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By Leigh Miller, Candidate for HD 30

In the middle of a healthcare crisis— during the Covid-19 pandemic and while hospitals in our state are closing at a fast clip – Gov. Brian Kemp proposes to make health insurance worse. We already rank 49th in the US for health insurance coverage.

He proposes withdrawing from the ACA exchange market, the place where small business owners, independent contractors, and other folks who don’t have employer-provided insurance, can purchase health insurance. The exchange market provides policies which adhere to all of the ACA rules — for example, every plan must cover pre-existing conditions. You can’t be denied coverage if you are fighting cancer, or a life-long auto-immune disease, or if you are pregnant. Also, policies on the exchange market are subsidized by the federal government. Most applicants receive a discount for their policies on the market; some discounts can be up to 60 percent! That’s 60 percent off a monthly premium, which can be as high as $3,000 per month for a family of five.

If our state chooses to block access to the exchange market, it would block access to the federal dollars WE receive to offset the costs of the plans. Governor Kemp is essentially stealing our federal taxes and refusing to let Georgians take back that money from the federal government. All of the other states use the exchange market, and their citizens are able to take advantage of these discounts (or subsidies) to make insurance affordable for families. Why should the families in Georgia not receive these discounts?

When I transitioned from practicing law at a firm to being a stay at home parent while my husband ran our small family business full-time, we needed to purchase our own health insurance. We purchased insurance through the ACA exchange market, and since all of those plans were required to cover pre-existing conditions, our young daughter’s medicine and supplies for Type 1 Diabetes were always covered under these plans.

The exchange is expensive for us although it’s not for everyone because the prices change based on income and family size. Two years ago I decided to try something different and tried to buy insurance from this “cheaper” private market which Kemp is trying to force Georgians to use.

It was a nightmare. I got spam emailed by hundreds of agents, and spent hours on the phone with agents trying to find any plan that would cover diabetes supplies. I finally found a policy and purchased the plan. Then, when I tried to purchase my daughter’s Diabetes supplies, they weren’t covered.

I ended up filing a complaint with the insurance commissioner. Investigators pulled up the recording of me talking to the agent and determined the agent had misrepresented his plan and ruled I could get my two months of premium refunded.

In the meantime, the insurance company sent a letter saying they were revoking the plan because they didn’t realize my child had Type 1 Diabetes, even though I had informed them multiple times. The company said they would never have issued the plan for our family in the first place. So, we didn’t have ANY health insurance, and I had to scramble to get insured quickly. Although I was reimbursed for my premium, my family was without health insurance for three months and I was still responsible for every doctor and pharmacy bill we had during those three months.

Luckily, nothing terrible happened to us during these months of confusion. The fact our state wants this scenario to be the norm for Georgia families and to take away the ACA exchange market option is mind-blowing.

For families who have insurance through an employer, this proposed change will not affect them directly. But if you don’t, say you work in a gig-based job, depend on tips, own a small business, are in college, or your employer just doesn’t provide insurance, then where will you find reliable health coverage?

Every policy I’ve seen which you can buy outside of the ACA exchange is a total scam, doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, and certainly won’t cover chemotherapy if you come down with cancer. Will these policies cover a pregnancy? Will you be charged more simply because you are female? Sure, these policies may seem “cheaper,” but, they are likely a complete junk product which provides you with almost nothing.

Our state is acting as though it does not care about our well-being. I don’t understand why Governor Kemp proposes to make our healthcare situation worse, especially in the middle of a global pandemic. Georgia is going the WRONG way. As a state, we should not be trying to get insurance for fewer people, but for more people.

Keeping the ACA exchange market option in Georgia, and choosing the Medicaid expansion option for Georgia, would insure about 500,000 more Georgians, and bring a much needed 3 Billion dollars into our healthcare systems.

Our elected officials should be fighting to insure MORE Georgians, not to take away insurance coverage options and needed discounts on premiums.

 

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