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Health Reform

An early, encouraging glimpse of 2015 rates

At least three health insurers plan to offer insurance statewide in Georgia’s exchange for 2015.

This year, only one health plan – Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia – went statewide in the exchange.

And the proposed Blue Cross rates for next year’s exchange will decrease by an average of 7 percent.

Healthcare Cost

Those were among the immediate highlights of data on proposed premiums, released by Georgia’s department of insurance, from the health plans seeking to participate in the state’s exchange next year.

A total of nine insurers are seeking to offer exchange plans in 2015. That’s up from five insurers for the current year.

The 2014 insurance exchange featured stark variability in rates between metro Atlanta, where multiple plan choices were offered, and southwest Georgia, where only a single insurer offered plans. The southwest Georgia region had some of the highest exchange premiums in the country this year.

“It looks to me that the market is becoming more competitive,’’ Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University, said Wednesday. “This is what you would expect to see in the second year of this.” full story

More insurers seek to join 2015 Georgia exchange

UnitedHealthcare, Coventry, Cigna and Time Insurance Company have each submitted plans with the state to offer health insurance in the federally run exchange in Georgia next year.

They join the five holdovers from this year’s exchange that are also submitting rates for review: Alliant Health Plans, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Humana, Kaiser Permanente, and Peach State Health Plans.

lb_uhc-logoThe state’s deadline for applications for the Georgia exchange was midnight Monday. Glenn Allen, a spokesman for state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, said late Monday afternoon that other insurers’ filings could come in before that deadline. full story

Many Georgians pay bargain ACA rates, report says

Georgia’s average premium for insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchange is the second-lowest among the 36 states using the federally run marketplace, according to a report released Wednesday.

clipboardGeorgians who qualified for subsidies or discounts for coverage are paying an average of $54 per month, the report said. Their average premium is $341, but they also get the immediate subsidy or tax credit of $287.

Only Mississippi, with an average premium of $23 a month, is lower.

Nationally, the consumers who selected silver plans, the most popular plan type in the federal exchange, are paying an average premium of $69 per month, counting the tax credits. Georgians picking silver plans pay an average of $39 a month.

The low premiums in Georgia may be largely due to a high number of purchasers having low incomes – and thus are getting substantial subsidies to afford coverage, said Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University. He pointed to the fact that the average premium in Georgia of $341 is just $5 a month lower than the U.S. average. full story

Georgia exchange may get another big player

UnitedHealthcare says it’s considering offering health plans in Georgia’s insurance exchange for 2015.

The giant insurer’s potential entry into the state’s exchange could increase competition in terms of premiums and choice of medical providers.

lb_uhc-logoState exchanges, required under the Affordable Care Act, are designed to help consumers find and purchase health coverage. They can be run by either the individual state or the federal government. Georgia, like most other states, has opted for federal administration.

Last year, just five health insurers offered plans in the Georgia exchange. They were Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, Humana, Alliant, and Peach State.

Minnesota-based UnitedHealth sells health plans in just five exchanges now, but its executives previously have said they expected to expand their offerings in 2015, Bloomberg News recently reported. full story

Looking for answers to the rural health care crisis

Four hospitals have closed in the past two years. Many areas can’t attract doctors, or have trouble keeping the ones they have. Some counties are without a hospital or other critical health services.

Rep. Terry England

Rep. Terry England

Those rural health care problems in Georgia were among the issues discussed at the initial meeting Monday of the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, recently appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

The panel was created to identify the needs of rural facilities and offer potential solutions. Members include hospital leaders, physicians and state lawmakers.

“The task is not going to be an easy one,’’ said state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn), a panel member who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee. “We’re open to a lot of different ideas and solutions.”

Possible remedies include a new initiative for a financially troubled hospital to downsize into a freestanding rural emergency department.

One strategy that went without much discussion was expanding the state’s Medicaid program. full story

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