Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Sunday granted permission from the state to stop using the federal exchange, Healthcare.gov, to register in the single market and switch to the Georgia Access Form for the private sector, starting in 2023.
State officials argue that the move will give residents access to a wider range of options from online brokers, health insurers, and agents – which would have an even greater incentive for consumers to enroll in coverage. They estimate that the waiver will cut premiums and increase enrollment by 25,000 people.
However, advocates fear it could shift healthier people to less inclusive, non-Obamacare plans and leave those with pre-existing conditions facing higher premiums for the Affordable Care Act policies. Additionally, consumers may inadvertently subscribe to skimpier policies.
“A consumer could end up with insurance plans that don’t cover everything they think they will cover,” said Tara Straw, senior policy analyst at the Left Leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
What’s more, the Georgia exemption would eliminate the ability for residents to go to a single website to see all of their options. Instead, they will have to contend with a fragmented system of brokers and insurers – similar to what existed before the historic health reform law, Straw said. This could potentially reduce coverage and increase premiums.
Straw said the waiver does not meet federal requirements for approval, including covering as many people as possible with the same affordable, comprehensive coverage without the waiver. This will open approval for legal appeals.
About 433,000 Georgians were enrolled in Obamacare exchange plans, as of February, according to federal data.
The Trump administration supports a coalition of prosecutors led by Republicans, including Georgia, who argue that Obama’s unconstitutional mandate has become unconstitutional after Congress reduced its no-insurance penalty to zero as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts Act. As a result, the law should be dropped. The entire health reform, they say.
Georgia also obtained permission Sunday to implement a reinsurance program, which typically reduces premiums by protecting insurers from high-cost patients. More than a dozen states have received federal approval to do so.