Less expensive coverage comes with more risks “The administration’s rule change is dangerous for Georgia consumers,’’ said Laura Colbert of Georgians for a Healthy Future
Blog (June 2015)
In a 6-3 ruling the Supreme Court upheld tax credits in the Affordable Care Act. This is a big victory for Georgia health care consumers!
As an organization committed to making sure all Georgians have access to the health care they need, Georgians for a Healthy Future is celebrating today’s Supreme Court decision! This ruling is a big win and a big relief for the more than 400,000 newly enrolled Georgians who can keep their coverage and the access to care and financial peace of mind that comes with it.
“Today we celebrate an important victory for health care consumers, and we are relieved that hundreds of thousands of Georgians can keep their coverage,” said Cindy Zeldin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director. “But there is still work to do. Georgia has the second highest rate of uninsured in the country, and three-hundred thousand Georgians fall into a coverage gap that was created by Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid.”
Now that the outcome of King v. Burwell is clear, we must not forget these workers, parents, and veterans in our state who still lack access to quality, affordable health insurance. It’s time to close the coverage gap.
King v. Burwell
Sometime this month, the Supreme Court will rule on King v. Burwell, a case that could have major implications for Georgia health care consumers. The Court will rule on whether the ACA allows consumers to receive tax credits to help pay for health insurance in the 34 states including Georgia that use healthcare.gov, the federally facilitated marketplace. Here in Georgia, nearly 9 in 10 Georgians who enrolled in coverage this year accessed tax credits that made that coverage affordable. A ruling for the challenger in King v. Burwell would place coverage at risk for more than 400,000 Georgians. GHF is working to keep you informed and updated with all the latest on this case. Here’s what you need to know.
Cornelia Hinton, a recent college graduate at age 26, was no longer eligible to remain on her parents’ health insurance plan. Affordability (enhanced by a tax credit) was Cornelia’s main concern when enrolling in health insurance through the Marketplace. After her subsidy was applied, Cornelia’s plan cost her $83/month.
Cornelia is just one of the 400,000 Georgians whose coverage hangs in the balance. Let’s show our support for her and for the hundreds of thousands of Georgians who finally have access to health care and financial peace of mind. Spread the word. #DontTakeMyCare
GHF SPEAKS OUT
“A door that had been closed to too many Georgians for too long has finally been opened, and consumers have responded. The individuals and families who have walked through this door come from all corners of our state and from all walks of life. But they share a combination of relief and pride at finally enrolling in health insurance that fits within their budget. If the Court rules for the challengers, these newly enrolled Georgians will be looking to our state leaders for answers. Our state’s leadership should commit to use every tool in the toolbox to allow consumers to maintain access to marketplace health insurance and to the tax credits that have helped make it affordable.”
Local News Highlight
“I’m not a big Obama fan, but I don’t know how anybody could be against this,” Wilson said. “Prisoners get all of their health care paid for, so why can’t someone who’s worked all their lives also get some help?” Yet conservatives in Georgia and across the nation are just that – staunchly opposed to the Affordable Care Act, its mandate that most Americans buy insurance and its use of billions of taxpayer dollars to help pay for Obamacare plans.
GHF surveyed and interviewed enrollment assisters across the state to understand not only the “what,” but also the “why” behind the second open enrollment period. The results of that research have led us to several policy recommendations to maximize health insurance enrollment and retention and to ensure that coverage translates to meaningful access to timely and appropriate medical services for Georgia health care consumers.
- Close the coverage gap in Georgia. Approximately 300,000 Georgians fall into the coverage gap, meaning they do not qualify for Medicaid under existing income eligibility guidelines in Georgia but their income is still too low to qualify for financial assistance (tax credits) to purchase health insurance on the Marketplace. Eligibility for tax credits begins at 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, or $11,770 for an individual or $20,090 for a family of three in 2015, while Medicaid eligibility for most adults in Georgia cuts off at income much lower. Thirty states including DC have closed their coverage gaps thus far with promising results. We encourage Georgia policymakers to take this important step as well to ensure all Georgians have a pathway to coverage.
- Set and enforce network adequacy and transparency standards. Many of the plans sold through the Health Insurance Marketplace are Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans that feature narrow provider networks. While these narrow networks can help keep premiums down, a trade-off many consumers may be willing to make, consumers do not currently have sufficient information to make this choice. There is no information available to consumers at the point of sale about whether a provider network is ultra narrow, narrow, or broad, and provider directories are routinely inaccurate. More transparency and oversight are needed to ensure that consumers have accurate and useful information to make these choices. It is also important that all provider networks allow for meaningful access to all covered benefits. To ensure this, we support putting in place and enforcing network adequacy standards.
- Encourage public-private partnerships and remove unnecessary restrictions on consumer education and assistance. Many of the enrollment assisters we surveyed indicated that reducing barriers to partnering with state government organizations such as public colleges, universities, and health departments would lead to stronger and more effective partnerships. Specifically, many respondents indicated that improved coordination between enrollment assisters, the Marketplace, and the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to better facilitate PeachCare for Kids and Medicaid enrollment would be helpful. The “Health Care Freedom Act,” passed in 2014 as part of HB 943, prohibits state and local governmental entities from operating a health insurance navigator program and places other limitations on governmental entities. This provision has been counterproductive, creating confusion around what educational and consumer assistance activities local entities can engage in as they work to serve their community members. We recommend lifting these restrictions.
From choosing a plan to using your plan, health insurance can be complicated and many Georgians lack the information they need to make informed decisions. In GHF’s recent report Getting Georgia Covered: Best Practices Lessons Learned and Policy Recommendations from the Second Enrollment Period, we interviewed enrollment assisters across the state and found that more than two-thirds of our survey respondents identified low health insurance literacy as a barrier to enrollment. Many of the consumers that assisters worked with had never been insured before, so they did not know how to choose a primary care physician or pay their monthly premium. One of the assisters interviewed acknowledged they needed to educate consumers on how to use their health insurance, but that it was a challenge when scheduled with a large number of enrollment appointments, although there are lawyers and Massachusetts firms that are specialized in insurances policies so they can help you understand better how it works. Additionally, some assisters reported that consumers chose the lowest premium plan because they did not understand the concept of a high deductible. Sometimes consumers would return to the assister wanting to change plans once they had tried to use their coverage. As we move forward, Georgians for a Healthy Future will be focusing efforts on improving the health literacy of Georgians and ensuring they have the knowledge, information, and confidence they need to make informed decisions.