Two health care providers in Georgia are suing the Trump administration over its decision to approve the state’s plan to cut ties with the Obamacare enrollment website Healthcare.gov.
They argue Georgia’s plan to push those shopping for Obamacare insurance to pick plans through third-party brokers will make it harder for people to choose the coverage that fully meets their needs.
“Our intention should be for people to have as much information about their options as possible, as opposed to having to compare things and do extensive research when all they really want is to feel better,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, executive director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center.
The Atlanta clinic is joined by Planned Parenthood Southeast in the suit against top officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, who approved Georgia’s proposal late last year. The agency declined to comment on the case.
The plaintiffs are asking federal judges with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to block Georgia’s plan before it takes effect.
The state plans to stop using Healthcare.gov during the 2022 open enrollment period when people sign up for coverage for the following year. People looking for insurance would be forced to enroll through third-party websites and brokers and with insurance companies directly.
“Taking down the exchange just creates the opportunity for Georgians to get less access and for insurance companies to create junk plans and things that don’t comply with the guidance of the [Affordable Care Act],” said Staci Fox, president of Planned Parenthood Southeast.
The plan, created through authority granted by the Affordable Care Act, has been a signature policy issue for Gov. Brian Kemp. Georgia is also one of a handful of Republican-led states suing to overturn the health care law.
Kemp’s administration has argued that Healthcare.gov has never been an effective way for Georgians to pick Obamacare health plans and that the private sector could do a better job connecting people with insurance.
The same day the suit was filed, Kemp spoke of “the failed promises of Healthcare.gov” in his annual address to state lawmakers. His office did not respond to a request for comment on the case.
But Obamacare enrollment in Georgia has been steadily growing in recent years, according to trends tracked by the Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 517,000 people used the federal exchange website to pick plans for the current year, an enrollment jump of more than 53,000.
“If this lawsuit is successful, it will prevent Georgia consumers from becoming unnecessarily uninsured or underinsured,” said Laura Colbert with Georgians For A Healthy Future, a consumer advocacy group.
“This is especially important in the context of COVID-19, as many people lose their jobs and their health insurance and turn to the safety net of the [Affordable Care Act] marketplace,” she continued.
As in most of the country, coronavirus transmission shows little sign of slowing in Georgia.
Federal health officials said this week the state is in “full pandemic resurgence” and should expect more COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.
The suit was filed just days before the Biden administration is set to move into the White House. It’s not clear how–or if–they intend to alter the Trump administration’s approval of Georgia’s plan.
But Fox, from Planned Parenthood Southeast, wants to make sure Biden’s team is aware of it.
“We definitely want to send the new administration a flag up the pole that this is happening in Georgia and that they need to take swift action,” she said.