healthcare_reform_web.jpgFORT LAUDERDALE (AP) — Florida nearly doubled enrollment in health plans during March, bringing the total to nearly one million enrollees in exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, far surpassing White House goals and beating out three dozen other states, according to figures released May 1.

Health and Human Services officials took a victory lap, noting more than eight million signed up nationally and spotlighting Florida as one of its highest achievers. But enrollment lagged among Hispanics, who represent the highest uninsured rate of any racial or ethnic group, and the critical 18-to-34-year-old demographic.

In Florida, 106,647 enrollees, or about 19 percent, of the 983,775 who signed up were Hispanic. The figure was only slightly higher for African Americans. The numbers don’t reveal a complete picture since applicants were not required to report their race. Just a little more than half of Florida applicants did so.

About 1.1 million, or slightly more than 10 percent of the nation’s eligible uninsured Hispanics, live in Florida. Roughly 3.4 million Hispanic Floridians are eligible for coverage in the exchange, behind only California and Texas. The law’s benefits are only for citizens and legal US residents.

The number of “young invincibles” who enrolled in health plans only jumped slightly in the past two months, from 24 percent to 28 percent. Experts had predicted a surge of last-minute signups in this group. Insurers are counting on the business of young, healthy adults to offset the costs of covering older, sicker enrollees. The Obama administration courted them aggressively through social media campaigns and celebrity endorsements.

Florida was among more than a dozen states where enrollment has doubled since March 1, including Texas and Florida. Texas has more uninsured people than the Sunshine State but still had only 733,757 to Florida’s 983,775, according to the enrollment report.

Florida’s success comes despite Republican leaders who fought the Affordable Care Act at every turn, banned navigators from county health departments, offered no state dollars to boost outreach efforts to 3.5 million uninsured and led the fight to repeal the law.

The swing state benefited from infrastructure created by Democratic-affiliated groups during the past three presidential elections, along with continued investment by the Obama administration and nonprofit advocacy groups. The diverse state will likely be competitive in November’s midterm election.