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Health Insurance

A campaign debate on Obamacare

Arguments for and against the Affordable Care Act dominated the debate last Sunday between candidates for Georgia’ insurance commissioner post.

Incumbent Ralph Hudgens, a Republican, faced off against Democrat Liz Johnson and Ted Metz, a Libertarian, in the Atlanta Press Club debate.

Here’s the video of it:

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State takes action on Blue Cross contracts

Georgia’s insurance commissioner, in a rare regulatory action, has told the state’s largest health insurer to rescind newly added amendments to contracts with thousands of physicians.

clipboardPhysicians had complained that the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia contract revisions lacked clarity on the insurer’s payment rates for medical services.

“I heard from doctors all over the state about the heavy-handed approach taken by Blue Cross regarding their contract changes,” said Commissioner Ralph Hudgens in a statement.  “I want doctors spending time caring for their patients, not being stonewalled by an insurance company.”

Consumers should not be affected by the move, insurance department officials say, as the existing physician contracts remain intact.

Blue Cross said in a statement Thursday that it had been working with Hudgens and the insurance department for several weeks to resolve the issue. full story

Commentary: This is not Europe

Socialized, European-style health care.

That’s one of the descriptions of the Affordable Care Act offered by critics of the health reform law.

Katja Ridderbusch

Katja Ridderbusch

In a new GHN Commentary, a German journalist says the issue is not that simple. She notes how health care systems in Europe differ from one another and how they differ from the U.S. system under Obamacare.

Many Americans view the government requirement to buy insurance as “a constraint on their personal freedom,’’  Katja Ridderbusch writes in her Commentary.

But she adds that “most Europeans view mandatory insurance as peace of mind, providing the freedom of not having to worry about exploding medical costs and instead, being able to focus on whatever they consider important in their lives.”

Here is a link to her 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

Is Georgia’s medical access law too weak?

The state insurance department is looking at possible ways to strengthen a Georgia law that requires health insurers’ networks to give consumers adequate access to doctors and hospitals.

“Georgia is not alone: The feds and all the states are looking at the issue,’’ Trey Sivley, director of the Division of Insurance and Financial Oversight for the Georgia agency, told GHN recently.

Healthcare CostThe National Association of Insurance Commissioners is working on a redraft of its model for a network adequacy law. Georgia is studying the NAIC proposals, Sivley said. But he added that the state’s interest in the details “doesn’t mean that we’re going to adopt” the national group’s plan.

Such regulatory changes, if enacted, would coincide with an accelerating trend of health insurers offering consumers more limited choices of medical providers. The resulting health plans have become known generally as “narrow networks.” full story

Navigators aided consumers in need, report shows

Consumers in Georgia and three other states who were helped by navigators for the 2014 insurance exchanges tended to be people of color who were not financially secure, a recently released report says.

Navigators, who are specially trained in the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, provide face-to-face, in-person help for consumers seeking information about health insurance policies in the state exchanges, also called marketplaces.

The report by the University of Georgia also said many consumers helped by Seedco navigators in the four states had limited knowledge about health insurance concepts.

Sidney Wood meets with navigator Amanda Ptashkin in March.

A consumer meets with Atlanta-based Seedco navigator Amanda Ptashkin in March.

Seedco, a nonprofit group, was the lead organization in Georgia supplying navigators during the last Open Enrollment period for the ACA insurance exchanges. It also provided these counselors in Tennessee, New York and Maryland, and will do so again in the new enrollment period, which starts next month.

A UGA unit was the second Georgia navigator grantee group last year, but it is barred from participating this time by a newly passed state law. Top Georgia officials have been strongly critical of the ACA and have worked to limit official state involvement in its programs.

The UGA report found that among consumers in the four states helped by Seedco navigators, almost two-thirds (64.5%) were people of color. African-Americans were especially prevalent among these Georgia consumers. About 10 percent of consumers preferred to speak a language other than English. full story

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