Henson says Deal must prepare Ga's health care exchange
Atlanta, Ga. - November 14, 2012 - Georgia Senate Democratic Leader Steve Henson called on Gov. Nathan Deal to stop playing politics with people's health care and move forward with the creation of a state health care exchange.
"Governor Deal has been playing a game of political chicken with health care in Georgia. He has delayed the creation of our state's health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act believing a Romney win would repeal our nation's new health care laws. Instead of prioritizing Georgians' health, bringing our hard-earned tax dollars back to the state, and retaining state control over our insurance programs and industry, Deal continues to demonstrate he cares more about politics than people. Our citizens are not chess pieces in a giant political board game," Henson said.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) created two types of exchanges: the American Health Benefits Exchange (AHBE) for individuals, and the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). States can: (1) choose to operate the two types of exchanges together or separately; (2) create multiple exchanges of each type within a state as long as they serve separate geographic areas; (3) join with other states to create regional exchanges; or (4) choose to not create an exchange.
If a state opts not to create an exchange, the federal government will create it in order to meet the law's requirement that every state have an operational exchange by January 1, 2014.
The deadline for submission of state-based exchange blueprints was Nov. 16 but has been extended to Dec. 14 by the Department of Health and Human Services. If a state does not submit a blueprint for its state exchange by the deadline, the federal government will operate the exchange. Georgia is one of only nine states reported to have "no significant activity" in creating an exchange.
Henson said Deal's "heels dug in" approach to the national health care act puts Georgians in the worst possible position.
"Through the years, Deal and the GOP beat a constant rhythm of local control. Now, they seem willing to cede control of our state programs to the federal government. This decision is not only bad for individual health care, it may likely turn our state's entire insurance industry regulation over to the federal government," Henson said. "Instead of returning federal tax dollars to Georgia, we are essentially sending our money to New York and California."
Henson said the time for political maneuvering is over.
"Thousands of Georgians are without health insurance. The costs associated with this are widespread and impact all of us. Most insured individuals do not realize that we each pay around $1,300 every year to defray the costs of those without insurance. The cost to businesses is great and it takes a negative toll on our state economy. If we are truly concerned about the welfare of Georgians and stimulating our state economy, the time for Governor Deal to act is now," said Henson.