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Health Reform

How court rules on ACA will affect many Georgians

Georgia would have the fourth-highest number of people affected if the U.S. Supreme Court rules against the current implementation of the Affordable Care Act, a study has found.

The case, King v. Burwell, involves a legal challenge to the tax credits in states with federally run exchanges.

iStock_000023217379LargeUnder the ACA, every state has an insurance exchange, with some being operated by the individual states but most by the federal government. Currently, eligible consumers with coverage purchased on an exchange can get federal tax credits, or subsidies, regardless of how their particular exchange is run.

The plaintiffs in the case say the language of the ACA allows the tax subsidies only where there is a state-run exchange. The Obama administration challenges that interpretation.

If the plaintiffs win, the subsidies would end in most states. And these tax credits make ACA health plans more affordable for low- and moderate-income Americans, so the impact would be great.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study notes that 37 states have federally operated exchanges, and finds that of these states, only Florida, Texas and North Carolina would have more people losing subsidies than the Georgia estimate of 784,000. full story

Exchange workers put priority on Latino outreach

Maria Espinoza came to a Doraville middle school Saturday looking to repeat what she called her “good experience’’ in the Affordable Care Act exchange.

Maria Espinoza

Maria Espinoza

Espinoza, 35, a construction worker, said through an interpreter that her ACA coverage for this year had worked out well, and that it was inexpensive.  Enrollment is now under way for next year.

Sequoyah Middle School, where Espinoza came to sign up,  was one of several metro Atlanta sites staffed by navigators, or insurance counselors, and by Enroll America personnel on the first day of open enrollment for the exchange.

With 80 percent of its students being Latino, the school was a logical place to do outreach to that population, which have high numbers of uninsured people.

The Latino community has proved at times difficult to reach, despite members’ need for coverage.

Georgia’s Latino/Hispanic population, which was small for most of the state’s history, has grown strongly and steadily since about 1990. They now constitute about 8 percent of the state’s population, but they account for 17 percent of the uninsured in Georgia. full story

What to expect in Year 2 of ACA enrollment

The Affordable Care Act exchange, which begins its second open enrollment period this Saturday, will offer many Georgians lower prices this time around.

Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University, said Thursday that the average premium statewide for a 40-year-old nonsmoker for the second-lowest “silver” plan will rise by 2 percent from the 2014 figure.

healthcaregovBut in some Georgia regions, the premium for that plan will drop by double-digit rates, he said.

Still, people looking for a second year of coverage in the exchange – or to get a policy for the first time – need to pay attention to many factors besides premiums. Deductibles, co-insurance, prescription drug coverage, and whether specific hospitals and physicians are in a network are among the major considerations.

One thing is almost certain: Healthcare.gov, the federal enrollment website, will work more smoothly during this enrollment period. Last year, the site was plagued with massive technical problems – so much so the federal government extended the open enrollment window. full story

Latest ACA court case reverberates in Georgia

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday to take up a case challenging the subsidies in the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges could wind up having a huge impact in Georgia.

The federal subsidies help millions of Americans afford health insurance offered in the exchanges, which were created as part of the health reform law.

The U.S. Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion optional for states..

According to the plaintiffs, those subsidies are improperly being given in the more than 30 states, including Georgia, that have decided not to run their own insurance exchanges. The federal government runs the exchanges in those states.

If the Supreme Court strikes down subsidies in federally run exchanges, it almost certainly would cause those marketplaces to collapse unless the states step in to run them.

In Georgia, however, that is not legally possible. This year, the Georgia General Assembly passed legislation that bars the state from running an ACA exchange. That prohibition was among other anti-Obamacare provisions that were signed into law. full story

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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