03/01/2014 03:04 pm ET Updated May 01, 2014

The Promise of Affordable Health Care for Floridians

March 31 is just around the corner and Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers are working double time to ensure our patients and the communities we serve have information about new, more affordable health insurance plans available to them thanks to the Affordable Care Act. March 31 is an important deadline because it marks the end of open enrollment in the Marketplace. Barring special circumstances, if Florida residents miss this deadline, they'll have to wait until November 15, 2014, to enroll. (It's important to know, however, that families who qualify for coverage in Medicaid programs can enroll all year-round.)

As the leading women's health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood is uniquely positioned to communicate with eligible uninsured and under-insured women and their families that rely on us for trusted information and health care. That's why I was proud to join Planned Parenthood of North Florida and State Representative Mia Jones at Northside LOVE's Health Fair during which Doctors for America conducted health care insurance enrollment -- here, in Jacksonville, Florida. The fair offered health screenings, food and fun for families interested in learning more about the new health care law and how they can get covered. I was there, talking to people about the benefits of the law and the importance of getting enrolled before the March 31 deadline.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, the 77 percent of Florida residents who have insurance have more choices and stronger coverage than ever before. And for the 23 percent of Florida residents who don't have insurance, or families and small businesses who buy their coverage but aren't happy with it, they have through March 31 to enroll in new, more affordable plans. In Duval County, 145,000 people are uninsured. Of the nearly 753,300 people in Duval under the age of 65, nearly 20 percent are uninsured. More than 70,000 uninsured people in Duval are eligible for subsidies or tax credits to help them enroll.

Women like 28-year-old Lindsay from Jacksonville are already benefiting. Lindsay wrote to us and said: "Planned Parenthood is important to me because without it I wouldn't have been able to afford birth control without insurance while I am in school. When I went to my annual visit I left with information about the ACA and how to sign up. I went to the website and now have health insurance for the first time in my life!"

Here is what everyone should know about Obamacare:

  1. All plans cover preventive care -- including annual well-woman exams, birth control and cancer screenings -- for free, without a copay.
  2. Every plan must cover the full range of prescription birth control methods (pill, implants, IUDs, etc.) without copay. But some plans will require a copay for certain brands, so you should check with the insurer to be sure your preferred brand is covered for free, and if not, find out how much it will cost.
  3. Every plan will cover essential maternity services. Some prenatal services and screenings are offered free with no copay, as well as breastfeeding counseling and services. The other covered services and copay amounts vary greatly from plan to plan, so make sure you know what and how much a particular plan covers before selecting it.
  4. Insurance plans have a "network," or list of providers, where you can use your insurance. Not every plan will include every provider, so check to see if your current provider is included in the plans you are considering.
  5. As the nation's leading women's health care provider and advocate, Planned Parenthood is here to help you understand what the law means for you, what to consider when choosing a health insurance plan, and how, when and why to enroll.

Floridians can check out their options today by going online to and for more information about health insurance options and to begin the sign-up process.