480,000 Ge­or­gians pick Oba­macare plans

Se­nate may vote this week to be­gin re­peal of health law.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FROM PAGE ONE - By Misty Wil­liams mwilliams@ajc.com

More than 480,000 Ge­or­gians have se­lected health plans through the Af­ford­able Care Act, aka Oba­macare, in­surance mar­ket­place so far, new fed­eral data shows.

Na­tion­ally, up­ward of 11.5 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have cho­sen ACA plans for 2017 so far — up 2.5 per­cent from the same pe­riod dur­ing last year’s open en­roll­ment, ac­cord­ing to a Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices re­port re­leased Tues­day.

In Ge­or­gia, en­roll­ment is down about 6 per­cent from the same time last year (Nov. 1-Dec. 24, 2016). But that rel­a­tively small drop re­flects a sta­tus quo for the Oba­macare mar­ket­place here, said Bill Custer, a health care ex­pert at Ge­or­gia State Univer­sity.

Some peo­ple may not have signed up be­cause of higher pre­mi­ums, Custer said. Mean­while, the re­sult of the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion could have had a pos­i­tive and a neg­a­tive im­pact on en­roll­ment, can­cel­ing each other out, he said.

Some peo­ple may no longer worry about get­ting cov­er­age, as­sum­ing the law won’t be around much longer, Custer said. Oth­ers may think they should get, or keep, the health in­surance avail­able to them while they can.

The fate of Ge­or­gia’s in­surance mar­ket­place go­ing for­ward is un­clear.

Congress could vote within the next cou­ple of days to be­gin sys­tem­at­i­cally dis­man­tling Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s sig­na­ture health law. Repub­li­can lead­ers have long called for re­peal, with Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump sup­port­ing re­peal as well. But the process could prove to be more dif­fi­cult than many GOP law­mak­ers an­tic­i­pated.

A num­ber of Repub­li­can sen­a­tors have al­ready raised con­cerns about re­peal­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act with­out a re­place­ment plan. Repub­li­can Govs. John Ka­sich of Ohio and Rick Sny­der of Michi­gan have also warned of the con­se­quences of re­peal­ing the law with­out an al­ter­na­tive in place. Both of those states have ben­e­fited from ex­pand­ing Med­i­caid un­der the law — ex­tend­ing in­surance to hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple and bring­ing bil­lions of new fed­eral dol­lars into their economies.

Ge­or­gia is one of 19 states that has not ex­panded Med­i­caid.

Ex­pan­sion here would ex­tend health in­surance to an es­ti­mated 600,000 poor res­i­dents. Ge­or­gia has the third-high­est unin­sured rate in the coun­try at 13.9 per­cent, be­hind only Texas (17.1 per­cent) and Alaska (14.9 per­cent), the lat­est Cen­sus Bureau data shows.

State law­mak­ers have said that for now, how­ever, it doesn’t make sense to make any big pol­icy de­ci­sions about Med­i­caid. In­stead, they will wait to see what ac­tions Congress takes in the months ahead.

Open en­roll­ment for Oba­macare cov­er­age in 2017 ends Jan. 31.

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