Next Story

Fulton County to spend more on buildings, justice system

Georgia insurance chief asks Congress to allow more local control


Georgia’s insurance commissioner wants Republicans in Congress to allow states more flexibility in setting their own health insurance rules.

Ralph Hudgens, who has long opposed the Affordable Care Act, also says that when it is repealed, as is likely, the federal government should fund state “high-risk’’ insurance pools for people with pre-existing health conditions.

GUIDE: The Affordable Care Act in Georgia

Hudgens made the comments in a Jan. 13 letter to U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who, along with other House leaders, wrote to governors and insurance commissioners asking for their views on health care changes under the new Congress.

“I welcome any action by the federal government that truly shifts authority away from Washington, D.C., and returns it to Georgia and allows our state to set policy in areas so important to the lives of our citizens,’’ Hudgens wrote.

The Republican-led Congress is poised to pass legislation to repeal Obamacare and develop a replacement plan. Their previous efforts to do so went nowhere, but now they have an ally in the White House. New President Donald Trump has made scrapping the health law a priority.

Hudgens said in his letter that the health care law’s requirement for most people to have insurance or be penalized did not work in resolving the pre-existing condition problem, leading to what he called significant cost increases.

A high-risk pool for high-cost individuals, funded by the feds and run by states, would allow the risk pool for other people “to function normally,” said Hudgens.

Some states have found that high-risk pools had financial difficulties, and some had limitations on coverage.

Prior to Obamacare, Georgia created the legal mechanism for a high-risk pool, but never funded it. High-risk pools were designed to offer health coverage to people with pre-existing conditions that prevented them from getting private insurance. The Affordable Care Act bars insurers from denying people coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

Hudgens also supports insurers selling policies across state lines, even though a Georgia law allowing such sales has not led to any takers.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, like other governors, was among the recipients of the letter from McCarthy and House leaders. Deal spokeswoman Jen Ryan said last week that his staff was reviewing it. Ryan could not be reached Monday on whether Deal had sent his reply.

Deal in the past has called for more state flexibility on Medicaid, which in Georgia covers nearly 2 million people, most of them children.

AJC POLL: Georgians support Medicaid expansion

Deal said in 2014 that he has “often discussed the advantages of a block grant. States need more flexibility in order to make their program work for their unique population rather than a one-size-fits-all Washington mandate.’’

On Sunday, in fact, a top adviser to Trump said the president’s plan to replace the Affordable Care Act will propose a block grant — giving states a fixed amount of federal money to run their Medicaid programs.

A block grant, said Kellyanne Conway, would ensure that “those who are closest to the people in need will be administering’’ Medicaid.

But some health law advocates say that a block grant would disadvantage Georgia, which has a per-beneficiary spending in Medicaid much lower than most states.

“Proposing that block grants give states flexibility really means flexibility to cut services and restrict eligibility,’’ Laura Harker, policy analyst at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, said Monday.

The current Medicaid structure allows federal funding to adjust every year based on need, Harker said.

“For example, the amount of federal funds grows during an economic downturn when more people need the program,’’ she said.

Andy Miller is the CEO and editor of Georgia Health News.


Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Georgia resets rules on voter challenges after a town got it wrong
Georgia resets rules on voter challenges after a town got it wrong

A recent string of problems over how local officials challenged the registration of Georgia voters can be summed up in the curt, one-page letter that arrived mid-July at Jennifer Hill’s home near Savannah. Even though she had lived there for three years, the tiny town of Thunderbolt wanted Hill to prove her residency because her name did...
Lawmakers begin talks about how to replace Georgia’s aging vote system
Lawmakers begin talks about how to replace Georgia’s aging vote system

A handful of lawmakers began the discussion Friday about what it might take to move Georgia to a new election system, an important but incremental step toward replacing the state’s aging voting machines. The meeting of the state House Science and Technology Committee represents a start. Any decision will likely take a few years and, depending...
Graham-Cassidy obscures deadlines for other key actions on health care
Graham-Cassidy obscures deadlines for other key actions on health care

Nearly one hundred and fifty million dollars to keep Georgia hospitals’ indigent care afloat. Funding for the PeachCare program that along with Medicaid covers about half of Georgia’s kids. Clear answers on Obamacare subsidies that Blue Cross said it needed to keep selling individual plans in metro Atlanta. Those are some things that Congress...
Georgia ethics panel to begin auditing candidates in governor’s race
Georgia ethics panel to begin auditing candidates in governor’s race

After years of mainly investigating issues raised by Georgians, the state’s ethics watchdog agency plans to aggressively audit campaign filings from all the major statewide races coming up. Stefan Ritter, the executive secretary of the ethics commission, said that while some details still have to be worked out, the agency will be auditing the...
From the Right, the advice for Trump is to try diplomacy
From the Right, the advice for Trump is to try diplomacy

A roundup of editorials Friday looks at the idea that kicking North Korea out of the UN would go a long way toward helping the current situation, and that having President Donald Trump negotiate instead of threaten would be the best move to make.  Here are some opinions from the Right. From The Wall Street Journal: If the world community is serious...
More Stories