Under a proposal from Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, Georgians seeking to purchase health insurance would no longer have the option of shopping for plans on one website as they can now on the Obamacare site Healthcare.gov. Instead, they would have to seek out commercial insurance plans on their own.
In Kemp’s application to the Trump administration, the state says its proposal would insure 25,000 more Georgians and “create a competitive private insurance marketplace that provides Georgia’s residents with better access, improved customer service, and coverage options.”
Critics contend the proposal would make shopping for health insurance or reenrolling in existing plans more burdensome, causing tens of thousands to lose coverage. Others could face higher premiums, they say. Georgians also use Healthcare.gov as a gateway to enroll in Medicaid, the health plan for the poor. Critics say the proposal would diminish the number of people in that program as well.
Currently, about 450,000 Georgians purchase plans on the federal exchange, according to the state.
“Georgia is jeopardizing coverage for tens of thousands of Georgians by seeking to dismantle a crucial pathway the state’s residents rely on to access health insurance,” Tara Straw, a senior health policy analyst at the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, wrote in an analysis of Georgia’s plan.
Christen Linke Young, a fellow at the Initiative for Health Policy, jointly run by the University of Southern California and the Brookings Institution, said the proposal would violate the Affordable Care Act by causing people to lose coverage.
Under the ACA, states can operate their own state health insurance exchanges, and 13 states have opted to do so. The rest either use the federal Healthcare.gov site or various hybrid partnerships with the federal government. Whatever the type, consumers can use the exchanges to compare and purchase commercial plans. The sites also are able to calculate the federal subsidies for consumers based on their income.
If Georgia’s application is successful, residents would have to return to the way health insurance worked before the ACA, navigating the open market to find a suitable plan. The state says that would enable Georgians to get lower prices, but critics worry that insurers and brokers would steer them to substandard plans that could leave them with coverage gaps if they got sick.
The public has until Sept. 16 to submit comments on the proposal. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ final decision should come by March.