Sponsored by Stover
Anti-Obamacare bill passes subcommittee
by Sarah Fay Campbell
A bill that would prohibit any state or local agencies from taking action to implement the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, received approval from a subcommittee Wednesday at the Georgia Capitol.
House Bill 707 had its second hearing before a House Judiciary subcommittee Wednesday. The bill had previously been heard by the subcommittee on Feb. 3. The bill’s sponsors made some changes to it after the first hearing, and garnered approval Wednesday. The bill will have to go through the full Judiciary Committee and the House Rules Committee before it can go to the House floor for a vote.
State Rep. David Stover, R-Palmetto, is one of the primary sponsors of the bill, also known as the Georgia Healthcare Freedom and ACA Noncompliance Act.
Stover said Thursday the bill is expected to go before the full committee on Monday or Tuesday.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the subcommittee also heard HB 990, which would require the legislature to vote to approve any expansion of Medicaid in the state.
A rally against Obamacare was held Monday at the state capitol, and Stover and Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, the primary sponsor of HB 707, were among the speakers. Stover said that the issue is something he’s worked on since before being elected to the state House in early 2013. The rally was sponsored by Americans for Prosperity.
The newest version of the bill was not available online Thursday. According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the bill switched from having a blanket prohibition on any cooperation with implementation of Obamacare, which some committee members considered too vague, to a requirement for legislative approval for any application of state or local resources to the implementation of Obamacare. The bill requires the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to request state assistance, and the legislature would retain the option to approve or reject the request, according to The Tenth Amendment Center.
The bill applies not just to the state government but to any contractors of the state, the University System of Georgia, “or any political subdivision, municipality or other local government authority.”
The bill also prohibits the establishment of a state insurance exchange.
Georgia’s exchange, as well as the exchanges in many other states, is operated by the federal government.
The exchanges went live in October and more than 100,000 Georgians have signed up for health coverage through them, according to a federal report released Feb. 12. The Georgia enrollment of 101,276 through January lags behind that of two other states using the federal exchange that have similar-sized populations — North Carolina’s 160,161 and Michigan’s 112,013, according to Georgia Health News.
The latest number represents a 73 percent jump from Georgia’s October-through-December total of 58,611, and it surpasses that of two states with slightly larger populations, Ohio and Illinois.
The age of the enrollees was a prime focus in the federal report, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Twenty-seven percent of Georgians signing up are ages 18 to 34, slightly higher than the 26 percent through December.
Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University, said the young adult enrollment number is heading in the right direction, according to Georgia Health News. About 30 percent of Georgians in the recent individual insurance market are 18 to 34, he said.
The 27 percent figure “is kind of the number you’d expect’’ at this point of the enrollment process, Custer added.
Georgia health officials who support the Affordable Care Act said the new sign-up figures are encouraging.
“It’s a positive sign that the marketplace is getting past some of the early glitches’’ involved with the healthcare.gov website, said Tim Sweeney, health policy director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. The exchange website did not work properly for most people when it debuted Oct. 1, and autumn enrollment was very low, but the federal government has made massive repairs to the site since then.
Cindy Zeldin, executive director of the consumer group Georgians for a Healthy Future, said the enrollment increase reflects “a real grass-roots effort’’ by insurance navigators, community groups, local media and some public officials.
Nationally, nearly 3.3 million people enrolled in the health insurance marketplace plans by Feb. 1, with January alone accounting for 1.1 million plan selections in state and federal marketplaces, according to the report.