By Carla Anderson
February 14, 2014
According to the Feb. 12 enrollment report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), more than 101,200 Georgia residents selected a private health plan and an additional 51,500 qualified for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Georgia ranks sixth among state’s using HealthCare.gov and eighth overall in the number of people who have selected health plans.
Of those Georgians selecting a private health plan, 83 percent qualified for financial assistance, tracking nearly exactly with the national figure of 82 percent. Eleven percent of Georgians selected a bronze plan (19 percent nationally), 63 percent selected a silver plan (62 percent nationally), 10 percent selected a gold plan (12 percent nationally), 15 percent selected a platinum plan (7 percent nationally) and 1 percent selected a catastrophic plan (1 percent nationally).
Enrollment for private insurance in 2014 continues through March 31. Policies purchased by the 15th of the month will be effective the first day of the following month. Individuals who remain uninsured after March may face a tax penalty of $95 or one percent of income, whichever is greater. Enrollment for Medicaid or CHIP continues throughout the year.
Georgia is among the 26 states that opted to use the federal health insurance marketplace, HealthCare.gov. State government officials such as Gov. Nathan Deal and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens continue to speak out against the marketplace. In his 2014 State of the State address, Deal called the Affordable Care Act “anything but affordable.” Hudgens implemented a requirement that navigators, who help consumers use the marketplace, pass the test that insurance agents are required to take. That requirement is much more stringent than required by the health care reform law, and Hudgens openly stated it was intended as obstructionism.
Georgia is also among that states that rejected an expansion of the Medicaid program. While Deal has repeatedly said Medicaid expansion would cost the state too much, his administration has shown some signs that it may reconsider. In particular, an advisor expressed interest in the “premium assistance” option, which uses Medicaid funding to enable low-income residents to purchase private insurance through the marketplace. Perhaps in response, a House Republican introduced a bill that would require the General Assembly to approve any change to the state’s Medicaid rules. By not expanding Medicaid, the state is leaving 400,000 low-income residents in a coverage gap — unable to qualify for either Medicaid or subsidies through the marketplace.
Five insurers are selling individual policies through the federal marketplace in Georgia: Alliant, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, and Peach State.
Residents of southern and southwestern Georgia face some of the highest premiums in the country. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation looked at the monthly premium for a 40-old purchasing the least expensive silver policy available in the region. In southwestern Georgia the monthly premium is $461, and in southern Georgia, it is $423. The Kaiser study cited several characteristics common among the high-cost areas of the country. In many cases, areas with high costs have a limited number of providers that don’t have to compete on price. In addition, high-cost areas often have more people in poorer health and fewer people who get health insurance through an employer.
According to HHS, about 1.7 million Georgia residents are uninsured. A study by Kaiser Health News estimates that about 650,000 Georgia residents qualify for subsidies to help them purchase coverage through the marketplace.
State Exchange Profile: Georgia
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Georgia’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.
Let your Georgia governor and legislators know how you feel about the state’s proposed health insurance exchange.Georgia Governor Nathan Deal