Georgia Democrats and left-leaning organizations urged Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens to help consumers understand the national health care overhaul rather than work to obstruct it.
The Thursday rally outside Hudgens’ downtown Atlanta office came after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on the Republican commissioner’s outspoken attempts to block the health care overhaul.
The story noted that the department offers little information about the overhaul on its website and explored Hudgens’ declaration that he aims to delay the new law from taking root in Georgia through legislation and policy changes.
“People need to know the details,” said state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta. “They need to know how to navigate these changes. And sadly the news is our insurance commissioner and our governor are turning a deaf ear to the people. Our insurance commissioner seems much more interested in blocking the law than upholding it.”
Through a spokesman, Hudgens declined to comment.
Hudgens recently made a high-profile pitch to stall approval of dozens of health plans that private companies will sell on a new insurance website, called an exchange, starting Oct. 1. And he stands firmly behind Deal’s decisions not to expand the state’s Medicaid program for the poor and to leave it up to the federal government to build the exchange.
About one in five Georgians don’t have health insurance, one of the highest rates in the nation, and an estimated 650,000 low-income state residents would have gained coverage under an expanded Medicaid. Another 900,000 residents are expected to shop on the health insurance exchange.
Nonprofit groups say it’s left to them to educate consumers on the exchange and other aspects of the law since state leaders have washed their hands of it. And that has a direct impact on residents who don’t know how to navigate the changes.
The Rev. George Johnson, who is hobbled by foot injuries and kidney failure, said he would be one of the 650,000 people covered by the Medicaid expansion if Hudgens and Deal reversed course.
“I’m in need of help. I’m in need of Medicaid expansion,” he said. “This is the new civil rights movement.”