Georgia insurance chief OKs health premiums

Ralph Hudgens complains, however, they are too high

ATLANTA — Georgia Insurance Commis­sion­er Ralph Hudgens announced Thursday that he approved premiums submitted by five health insurers for inclusion in the state’s federally run insurance exchange, even though he said they were too high.

He had sought an emergency extension on Wednesday’s deadline from U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, but she refused to grant it.

“Yesterday, after not receiving a response to my request for a 30-day delay from the secretary of Health and Human Services, I was left with no viable option but to accept the filings for the federally facilitated Georgia exchange. Although not surprised, I am disappointed in the unresponsiveness of the Obama administration,” said Hudgens, a Republican who was elected on a platform opposing the federal health reform law.

The premiums and plans must be approved by both the state and federal regulators.

Sebelius has until September to give her approval.

On Wednesday, Aetna announced that it and its newly acquired subsidiary, Coventry Health Care, would not participate in Geor­gia’s exchange.

Hudgens sought the deadline extension because he said an outside review concluded that the proposed premiums were justifiable even though some were as much as 198 percent higher than what a healthy person could buy today.

Consumers can begin shopping for a plan Oct. 1 when the state’s exchange begins operation.

Coverage begins Jan. 1.

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