State insurance commissioner okays massive premium hikes on ACA exchanges

CURTIS COMPTON / CCOMPTON@AJC.COM

State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has approved premium increases of more than 50 percent for the four insurers still participating in Georgia’s health care exchanges next year. From my AJC colleague Ariel Hart:

In the list of rate increases released Wednesday, Blue Cross Blue Shield’s average Georgia Obamacare rate increase would be the largest, at 57.5 percent over 2017.

But even companies that originally filed for mild double-digit increases are now going for the gold as well. Ambetter, Alliant and Kaiser each plan to raise rates from 51 percent on average to 56.7 percent on average.

It doesn’t have to be that way, according to the list. In comparison, if Washington does assure the industry that the subsidies won’t be yanked, the rate increases would be perhaps 25 percentage points lower.

Hudgens blamed Obamacare itself, though insurance companies say the real fault lies with nine months of congressional disarray over what the United States health care system should look like. Here’s the take from Andy Miller of Georgia Health News:

The ever-increasing premiums proposed by insurers reflect the instability rocking the insurance exchanges, which provide health plans for individuals and families who don’t have job-based or government coverage. The exchanges in the individual states were created under the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.

Almost 500,000 Georgians signed up for coverage this year in the state’s exchange.

We’ve written before about Hudgens’ reluctance to step between insurers and consumers. And here’s more on the health care situation in Georgia.

***

One week later, the Trump administration has pushed the military button for Puerto Rico relief. From the Washington Post:

In the first six days after the hurricane made landfall here, the Navy had deployed just two ships, citing concerns that Puerto Rico’s ports were too damaged to accommodate numerous large vessels. But harrowing reports of isolated U.S. citizens struggling in the heat without electricity and running low on food and water have now spurred the Pentagon to throw resources into the relief ­effort even though they haven’t been specifically requested by territorial officials.

A hospital ship and a coordinating Army general are among the additions intended to address the humanitarian crisis.

***

State Sen. Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for governor, attracted 50 protestors to a Cherokee County high school on Wednesday, where they demanded the firing of a math teacher who had required some students in her class to turn their Donald Trump t-shirts inside out.

***

The godfather of Georgia’s medical marijuana program is readying a push for a major expansion. State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, sent out a plea to the 2,500 Georgians registered with the Department of Public Health to receive cannabis oil for debilitating diseases, asking them to press lawmakers to allow the in-state cultivation of the drug. He said the process to obtain the oil from other states is too “overwhelming” to keep up with the demand. “We MUST create an instate cultivation model that allows our citizens to access the product HERE in Georgia, and we need to do it now,” he wrote. (Greg Bluestein)

***

Some good news for non-conventional campaigners: A new study says traditional politicking has it all wrong. The study from Joshua L. Kalla of the University of California and David E. Broockman of Stanford University concluded that the notion that candidates should try to persuade voters is generally a waste of time. The findings suggest, instead, that campaigns “increasingly focus on rousing the enthusiasm of existing supporters” rather than try to win over new ones. That’s exactly the strategy outlined by Democrat Stacey Abrams, whose campaign aims to energize first-time and irregular voters.

***

Georgia’s higher education system usually issues a “no comment” on pending litigation. That’s why the response from the University System of Georgia on the lawsuit challenging the “campus carry” legislation was so surprising. It ain’t them, a spokesman for the Board of Regents said:

“While the USG opposed the campus carry legislation, we are not a party to this lawsuit. To be clear, we are abiding by HB280 just as we abided by the previous law that prohibited guns on campus. This lawsuit does not represent the position of the University System of Georgia.” (GB)

***

U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, has a confession to make in her latest fundraising email pitch: “I have no idea what he’s going to do.” She’s referring, of course, to her once-and-possibly-future adversary Jon Ossoff. She vanquished the Democrat in June after the most expensive U.S. House contest in history, but he hasn’t ruled out a comeback. Which is why he provided good fodder for an appeal for cash.

The subject line in her email? “Lurking.” (GB)

***

It looks like someone’s planning a birthday party next week for the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the civil rights veteran. He’ll be 96.

***

Poultry is big business in Georgia. But in Hall County, home to U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, chickens are a humongous business. And so when his Democratic colleagues urge Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue not to propose a rule that would increase line speeds in poultry plants throughout the United States, Collins was ready.

