ATLANTA – After failing to win federal approval to exit the federal insurance marketplace earlier this year, Georgia has established its own health-insurance portal directing people to private insurers and brokers to buy health insurance. 

This story also appeared in Capitol Beat News Service

The new website, called Georgia Access, includes links to 10 health-insurance companies – including big players such as United, Kaiser Permanente, and Aetna – as well as seven online brokers, organizations that help people shop for and enroll in health insurance.  

The dueling state and federal websites each offer a different route to the same destination: signing up for health insurance.  

Georgians can use the links on GeorgiaAccess.gov to explore the insurance companies’ and brokers’ offerings, which include but are not limited to the same marketplace plans offered on the federal website.  

The new Georgia Access site also includes links to companies and brokers that offer dental and vision plans, basic information about Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, and links to state health-care agencies that assist with mental health.  

But notably absent from the state’s new portal is a link to the federal HealthCare.gov, a one-stop shop for buying health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act. The HealthCare.gov website provides comparisons of the different companies’ health plans.

The state decided to set up the GeorgiaAccess.gov portal with the resources it had initially devoted to its plan to exit the federal marketplace, said Gregg Conley, executive counsel for the Georgia Department of Insurance.  

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp first sought permission to exit the federal health insurance marketplace back in 2020. But the Biden administration rejected the Georgia plan earlier this year after analyses showed it would cover fewer, not more, Georgians than the federal marketplace.  

According to Georgia Access, 1.3 million Georgians lack health insurance.

“I would encourage people to sign up for health [insurance],” Conley said. “What we don’t want is people not to have health care.”

But many advocates argue that online brokers and private insurers are not the best custodians of consumers’ interests.  

Insurance companies and brokers, most of which are for-profit entities, may push people to enroll in “substandard” plans that don’t cover all services, Joan Alker, a research professor at Georgetown University, wrote earlier this year.  

Brokers may fail to help people enroll in Medicaid or other state health-insurance plans for people with low incomes and they may not adequately cater to the needs of racial and ethnic minorities and people who are not proficient in English, Alker wrote.

In Georgia, legislative Democrats have called for expanding Medicaid to address the state’s large population of uninsured people.  

“Georgia should expand Medicaid,” House Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon, said Wednesday. “I am calling on the governor and the Georgia legislature to make it priority #1 to ensure every Georgian has access to quality health-care benefits.”

Open enrollment for marketplace plans ends on Jan. 15, 2023. That gives Georgians just two more weeks to select their plans for next year, whether through the links provided on GeorgiaAccess.gov or the federal HealthCare.gov. 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Rebecca Grapevine/Capitol Beat News Service

Rebecca Grapevine is Georgia politics and policy reporter for Capitol Beat News Service. She is an experienced journalist with recent work for Georgia Health News. She earned a bachelor's degree from Washington...