Patrick Donges / WJCT

Today marks the deadline for Americans without health insurance to enroll for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

This has not been an easy month for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas — who learned the political ropes working for Sebelius' father-in-law, then a Kansas congressman — called for her to step down over the debut of, the problem-plagued website where people are supposed to apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Pete Souza / Official White House Photo

President Barack Obama is expected to address the widespread problems being reported with the rollout of the Affordable Care Act's online Health Insurance Marketplace this morning.

Several states that did not set up their own health exchanges, including Florida, have experienced a myriad of technical difficulties that have made it hard for those seeking insurance to sign up.

The glitches have led to increased criticism from detractors of the law who see it as more evidence that it should be repealed. That debate was central to the government shutdown and debt ceiling crisis that came to a close at the last minute last week. 

The Obama administration's hopes ran high that millions would flock to enroll for health insurance on state and federal exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act.

Those exchanges went online Oct. 1. The administration projected that half a million individuals or families would enroll within 30 days, according to The Associated Press.

But three weeks in, the data suggest the actual number of enrollments is lagging far behind that number.

The Obama administration has started to confront the many technological problems that have hampered the roll out of the new health care law.

"I think that there's no one more frustrated than the president at the difficulty in the website," Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said on Meet the Press this morning.

The Hillsborough County School Board has reached a settlement with the family of a student who drowned in 2012.

The school board approved the settlement with the parents of Jennifer Caballero, a 7th grade student with Down syndrome who drowned in a retention pond after wandering away from her gym class at Rodgers Middle School.

School Board Vice Chair Susan Valdes said this tragedy will live with them for a long, long time to come.

Welcome to WJCT First Read, your daily weekday morning round-up of stories from the First Coast, around Florida, and across the country. We'll also preview some of WJCT's upcoming news programming.

Chartrand speaks on Stewart appointment: Florida State Board of Education Chair Gary Chartrand says the experience of newly appointed Education Commissioner Pam Stewart as a two-time interim commissioner has prepared her to take the title permanently.

Starting October first, Floridians will be able to buy health insurance through a government-run website—or “health insurance exchange”—where consumers can compare plans and prices. Under the Affordable Care Act, most uninsured adults who don’t purchase insurance or aren’t covered by employers will have to pay a fine come tax time.

There are still a lot of details about the insurance exchange in Florida that haven’t been settled: like what plans will be available and how much they’ll cost. But HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius told an audience at Miami Dade College, the biggest obstacle is information.

"I think the single largest challenge is to get information to individuals who may be eligible for benefits but don’t know anything about the law", said Sebelius.

At a community center named for Florida civil rights pioneer Carrie Meek, a few dozen members of Miami's National Church of God gathered over the weekend for a tea party — and to hear from a special guest, Monica Rodriguez of Enroll America.

The organization is working to spread the word about the Affordable Care Act, the federal law that will let people without health insurance shop for coverage starting Oct. 1.

Welcome to WJCT First Read, your daily weekday morning round-up of stories from the First Coast, around Florida, and across the country. We'll also preview some of WJCT's upcoming news programming.

Cell providers ready for Mumford crowd: Wireless phone companies say they will be able to handle increased phone and data traffic this weekend in St. Augustine as crowds file in for the Gentlemen of the Road music festival.

About 400,000 customers of Citizens Property Insurance Corporation will soon be asked to move their policies into the private market. Ten insurance companies have gotten approval from Florida regulators to take over the policies.

Citizens is the state-run insurer. That means taxpayers would help cover the damage left by catastrophic events, like category 5 hurricanes. The state is trying to cut down on Citizens' exposure to those kind of losses. The company insures property in high risk areas that no private carriers wanted to cover – until now.


MIAMI (AP) — As health care costs rise in Florida, insurers and hospitals are coming up with new ways to cut costs from piloting programs to lower admission rates to limiting the amount of doctors within a plan's network.

UF Health

The U.S. Department of Justice announced today that Shands Healthcare will pay $26 million to resolve allegations that its hospitals submitted false claims to Medicare, Medicaid and other federal health care programs.