During his presidential campaign announcement, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio came out swinging with a punch list that included the popular Republican mantra to “repeal and replace Obamacare.” But the Department of Health and Human Services had already thrown a punch of its own earlier in April.
HHS released its updated list of enrollments by zip code and it turns out the top 15 are in Rubio’s backyard - Miami-Dade and Broward counties. In fact, the second highest zip code in the country is 33126, which lies just blocks from the City of West Miami, where Rubio got his political start. That area saw 11,222 people sign-up for the healthcare benefits, in the enrollment period ending in February.
That’s roughly 4,000 less than the top Obamacare zip code in the United States, 33012, which is in the heart of Hialeah, a Republican stronghold.
In the last presidential election, which was dominated with rhetoric about the Affordable Care Act, the so-called “City of Progress” voted roughly 58% to 42% in favor of Mitt Romney. It’s a red island in a sea of blue, when you take into account that surrounding Miami-Dade County has gone for a Democratic presidential nominee in every election since 1992.
“It wasn’t surprising to me,” said Republican state senator Rene Garcia, who represents the 33012 area. “For many years, we’ve had one of the highest uninsured rates in Miami-Dade County. By the implementation of the ACA, it’s given them the opportunity to go out and purchase insurance.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost half of the city’s population was uninsured, before Obamacare went into effect.
Add to that two striking economic figures: 24.5% of residents live below the poverty line and there is a $14,321 per capita income. The result, Sen. Garcia said, “it’s not a Republican or Democrat issue. It’s just the reality. And, the realities are that now they can afford health insurance for their families. And they’ve gone out and done it.”
The intense marketing for the Affordable Care Act also drove enrollment.
“Last year, you saw a few signs here and there. But, if you go around this time, you see a bunch of Obamacare signs: on bus-stops, on buildings, across the entire region,” said Nick Duran, Florida director for Enroll America, a left-leaning nonprofit organization, which promotes health coverage around the country.
On the other side of the political spectrum, Republicans agree, the promotions worked. “They’ve done a good job of getting the word out,” Sen. Garcia said.
In addition, Florida saw a huge jump in opportunities for people to sign-up during the open enrollment period, which ended in February.
“We got a report from (insurance) carriers saying there were about 100 enrollment centers in all of Florida last year. I believe, this year, it’s 4,200. I’ve seen shoe stores that have Obamacare enrollment centers,” said Ammer Cabrera, who runs Sunshine Life and Health Advisors. The demand was so high during the enrollment period, his agency opened two offices in the same shopping mall, just a couple hundred feet away from each other.
“I think a lot of people didn’t understand what Obamacare was,” said Cabrera. Nationwide, 16.4 million people have gained health insurance since the law went into effect, according to government data. The rate of uninsured in the United States has dropped below 10%.