‘success’

Erick Johnson | 4/3/2014, 9 a.m.

Thousands of residents in Miami and across South Florida flooded call centers and health clinics Monday in a last-minute surge that dramatically helped President Obama’s Affordable Health Care Plan reach its goal of seven million enrollments after a sluggish start marred by technical glitches and heavy criticism.

White House officials claimed victory Tuesday as the president announced the final tally for enrollments at 7.1 million after some 4.8 million visits were made to HealthCare.gov, and around 2 million phone calls were logged to call centers nationwide.

The deadline for the health care plan was on Monday.

“Making affordable health care available to all Americans is now an important goal of this law,” the president said at a press conference that was streamlined on the White House website.” In the first six months of this law, we have taken several big steps forward. This law has made our health care system a lot better.”

Local Black lawmakers agreed.

“I commend President Barack Obama on his leadership and for implementing the Affordable Care Act,” said State Rep. Cynthia Stafford (D-109) in a statement. “President Obama recognized Florida Democratic legislators for our efforts to inform, educate and enroll residents in the insurance marketplace. I am so proud to know that the president’s signature health care law reached at an incredible milestone.”

Early indications on Tuesday showed enrollment numbers closing in on the seven million mark President Obama set amid heavy criticism from conservative lawmakers who deemed the plan as wasteful and disastrous to existing health insurance plans held by millions of Americans. The initiative was also marred by technical glitches on the plan’s website that slowed enrollment during the initial rollout last year.

But enrollment numbers soared within weeks of the deadline as the president and First lady Michelle Obama made four key trips to Miami to build on a wave of success here. They visited inner-city clinics, including the Jesse Trice Health Center in Liberty City, where she aimed to push even closer to the administration’s enrollment goal. By February, Florida had one of the highest enrollment rates in the country with 440,000 signed up.

By last Friday, White House officials reported that six million Americans had enrolled in the plan that aims to provide inexpensive health insurance to low-income citizens and those with pre-existing medical conditions, like cancer.

For residents, it was a mad dash to beat the deadline on Monday to avoid paying a $95 penalty. After that, residents would have to wait until November to enroll in the plan.

“Basically, one reason why the plan was so successful was because we are a trusted provider who has been in the community for 47 years,” said Annie Neasman, Chief Executive Officer of the center, which has signed up an estimated 6,000 residents in the plan. “We educated many people and let them decide if they wanted the plan.

At Borinquen Medical Centers throughout Miami-Dade, counselors signed up 3,000 people since October.

The surge came after the president visited Miami to spur on Black community leaders, churches, state and local politicians who stepped up efforts with an army of volunteers who helped sign up thousands of resident in Liberty City, Overtown and Miami Gardens during massive enrollment drives. Miami Heat basketball players, including LeBron James, promoted the plan on commercials that aired on television stations up to the deadline.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL 24th District), State Rep. Cynthia Stafford, County Commissioners Audrey Edmonson and Jean Monestine and City Commissioner Keon Hardemon all held enrollment drives in churches, social agencies and community parks as the deadline clock ticked away.