More insurers apply for Georgia’s health insurance exchange

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Four more health insurance carriers have applied to the Georgia Department of Insurance to participate in the health insurance exchange that is part of the Affordable Care Act.

That would nearly double the number of insurers involved in the exchange, which is operated by the federal government in the wake of Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision not to participate in it.

Five insurance firms currently offer healthcare plans as part of the exchange: Alliant Health Plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield Healthcare Plan of Georgia, Humana Employer’s Health Plan of Georgia, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans of Georgia, and Peach State Health Plans.

Four more carriers have told the insurance department they also want to participate in the exchange in 2015: UnitedHealthcare, Coventry, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Co., and Time Insurance Co.

The insurers’ interest in becoming part of the health insurance exchange is at odds with the campaign pledges made by virtually every Republican candidate running for one of Georgia’s congressional seats.

They promise they will vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, with 11th Congressional District candidate Bob Barr making the typical comment: “There’s not one good piece of anything in it. I say kill it, drive a stake through its heart, burn it, and scatter the ashes!”

Supporters of the ACA contend that the insurers’ requests to join the exchange are an indication it has been successful in making healthcare coverage more accessible to Georgians.

“We think the increased competition is a good sign and hopefully will benefit Georgia healthcare consumers with lower premium rates and expanded provider access,” said Liz Coyle of the consumer organization Georgia Watch.

“Increasingly, the Affordable Care Act is helping Georgia families gain coverage they can afford,” Coyle said.

“The enrollment figures in the first open enrollment period were strong, which shows that there had been an unmet demand for affordable health insurance in Georgia,” said Cindy Zeldin of Georgians for a Healthy Future.

“That more insurance companies have applied to participate shows that they want the business of these consumers and of those who didn’t sign up during the first open enrollment period but who may sign up this fall, when the second enrollment period opens,” Zeldin said.

Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, a Republican who opposes Obamacare, predicted last year that the health insurance program “would lead to rates being doubled or tripled. Increases of this magnitude will make coverage less affordable and increase the number of uninsured in Georgia.”

More than 316,000 Georgians, however, signed up for healthcare plans through the insurance exchange during the initial enrollment period.

A report released last month by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicates that Georgia consumers who obtained coverage through the exchange are paying some of the lowest premiums in the country.

The average monthly premium for one of these policies — not including the federal tax credits provided under Obamacare — is $54, according to the HHS report.

That was lower than the national average premium of $82 and is also lower than the average monthly premiums paid in Alabama, Florida, South and North Carolina, and Tennessee. The only state with a lower average premium is Mississippi at $23 per month, the report said.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Affordable Care Act , Bob Barr , Cindy Zeldin , health insurance exchange , Liz Coyle , Obamacare , Ralph Hudgens