Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced the details of a plan Thursday that could reduce federal control over the health care marketplace and reduce premiums for Georgians.
"Georgia Access” will give Georgians more options for health care coverage through a reinsurance program and by bypassing the federal marketplace for a state alternative, he said.
“This plan shakes up the status quo as we work to enhance access to affordable, quality healthcare in Georgia,” Kemp said.
Georgia Access is a product of The Patients First Act, signed into law by Kemp in March. The Patients First Act allows the Georgia Department of Community Health to submit waivers to the federal government related to the Affordable Care Act. Kemp promised to revamp the state’s health care system during his campaign run.
“Gov. Kemp‘s announcement today will do exactly what we talked about on the campaign trail – putting Georgia in the lead on the national conversation surrounding meaningful healthcare reform," Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan said. "Georgia Access will allow us to immediately begin tackling the top two issues that impact every single Georgian: affordability and access to quality services.”
The ACA was signed into law by former President Barrack Obama in 2010 as a vehicle to offer health care coverage to more Americans including patients who are already ill.
Part of the bill created subsidies for households who surpass the income thresholds but fall under lower income guidelines for Medicaid. To determine their eligibility, enrollees would visit the marketplace website, healthcare.gov. But if Kemp’s waiver is accepted, Georgians will go through Direct Enrollment Brokers or purchase a plan directly from insurance providers.
The waiver proposal will initiate a reinsurance program that will cover the risk associated with insurance companies catering to patients with pre-existing conditions. This will in return lower private sector insurance rates.
The governor’s office said the plan will help support small businesses in the state.
“Under current law, employers cannot offset the cost of an employee’s health insurance plan purchased through the federal exchange. Georgia Access waives that restriction and allows employers to invest in the health and well-being of their employee,” a statement from Kemp’s office said.
The public will have 30 days to comment on the waiver before it is finalized and submitted to the federal government.
The ACA also raises the federal income eligibility requirements for Medicaid to include more residents. The Kemp administration plans to submit a waiver to the federal government that is not a full Medicaid expansion. Details about the second waiver will be announced Monday.
Georgia officials said they plan to submit the applications for both waivers to the federal government by Dec. 31.