Biden suspends Kemp’s plan to block ACA website
On Friday, the Biden administration formally suspended Gov. Brian Kemp’s efforts to block the Affordable Care Act’s federal shopping website healthcare.gov, which means Georgians planning to buy health insurance for next year will still be able to do so. Open enrollment shopping begins on November 1 for coverage that starts on January 1, 2023.
In a letter to Kemp’s office, the Biden administration said it was ”committed to working with Georgia to make changes to (Kemp’s proposal) to ensure enrollment does not decrease in the State under the waiver.”
Georgians can already shop for ACA plans from independent brokers, but must choose the federal website instead, where they can compare different companies’ plans in one place. About 700,000 Georgians are on ACA plans, most purchased via healthcare.gov.
The Biden administration had contacted the state and expressed misgivings on the same issues for more than a year and had still not received an action plan from Georgia to address those issues. During a back and forth between the state and federal government a few weeks ago, the Kemp administration announced that it had spent at least $31 million on its proposal to bar Georgians from shopping for health insurance on the federal healthcare.gov website.
A spokeswoman for Kemp, Katie Byrd, said that the governor’s office is evaluating its options based on Biden’s decision. The outgoing administration of former President Trump had approved Kemp’s proposal prior to Biden taking office.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states may obtain a “waiver” from the federal government to tailor some ACA provisions in ways that would better fit the state. But the Biden administration argued that the pandemic raised questions about whether the Georgia waiver would actually decrease the number of people enrolled rather than increase it as it was supposed to do.
Kemp’s administration argued that Georgians would find it easier to shop for insurance from private companies, because they are more motivated to be consumer-friendly, saying private-sector brokers would be more motivated to make the experience easy.
Patient advocates disagree and argue that private sector brokers have a record of prioritizing their own profit, and selling plans that may not best meet customers’ needs.