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Georgia health insurance

'Peach State' health ranking plummets, but state shuns reform

Health-related issues – like public health, how many people have health insurance, and attitudes toward health care reform – influence your attitude about a state. Are you concerned by Georgia’s public health trends? Do you agree with the policy decisions related to Obamacare in Georgia? This summary of selected issues can help you decide.

Georgia health ratings

Georgia ranks 45th in overall health among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in the 2014 Scorecard on State Health System Performance. Georgia dropped 10 positions from its position in the 2009 rankings. The state ranked in the bottom 25 percent on 15 of 46 measures. See Georgia’s Scorecard for its ranking on individual health indicators.

Georgia is 38th in America’s Health Rankings from 2013, which is the most recent available. Health highlights in the state include a low prevalence of chronic drinking and high childhood immunization rates. Challenges include a low high school graduation rate, a high percentage of children living in poverty, and a high rate of low birthweight.

While the data is not summarized into an overall score, the 2014 edition of Trust for America’s Health scores a range of individual public indicators; see Key Health Data About Georgia. Finally, you can review county-by-county health rankings for Georgia from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin.

Georgia and Obamacare

Georgia politics are dominated by Republicans at the federal and state levels, and the Affordable Care Act is deeply unpopular.

In the 2010 vote on the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted no. Sen. John Isakson is listed as not voting on this particular piece of legislation, he has is firmly opposed to the ACA and sponsored legislation for the law’s repeal. In the House, seven Georgia Republican and two Democratic representatives voted no, while four Democratic representatives voted yes.

At the state level, Gov. Nathan Deal and Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens stand out as two of the law’s harshest critics. Georgia defaulted to the federally facilitated health insurance marketplace and did not expand Medicaid. Georgia was among the states that imposed restrictions on navigators, who were intended to help consumers enroll in the marketplace.

During its 2014 session, the Georgia Assembly passed laws that prohibit the establishment of a state-run marketplace, disallow the use of taxpayer money for navigator programs, and forbid government employees from advocating for Medicaid expansion.

How did the ACA help Georgia?

From 2013 to mid-2014, the uninsured rate in Georgia dropped from 21.4 percent to 20.2 percent. The failure to expand Medicaid expansion or implement a state-run exchange (in many states, an indication of ACA opposition) as well limitations on navigators are all factors in the moderate decline.

The average change in the uninsured rate was -2.2 percentage points in states that didn’t implement a state-run marketplace or Medicaid expansion, or implemented only one of those measures.

Georgia enrollment in QHPs

Just more than 316,500 Georgia residents enrolled in a qualified health plan (QHP) during the 2014 open enrollment period. That’s 29.8 percent of eligible enrollees, above the national average of 28.0 percent.

Of those enrolling in a QHP, 87 percent qualified for tax subsidies to make the premium cost more affordable.

Five insurers sold individual policies on the marketplace during 2014 open enrollment in Georgia. Four more insurers joined the Georgia marketplace for 2015. Importantly, three insurers will sell policies in all counties,  bringing needed competition — and hopefully some price relief to southwest Georgia.

Georgia Medicaid

Georgia’s decision against Medicaid expansion leaves 282,000 individuals in the coverage gap, meaning they don’t qualify for either Medicaid or the ACA’s premium subsidies to help offset the cost of private insurance.

Georgia’s Medicaid program is not open to non-disabled adults without dependent children, and is only available for parents of dependent children if their household income is under 35 percent of the federal poverty level.

Visit the Georgia Department of Community Health website for information about Georgia’s Medicaid programs.

Other ACA reform provisions

The ACA’s Consumer Operated and Oriented Plan (CO-OP) Program encourages the creation of nonprofit, consumer-run health insurance issuers Twenty-three CO-OPs received funding in the form of loans totaling $1.98 billion. No CO-OP plans were created in Georgia.

State-level reform in Georgia

Here’s what’s happening at the state level with healthcare reform in Georgia: