ATLANTA – Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens announced Thursday that he approved the premiums submitted by five health insurers for inclusion in the state’s federally run insurance exchange, even though he said they were too high.
He had sought an emergency extension on Wednesday’s deadline from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, but she refused to grant it.
“Yesterday, after not receiving a response to my request for a 30-day delay from the secretary of Health and Human Services, I was left with no viable option but to accept the filings for the federally facilitated Georgia exchange. Although not surprised, I am disappointed in the unresponsiveness of the Obama administration,” said Hudgens, a Republican who was elected on a platform opposing the federal health reform law known as Obamacare.
The premiums and plans must be approved by both the state and federal regulators. Sebelius has until September to give her approval.
At the 11th hour, Aetna announced that it and its newly acquired subsidiary, Coventry Health Care, would not participate in Georgia’s exchange.
“This is not a step that we take lightly,” said Aetna spokesman Walter Cherniak. “We believe it is critical that our plans not only be competitive, but also financially viable, allowing Aetna and Coventry to meet the long-term needs of the exchanges in which we choose to participate.”
Both companies will continue to sell individual health insurance outside of the exchanges and through their agents. However, people with income low enough to qualify for taxpayer premium subsidies can only get them if they purchase through an exchange.
The withdrawal means residents in some parts of the state will have limited options in the exchange.