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Health Insurance

Latest snapshot of Georgia exchange enrollees

First-time enrollees, Medicaid-eligible individuals, and an influx of young people.

Healthcare CostThat’s part of the picture that emerges from the data that federal officials released Tuesday about the more than 425,000 Georgians who have signed up for coverage in the health insurance exchange.

The Department of Health and Human Services reported that 90 percent of enrollees in Georgia received financial assistance, or subsidies, to help them afford an exchange health plan.

The report also said 36 percent were under 35 years of age. The high number of young people is important for insurers. Younger adults, who as a group are generally healthy, balance out the companies’ financial risks of covering older people, who are more likely to become ill. full story

School bus driver: I work for the benefits

For the past nine years, Anne Walden has enjoyed her job of driving a school bus through rural areas of McDuffie County.

“I absolutely love it,’’ says Walden, 60. “I love my kids.”

McDuffie County

McDuffie County

But it’s still a job, and Walden is clear about the underlying reason why she does it: health insurance.

“We don’t make any money’’ compared to what other occupations pay, Walden said Monday, noting that her income is $8,800 a year. “Most drivers drive for the benefits.’’

But the health insurance that Walden gets through the state employee and teachers plan would end at the end of the year, if Gov. Nathan Deal’s budget proposal is ultimately approved.

Deal’s budget plan would eliminate health coverage for 11,500 “non-certificated’’ school personnel who work fewer than 30 hours a week, including school bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

The proposal has generated broad concern among lawmakers and health advocates.

And this week, a key teacher advocacy group that made waves in 2014 by backing changes to the State Health Benefit Plan has thrown its support behind preserving the insurance options for the school workers. full story

Commentary: Don’t save unauthorized subsidies

The upcoming U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act exchanges has already unleashed a torrent of speculation and opinion.

Rep. Jason Spencer

Rep. Jason Spencer

A week ago, Georgia State University law professor Erin C. Fuse Brown argued in a Commentary that the court should preserve the insurance subsidies for consumers in states such as Georgia that let the federal government run their exchanges.

Now, in a rebuttal Commentary, state Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) says the subsidies for federally run exchanges violate the ACA and should be thrown out by the court.

Spencer, while a staunch opponent of the health law, says its language on subsidies is clear and binding. “Congress stipulated in the ACA that federal tax subsidies would be limited to individuals who purchased health insurance through an ‘[e]xchange established by the State,’ ’’ he writes. “There is no more ambiguity in the word ‘State’ than there is in the meaning of the word ‘is.’ ”

Here’s a link to Spencer’s Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at amiller@georgiahealthnews.com

HHS chief hails exchange success in Georgia

Benjamin Wills’ dream is to open a private Christian school in a downtrodden area of west Atlanta.

One hurdle he has faced, though, was finding a less expensive source of health insurance for himself, his wife and their daughter.

Benjamin Wills speaks to reporters as (from left) Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, Dr. Michael Brooks and Sylvia Burwell look on.

Benjamin Wills speaks to reporters as (from left) Fulton County Commission Chairman John Eaves, Dr. Michael Brooks and Sylvia Burwell look on.

Wills, 28, found an answer in the Affordable Care Act exchange. He chose a plan with a monthly premium of $370 for family medical and dental coverage — an amount that was less than what they were offered through an employer, he said.

The price and security of the ACA coverage, Wills said, helped give him confidence to establish his school, which he aims to open in August. “We want to serve others,’’ he said.

Wills and his family are among the more than 425,000 Georgians currently signed up for coverage in the health insurance exchange in 2015.

That signup number has exceeded expectations for this point in the open enrollment process. The enrollment period ends Feb. 15.

Wills joined U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and local officials at an Atlanta news conference Friday discussing enrollment in the health insurance exchange. The event took place at The Family Health Centers of Georgia’s location in the West End of Atlanta.

Burwell indicated that she was pleased with Georgia’s current enrollment number, adding, “We want to keep that number moving.’’  full story

With a month to go, exchange enrollment high

Federal officials announced Wednesday that Georgia’s signup total for the insurance exchange reached 425,927 as of Jan. 16.

Sylvia Burwell

Sylvia Burwell

That’s an increase of more than 25,000 from the week before.

The state’s current enrollment greatly surpasses last year’s total of 316,543. It also indicates that the final number of Georgia enrollees may be near the half-million mark at the end of the open enrollment period Feb. 15.

Nationally, more than 7.1 million consumers are enrolled in exchange coverage, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said.

Georgia is one of 37 states using the federally run exchange. Among those states, only Florida, Texas and North Carolina have enrollment higher than Georgia’s, the HHS figures show.

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