ATLANTA — A record number of Georgians – over 846,000 – signed up for health insurance for 2023 under the Affordable Care Act during the latest open enrollment period, which ended on Sunday.
That's about 8% of the state's population, and at least 145,000 more than signed up for the program last year.
The program allows individuals – many of them low-income or self-employed – to sign up for private health insurance. It offers significant tax subsidies to offset insurance costs for people earning between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level, or between $13,590 and $54,360 for an individual.
The program has steadily grown in popularity in Georgia. Only about 316,000 Georgians signed up in 2014, its first year.
In Georgia, 10 insurers offered plans for 2023, including big players such as Aetna, Anthem, and Ambetter as well as upstarts like Oscar and Friday. However, not all of the plans are available in every county.
While open enrollment has closed for this year, Georgians can still sign up for Healthcare.Gov plans under certain circumstances, such as the loss of health care coverage, marriage or divorce, the birth or adoption of a child, or a major change in income.
One reason the program has soared in popularity in Georgia is that the Inflation Reduction Act a then-Democratic Congress passed last year increased the dollar amount of subsidies for people purchasing the health-care plans.
About 80% of Affordable Care Act enrollees nationwide qualify for subsidies that reduce their monthly payments to less than $10, according to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.
"My last person I [helped] only paid $8 a month health-care coverage for 2023," Deanna Williams, an insurance navigator who works at Georgians for a Healthy Future, said during a press conference last week. "A lot of people who I've helped, especially in my rural area … were shocked to know that they could get a plan."
Despite its increasing popularity, the Affordable Care Act is not without controversy in Georgia.
Earlier this year, the federal government denied the state's application to exit the HealthCare.Gov marketplace, a key part of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp's health-care agenda.
The state then established its own health-insurance portal, GeorgiaAccess.Gov, directing consumers to private insurers.
Democrats contend the state should expand Medicaid to help cover more uninsured Georgians. Last Friday, state House Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon, and other House Democrats introduced a bill that would allow the state to expand Medicaid.
But Medicaid expansion is unlikely to gain the Republican backing necessary to pass in the General Assembly.
However, the state does plan to expand Medicaid on a limited basis by providing the insurance to low-income Georgians who meet monthly work, education or volunteer requirements. The state initially estimated that plan, slated to start in July, would help around 64,000 Georgians obtain health insurance.