Legislature deflecting Obamacare anger

mlee@macon.comMarch 21, 2013 

ATLANTA -- The state House of Representatives says Georgians should be able to look at their health insurance bills and see how much of any increase is due to the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

But opponents say its transparency effects will be minimal.

“One of the first questions you’re asked is ‘Why are my insurance premiums going up?’” asked insurance brokerage owner and state Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, original sponsor of Senate Bill 236.

“It is good for us to be transparent with the consumers of Georgia about what this (federal) legislation that’s coming down is going to do to our insurance premiums.”

He passed the bill through the Senate two weeks ago by a nearly party-line vote. The pattern was the same in the House on Thursday.

“The insurance companies don’t want to be blamed” for higher bills, said state Rep. Alex Atwood, R-Brunswick, the House sponsor of Senate Bill 236.

The state of Georgia doesn’t want to be blamed either.

The House version of the bill includes the sentence that should be included on notices.

It reads in part that any rate rise is not due to any action of “the Governor of Georgia, the Georgia General Assembly or the Georgia Department of Insurance.”

Jones said he is fine with the House amendments and predicted passage when the bill returns to the Senate for formal agreement with the edits.

The House directs the department’s actuaries to check that the insurers’ quotes to customers are accurate.

That amounts to “extra work for the actuaries of the Insurance Department,” said state Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta.

But besides that, she pointed out that the bill applies to smaller companies, those that are regulated by the state.

“Most Georgians won’t see this language,” she argued.

Gardner also blasted the Legislature for sidelining bipartisan proposals this year that would mandate insurance coverage for autism and for hearing aids for children.

If signed by Gov. Nathan Deal, the Affordable Care Act notices would appear on insurance statements through the end of 2014.

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