WABE News
4:20 pm
Fri November 16, 2012

Governor Deal: Georgia Won't Pursue Health Insurance Exchange

Governor Nathan Deal.
Governor Nathan Deal.

Governor Nathan Deal informed the Obama administration today the state will not set up its own health insurance exchange, one of the key elements of the federal health reform law.

Deal cited the law’s high cost and "one-size-fits-all approach."

"Restrictions on what the exchanges can and can’t offer render meaningless the suggestion that Georgia could tailor an exchange that best fits the unique needs of its population," said Deal in a prepared statement. 

An exchange is essentially a website that groups together private insurance policies so consumers can conveniently compare policies and pick out the best deal.

States originally had until Friday to decide whether to set up their own exchange or let the federal government do it for them. Many state leaders, however, complained the Obama administration had left too many unsettled details to move forward with a decision. In response, federal officials late Thursday extended the deadline to December 14th. Georgia filed its decision anyway.

Brian Robinson, a spokesman for governor, said regulations already established under the law are too onerous. He said the governor isn’t interested in a state insurance exchange “in name only.”

“We are forced to offer a certain level of policy and it’s those sorts of mandates that drive costs up for our consumers,” said Robinson.  

Despite Deal’s opposition, Georgians still get access to a health insurance exchange, only the federal government will run it.

Federal officials are currently hashing out baseline standards for the types of policies offered in the exchange. Beginning in 2014, low and middle income consumers will be able to apply federal tax credits to policies purchased through the exchange.

In the event Deal's position doesn't change, Cindy Zeldin, executive director of Georgians For A Health Future, said state officials may want to consider taking over the exchange at some point in the future.

"The biggest issue is, I think, when consumers need assistance, when they have questions, when they have grievances - having that here in Georgia might be different than having it be in Washington," said Zeldin. 

Across the country, Republican governors who have remained staunchly opposed to the health reform law made similar declarations as Governor Deal.

Some, however, are reconsidering.    

Republican-led New Mexico and Mississippi are going ahead with their own exchanges. Iowa and Ohio are considering partnerships with Washington. And Florida Governor Rick Scott, one of the most vocal opponents of the health reform law, now says he wants to work to "get to yes."