Obamacare insurance signups near 200,000 in Georgia

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As the March 31 enrollment deadline came and went, an estimated 200,000 Georgians had signed up for healthcare coverage through the health insurance exchange established as part of the Affordable Care Act.

Nationally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said the agency achieved its original objective as 7.1 million consumers enrolled through the health insurance exchanges, a majority of which are operated by the federal government (which is the case in Georgia).

Supporters of Obamacare, most especially President Barack Obama, were exultant over the last-minute surge that pushed the enrollment level past the 7 million mark.

“This law is doing what it’s supposed to do, it’s working,” Obama said Tuesday as he announced the enrollment number. “This law is helping millions of Americans, and in coming years it will help millions more.”

“These enrollment figures are a testament to a strong collaborative effort among health insurance navigators, certified application counselors, and other enrollment assisters across the state to help Georgia consumers understand their health insurance options and enroll in coverage that meets their needs,” said Cindy Zeldin, director of Georgians for a Healthy Future.

“These numbers also show that there was an unmet demand for affordable health insurance that is finally being met,” Zeldin said.

No final tally was available yet on the number of Georgians who signed up for coverage in time to meet the March 31 deadline. Glenn Allen, a spokesman for Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, said health insurers in Georgia reported 177,668 completed applications as of March 15, with 144,665 of those applicants also paying premiums.

“We’re still waiting for more detailed data on state-level healthcare.gov enrollment, but the estimates that 200,000 Georgians enrolled in coverage through the marketplace prior to March 31 deadline is great news, especially for the 200,000 Georgians who will have better access to the health care system through affordable health coverage,” said Tim Sweeney of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

The Georgia signups were accomplished in the face of unified opposition to Obamacare from the state’s top elected officials.

Gov. Nathan Deal declined to have the state participate either in the operation of the health insurance exchange or in the expansion of Medicaid, which would have provided coverage to an estimated 600,000 low-income Georgians.

Hudgens, whose office is responsible for helping consumers who have problems with insurance issues, commented on several occasions he would try to do everything he could to obstruct the implementation of Obamacare.

Attorney General Sam Olens has joined in several federal court lawsuits that have tried, without success, to have the Affordable Care Act overturned. Olens’ most recent lawsuit attempts to throw out the federal subsidies that help consumers pay the premiums for coverage they obtain through the health insurance exchanges.

Republican legislators passed two bills this year that put additional restrictions on any future attempts to expand Medicaid coverage or assist consumers in signing up for coverage under the program. Deal is expected to sign both bills into law.

While Obama and supporters of the healthcare act were declaring victory over the number of signups, Republican critics questioned the accuracy of the numbers and insisted that the law was a failure.

“Of the number enrolled in Obamacare, how many are actually purchasing policies versus signing up for expanded Medicaid?” asked state Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus). “Of those actually purchasing policies, how many have actually paid for their coverage? Of all those enrolled in Obamacare, how many are young and healthy and how many are older and sicker?”

“Until these questions are answered definitively it is ridiculous to suggest that it is a success,” McKoon contended.

“Despite all the hoopla from the administration and its media shills about how wonderful it is that a certain, arbitrary number of American citizens have ‘signed up’ for Obamacare by particular benchmark dates, the fact remains this federal law is rotten from start to finish,” said former congressman Bob Barr, who’s running for the 11th Congressional District seat.

As soon as the signup deadline had passed, Republican operatives were also attempting to link Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn to Obama and the Affordable Care Act.

A Republican Super PAC called “Ending Spending” started running attack ads this week that said, “As you prepare to file your tax return, remember, Michelle Nunn wants to be your senator. She supports Obamacare and higher taxes.”

The GA Victory Fund, another Super PAC, issued a statement Tuesday that charged, “Nunn has all but refused to let Georgia voters know where she stands on most major policy issues, (but) she’s been very clear that she does not support repealing ObamaCare.”

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Affordable Care Act , Barack Obama , Bob Barr , Cindy Zeldin , Georgia enrollments , Josh McKoon , Nathan Deal , Obamacare , Ralph Hudgens , Tim Sweeney