Fielding questions on the Affordable Care Act from an audience of local Republicans, Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens was prompted to ask his own question Wednesday night.
“If this is so good for the people, then why do you have to penalize somebody for not signing up?” he said, referring to the $95 first-year fine for people who don’t buy insurance. “They ought to be flocking to it and you ought to have to just turn people away. That’s not the case.”
In October, just 536 Georgians were able to successfully sign up on the troublesome online health insurance marketplace set up for citizens to enroll for coverage, he said.
Hudgens, an outspoken critic of Obamacare, spoke at the Garlic Clove in Evans to a group of about 50 people during a CSRA Republican Women’s Club meeting. He talked about what Georgians can expect when the highly-debated health care act kicks in Jan. 1.
Hudgens said premiums will dramatically increase with provisions for pre-existing conditions, additional mandates for increased coverage and an age criteria that he said hurts younger people. Hudgens anticipates they could see their policies increase by about 200 percent.
“They’re not going to lower the prices for the elderly,” he said. “They’re going to raise the prices for the young folks.”
Younger people, in return, will likely pay the fine rather than the higher cost of coverage, he said.
“When they opt out, the dynamics of the whole scheme will not work,” he said.
Last month, Hudgens predicted that up to 400,000 Georgians who buy their own insurance could have their policies canceled or modified because of the act.
Hudgens cited a recent lawsuit filed by Oklahoma against the federal government, alleging that the law states that the only individuals eligible for a subsidy are those who live in states where there is a state-based exchange.
Georgia and 25 other states have opted not to set up their own exchanges, leaving that up to federal government.
Hudgens said he agrees with Oklahoma’s interpretation of the law, but Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens decided not to involve Georgia in Oklahoma’s legal battle.
Hudgens added that if the act goes into effect as is, it will lead to rationing of care, higher co-pays, larger deductibles and a drop in the network of doctors available to patients.
“I’m very passionate because I believe that Obamacare, if it is fully implemented, will destroy free enterprise in this country,” Hudgens said with applause from the audience. “The whole thing, I think, is designed to run the insurance companies out of business and go to a single-carrier system, which would be socialized medicine.”
At the beginning of his speech, Hudgens also addressed comments he made back in August at a Floyd County Republican meeting in which he told the crowd that his department would do “everything in our power to be an obstructionist” to Obamacare.
His quote, caught on video, then went viral.
“I didn’t realize I was being videotaped and that got on the Internet,” he said. “I never received so many nasty e-mails. I’ve been told that they hope I die. I’ve been told that they hope my children had cancer, just all kinds of things.”
The group congregated at the Evans restaurant included local political figures both holding office and running for election.
“When we Americans begin to hurt from this, and there are some hurting, we’re going to see a change,” said state Sen. Bill Jackson, of Appling. “This thing is going to fall on its face I really believe.”