Federal Agencies Want More Information On Georgia’s Plan To Cut Ties With Healthcare.gov

Updated at 1:40 p.m. Friday

The Biden administration has placed another roadblock in front of Gov. Brian Kemp’s health care agenda. 

It’s asking for more details on Georgia’s plan to end the use of the Obamacare enrollment website, Healthcare.gov. The proposal, styled “Georgia Access,” would instead have people sign up for coverage through insurance companies, brokers and third-party websites.

In a letter to state officials penned Thursday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of the Treasury say they need a new analysis of Georgia’s plan by July 3.

The letter expresses concern that the Affordable Care Act insurance landscape has changed considerably since Georgia’s plan was approved by the Trump administration last year. 

“Since that time, there have been changes in both health care priorities and policies, as well as federal law,” the letter reads.

That’s due in large part to Biden administration efforts to strengthen the ACA by expanding enrollment opportunities and offering more financial help to pay for coverage.

The agencies argue Georgia’s plan now “requires further evaluation, because the recent changes in federal law and other circumstances” could mean it now violates federal guidelines.

Kemp has made ditching Healthcare.gov a key part of his health care agenda. In a statement Friday, a spokesperson says his office is reviewing the letter.

“The Biden administration is justified in asking for more information about the Georgia Access plan,” said Laura Colbert with the consumer advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, which has long had concerns about the proposal.

“If Georgia cuts ties with Healthcare.gov, Georgians and their families would be at much higher risk of becoming uninsured or underinsured. This is especially true for people of color, rural residents, Georgians with chronic health conditions and low-income folks,” she continued.

Supporters of the federal enrollment website have long said it provides a transparent one-stop shop for people shopping for Obamacare insurance. They’ve expressed concerns that pushing people away from the federal exchange to insurance companies, brokers and third-party websites will make it harder for people to choose the coverage that fully meets their needs.

There are a few ways this could play out, Colbert says: federal officials could let the “Georgia Access” plan take effect in 2022 as originally approved; they could work with the state to tweak the proposal; or the approval could be revoked, which Colbert thinks could result in legal action from the state.

Georgia’s plan is already the subject of a federal lawsuit, brought earlier this year by two local health care providers.

Earlier this year, the Biden administration pressed pause on another major piece of Kemp’s health care agenda, a limited Medicaid expansion with work requirements. The fate of that proposal is unknown.

The Obamacare insurance marketplace in Georgia is stronger than it’s been in years.

According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 517,000 people picked plans during the most recent open enrollment period.

When you add the more than 67,000 who have signed up during an ongoing, pandemic-inspired special enrollment period, according to the letter, Georgia has almost surpassed its enrollment peak set in 2016.