Liberals are against science, Collins writes – flipping the usual script. He gets specific. Here’s a taste of the op-ed that appears in The Hill newspaper:

The first casualty of their argument is geography. These critics say that faster line speeds would force workers on those lines to dismember chickens at dangerous rates. The geography of the production process, however, makes their claim disingenuous.

Poultry plants exist in two distinct sections—one for first processing and one for second processing. Every petition to raise line speeds that I’m familiar with applies strictly to the first-processing zone, where birds enter the plant and undergo cleaning to make the food safer before ending this journey in chillers. The primary duty of workers on these lines is inspection. They wield cotton swabs, not paring knives.

Workers who debone the birds operate only in second-processing areas, physically separate from the largely-automated first-processing lines. The chillers represent a full stop in the process and physical division between these sections of a plant, so raising line speeds in the first area doesn’t require work speeds in the second area to increase. The geography lesson here is simple: The layout of these plants means that increases in line speeds in the first-processing zones would, by design, not jeopardize worker safety.

 

Reader Comments 2

33 comments
d1yun
d1yun

A 13-year-old boy is making headlines this week after building his own home for $1,500, according to multiple news reports>>>>>see more  ......................  +++++www.buzz-career.com

quickdigits
quickdigits

Instead of all this Obamacare, Steep increases in health insurance premiums, endless arguing of Congressmen about what Should and Should Not be included in Socialized Medicine, Why Not Look at what is Springing up in our own neighborhoods: Wellstar Health Park, for one, is offering just about Anything anyone would need in terms of healthcare, except for emergency room care.....but there are urgent care clinics available for that. Has Anyone been noticing this change????

It's all quite simple! Have the States Throw Their Money Towards These New Health Parks. Forget about Health Insurance Companies altogether! They're a rip-off anyway and always have been! Allow companies like Wellstar and Kaiser Handle Our Healthcare from now on.....and the result?? Everyone will be happy!!

cynthia shalit
cynthia shalit

@quickdigits Wellstar and Kaiser are only offering  the new heath parks because they are raising out premiums and they want to make themselves look good (also  preventive care is always the more cost effective way to go).

You have a good idea to have the states throw their money to  these health parks----it's  called  government provided health care, or Single-Payer!

SoGaBee
SoGaBee

So, about a month ago, it looked like there would not be a carrier to cover Georgians in almost half the counties in the state.  The Commissioner - the one now criticized - was able to convince Blue Cross to stay in the 75 counties that would have been left without a carrier. It wasn't easy but he did the job to the best of his ability.  Still a great majority of the counties in the state will have only one carrier -- no choice, just the only carrier willing to accept risk in that county. 

I am fairly certain anyone in one of those counties - the ones with a single carrier -- with a serious health condition is happy to have a carrier to protect them from certain bankruptcy.  Such is the result of the solution that this paper praised as the savior of health care in our country only 7 years ago when it was passed.  Truth is the law only guaranteed that insurers would probably lose money in the individual market. And, at the time it passed, any one in the insurance business could have told you that.


Health insurance is a tough business.  Only those that are sick and spending lots of money are pleased that they have it without a care about the price.  The folks without health problems only buy it because to be without it might bankrupt their survivors -- in fact, since they are guaranteed the right to get it again in January, many drop it the last month or two of each year if they are healthy.

And NO WHERE did the article mention WHY the rate increase had to be.  Well, the law -- that same one you praised -- requires the insurance carrier to reduce the cost to the insured if their income is below a threshhold -- that cost will be repaid by the federal government.  But wait -- the Feds say they may not repay that cost -- THUS this increase in rates. (By the way -- it's only this last increase that can be laid on the R's for this reason -- the D's law already raised the rates by over 300% in the last 5 years)


But the insurance carriers are crooks because they try to charge enough to break even in a broken market designed by politicians who know NOTHING but how to get re-elected.  And when the person elected to help make sure people have access to coverage approves the rates that carriers must have if they are to offer coverage -- remember they can still leave -- he is named a pariah by folks who know nothing about his industry.


Let's dream up a headline that is sure to sell papers -- it really doesn't matter what we say because the fools will buy it still.

steveyb
steveyb

Hudgens is bought and paid for by the insurance companies. Their profits are obscene. Single payer (similar to medicare) is the way to go. Extend to 55-64 year olds first. Then keep working down.

styymy
styymy

Why would Hudgens still blame Obamacare when the insurance companies have already said it was due to inept inaction of the Republican congress for 9 months? 

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

"Liberals are against science..."

That's a good one Collins. Can you say climate change?


State Senator Williams is not interested in teaching/learning, just ideology!


