“Health insurance signups surpass 511,000 in Georgia”

By Tom Crawford | Published: December 30, 2015

More than half a million Georgians have signed up for health coverage in 2016 through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the state’s final enrollment total could potentially exceed this year’s 540,000 enrollees.

Georgia’s total stood at 511,826 as of Dec. 26, according to figures released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The total included those who signed up for coverage through the health insurance exchange and those whose coverage automatically renewed.

Among the 38 states whose health insurance exchanges are run by the federal government through Healthcare.gov, Georgia has the fourth-highest total of 2016 enrollees, exceeded only by Florida (1.56 million), Texas (1.09 million), and North Carolina (553,729).

Nationally, more than 8.5 million Americans have signed up or renewed their ACA health coverage, with more signups expected prior to the Jan. 31 deadline.

“These strong numbers show that consumers in Georgia and across the country value health insurance: large percentages of those who enrolled last year have re-enrolled and many who were still uninsured found a coverage option that worked for them,” said Cindy Zeldin, the director of Georgians for a Healthy Future.

“It’s great that so many people are getting health insurance through the marketplace, but it’s important to remember the huge pool of people who don’t make enough to qualify for help that way,” said Tim Sweeney, a healthcare analyst for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.

“We still need a solution for 300,000 uninsured Georgians who are stuck in the coverage gap, and unable to get affordable health coverage because the state has turned down federal funding to enroll these Georgians in Medicaid,” Sweeney said.

Gov. Nathan Deal and the Legislature’s Republican leadership oppose the expansion of Medicaid coverage through the ACA, saying that the state can’t afford the price tag. Georgia rejected more than $3 billion a year in federal funding that would have been available to pay for Medicaid expansion in 2014 and 2015.

While other states with Republican governors such as Arizona, Michigan, Arkansas, Ohio, Utah, and New Jersey have chosen to expand Medicaid coverage, Deal has steadfastly refused.

Advocates of Medicaid expansion said they will continue trying to persuade Georgia leaders to agree to some kind of alternative.

“Closing the coverage gap through the expansion of Medicaid coverage continues to be a top priority for our health advocacy work at Georgia Watch,” said Liz Coyle. “We hope that they will continue to consider solutions that include a waiver from the federal government that would allow Georgia to craft its own healthcare coverage solution.”

© 2015 by The Georgia Report