Wednesday, July 31, 2013

By Carrie Teegardin and Misty Williams
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has filed an “emergency request” with the Obama administration to delay approval of rates for individual health plans that he said will cost some consumers more than double what they are paying today.
“In complete contradiction to every promise made by the President with regard to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, insurance companies in Georgia have filed rate plans increasing health insurance rates up to 198 percent for some individuals,” Hudgens said in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. He sent the letter Monday and released it publicly on Tuesday.
The state must approve or deny dozens of health plans to be sold on a new federally run insurance website, called an exchange, that is critical to the Affordable Care Act’s goal of insuring millions of Americans. The deadline to approve plans is Wednesday, but Hudgens is asking for a 30-day extension.
“I want to protect the consumers of the state of Georgia but when these things are going up, these prices are going up, I don’t want people to blame me,” Hudgens told the AJC. “I’m going to be up for re-election come 2014.”
Bill Custer, a Georgia State University health care expert who has reviewed the filings, said a 198 percent increase is nowhere near typical.
“The majority of Georgians with individual coverage will not see rate increases anywhere near that amount and many will see rate decreases,” Custer said.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department is reviewing Georgia’s request, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
“We are working closely with states to help them meet all deadlines and ensure that the marketplaces are ready for consumers to begin shopping on Oct. 1.,” she said in a statement.
Outside actuaries have reviewed the plans and rates filed in Georgia by the seven companies seeking to sell insurance on the exchange and found six of them to be appropriately priced. Hudgens would not identify the seventh company. Even so, Hudgens said that before he approves the rates he wants Sebelius to assess whether the prices are appropriate.
“I am really waiting for her to come back and tell me whether she thinks they are excessive,” said Hudgens, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

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