Affordable Care Act Providing Affordable Market for Uninsured

This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report showing that Affordable Care Act Marketplaces are providing some of the cheapest premiums in the nation to Georgians.  After tax credits, the average monthly premium paid by consumers on Georgia’s Marketplace is $54, second only to Mississippi’s $23 monthly premium amongst federally-operated Marketplaces.  The report also showed that 79% of Georgians enrolled in Marketplace plans with tax credits are paying $100 or less for their health insurance.

One contributor to lower premiums was more competition in the Marketplace, HHS said.  The department notes that each additional issuer in a rating area is associated with a 4% lower premium for the benchmark (second-lowest cost silver) plan.  More competition could push Georgia premiums down next year as UnitedHealthcare said they are contemplating offering plans in the Georgia Marketplace.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle also noted that the low premiums are indicative of the number of low-income people who are signing up for health insurance.  Tim Sweeney, of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, told the Atlanta Business Chronicle, “States with more low-income uninsured residents are going to benefit more because more enrollees are going to qualify for the [tax] subsidy.  What it shows is Georgians were more likely to get larger tax credits than people in other states.”

The latest figures show that 316,543 Georgians selected plans on the Marketplace during 2013-2014 open enrollment.

The report represents a bright spot in an otherwise challenging health care landscape across our state.  The Affordable Care Act Marketplace is succeeding in providing affordable health insurance to moderate income Georgians through tax credits.  Despite this success, there are those on both ends of the ACA Marketplace still struggling to access care.  For those below tax credit eligibility, Georgia has failed to expand our Medicaid program to provide health insurance to the neediest in our state and left rural hospitals to shoulder the burden.  For those just above tax credit eligibility, uncompetitive Marketplaces in Southwest Georgia are not providing affordable coverage.

As we move forward, Georgia should continue to pursue options that will increase access to health care for the neediest in our state, strengthen our rural hospital systems, and increase competition in all regions in our insurance market to lower premiums.  We should recognize this success of the Affordable Care Act Marketplace and build on it to ensure Georgia is healthy and prosperous for generations to come.

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