"Hudgens blamed Obamacare itself, though insurance companies say the real fault lies with nine months of congressional disarray over what the United States health care system should look like."

Disarray? They do not have a clue. Do what the majority of the population wants. Fix the ACA, not repeal it. Thanks repubs....this is at YOUR feet!

Truth05
Truth05

I voted against the blob that is Ralph Hudgens because he approves any rate hike no matter how large. He's the reason we have the highest auto rates in the country because he is either too stupid to know how to negotiate with insurers or he's being bribed.

mgunter
mgunter

SMH....... Obamacare is a disaster , who would have thought that would happen ? Govt does not need to be in th healthcare business. Look what they have done with th VA!

When will you big govt folk get a clue? Keep th Govt out of your life as much as possible!

Brandeisian
Brandeisian

Of course he would say, looking for some one to blame a la Trump, that Obama & Co. sent the responsibility through the state exchanges and caused the problem.  Has he seen that particular proposal in Senator Graham's recent health care effort which provided the same procedure: Sending the responsibility for health care to the states but with money block grants to solve the problem? The measure of course was abandoned by the majority party instead of bringing it to a vote, probably because of the inclusion of a big (undeserved) tax cut for the top incomes taken out of the backs of ordinary citizens who of course would see drastic cuts in their benefits in order to pay for the cost of the plutocrats' windfall, to which polls showed the public was very much opposed.

atllaw19
atllaw19

YOU, THE PEOPLE OF GEORGIA ELECTED THESE IDIOTS. See, it's not the ACA (or Obamacare) it is the INSURANCE COMPANIES AND THOSE WHO DON'T REGULATE IT!  So, stop already, blaming Obamacare/a/k/a ACA! Fat lot of good the money will do these people when they leave this earth for HELL!

billjarvis
billjarvis

We know why insurance is so expensive.  It's because health care itself is so expensive.  When does someone look into why that is?

c130a
c130a

@Laurie8750 @billjarvis  - and those lobbyists are paid huge sums of money that they get from the disgusting MDs and DDSs who loot society every day.  We need a government that nationalizes these stinking thieves and lowers their greedy payckecks. 

babyducks1
babyducks1

Hudgens just confirmed that he works for the insurance companies, not the tax payers who pay his salary. FIRED!!

DawgNole
DawgNole

@babyducks1: "FIRED!!"

Nope--not fired at all, regrettably, or we wouldn't be reading this crap about what a lousy job he's still doing for Georgians.

DavidATL45
DavidATL45

This is what the State of Georgia GOP gives the citizens.  They didn't even try to make the ACA work!  All racial.  

threespeed
threespeed

@DavidATL45 This is what you approved of when Obama and the Democrats dumped it all of our laps. 

DavidATL45
DavidATL45

Does this cover Sec. Price's private plane trips?

neuhierla
neuhierla

Congress Can't Do Their Job and WE PAY! Fire them ALL!

BDCoole
BDCoole

He's not running. Thankfully. Nice guy, but found it hard to follow two masters--the voters/consumers and the insurance companies/political money donors.

SouthernHope5
SouthernHope5

I realize Republicans are holding out for a complete repeal but, honestly, they really just need to fix what is there and work with anyone who can help do that....the people paying the price are folks like us.  This is the key line in the article "The ever-increasing premiums proposed by insurers reflect the instability rocking the insurance exchanges." 

USMC2841
USMC2841

@SouthernHope5 The exchanges were propped up by funds that they knew wouldn't exist.  Gruber admitted the bill was written "in a tortured way to get CBO to sign off".  Money was never there.

DS
DS

Whose side is Hudgens on? Georgians, or the insurance companies?

chaunda
chaunda

DHe is out to help dismantle ACA. Can’t get a bill passed to repeal it, then approve premiums that make it even more hated. Problem solved with the GOP base.

Madasshatter
Madasshatter

@DS Sounds like he's saying the opposite of what the insurance companies are saying.

Truth05
Truth05

@DS The insurance companies. That's why he immediately approves all rate hikes, he's likely taking illegal kickbacks.

BTC
BTC

Gee, what a surprise headline...

Trackbacks

  1. […] for the second straight year. But the rates for 2018, which the state insurance commissioner approved this week, make previous price hikes pale in […]

    Like

  2. […] result in massive premium increases for those getting health insurance through the ACA exchanges. Last month, state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens approved premium increases of more than 50 percent for the four insurers still participating in […]

    Like