Biden administration reassessing part of Georgia health plan

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ATLANTA (AP) — The Biden administration is reevaluating a plan by Georgia officials to overhaul how state residents buy health insurance under the Affordable Care Act as federal officials try to boost former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

In a letter to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services raised concerns about the state’s proposal to have the private sector, not the government, engage in outreach to get state residents to sign up for insurance under the ACA.

“In its application, Georgia neither quantified the size of the expected investment by the private sector nor indicated any specific commitments by the private sector to engage in outreach and marketing,” the letter sent Thursday said.

It asked the governor to reassess his plan to bypass healthcare.gov and have residents shop for federally subsidized health insurance through private agents. Former President Donald Trump’s administration approved that plan last year, and state officials have touted it as a way to boost insurance coverage.

A spokeswoman for the governor’s office, Mallory Blount, said Friday that the letter was still being reviewed.

The letter, signed by Chiquita Brooks LaSure, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, noted that the Biden administration has increased funding to market the ACA and expanded subsidies and eligibility for tax credits to buy insurance through the program. It gave Georgia officials until July 3 to factor those changes into updated “actuarial and economic analyses” to see whether their plan would meet federal requirements, including covering a comparable number of people and providing comprehensive benefits.

The governor’s office has said private websites will provide better service and offer more options that will increase insurance coverage in the state. Critics worry the move will make it harder to shop for insurance and drive healthy people to cheaper plans that provide limited coverage, increasing insurance premiums for older and sicker people who need the comprehensive benefits required by the ACA. That’s because Georgia’s move to private websites would make it easier for consumers to simultaneously see plans that don’t provide all the benefits required by the ACA.

The Biden administration has previously halted Georgia’s separate plan to expand Medicaid eligibility in the state but require recipients to work or engage in other activities.

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