Lawmakers vote to give insurers break on taxes

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ATLANTA --- Georgia lawmakers couldn't agree on cuts to property or income taxes this legislative session, but they did manage to usher through legislation to provide $146 million to insurance companies over five years.

The insurance lobby pushed hard for the bill, which would eliminate the state and local insurance premium tax for high-deductible health plans. They argue the savings will be passed along to consumers.

Critics say there will be no way to know whether that ever happens because insurance bills aren't itemized.

"This is nothing more than a sweetheart deal for the insurance industry," Sen. Nan Orrock, an Atlanta Democrat, said as the measure came up for a vote.

The Senate gave the bill final approval on the session's last day. Gov. Sonny Perdue has until mid-May to the sign the bill into law.

High-deductible health plans are a favorite of Republican health policy. Participants typically put money in tax-free health savings to pay medical expenses out-of-pocket until they meet a high yearly deductible, which can be several thousand dollars. Some preventive care -- such as annual pap smears and "well baby" visits -- are covered by the plans before the deductible is reached.

Such plans are attractive to people in their 20s and upper-income residents. Participants are likely healthy and don't expect big medical costs but are worried about catastrophic coverage for an accident or cancer.

But should the state be giving the plans favorable treatment over health plans that offer more comprehensive coverage?

Those in the insurance industry say it's one part of the puzzle.

Kirk McGhee, the executive director of the Georgia Health Plans Association, acknowledged the plans are geared more toward "younger people who'd rather buy the Mustang" than health insurance, he said. Still, he said those people might choose no insurance without an affordable option.

"The reason that these plans are attractive to us it that it is another opportunity to get to another segment of the marketplace," he said.

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nonumberplease 04/13/08 - 05:32 am
Bull butter! Why is the

Bull butter! Why is the government giving money to private industry that already owns most of country. Insurance is a ripoff
and the medical field is right in there with it. Most people that
work pay upwards of 350.00 a month for health care and then
when they use it, you get bills for the next 6 months from doctors and hospitals that you never even knew about! This is
in insurance lingo as co-pay or satisfying your deductable insurance. Doctors claim their rates are high because of malpractice insurance and they pass it on to their patients, but
we can not pass any rate increases to anyone but our budgets.
The insurance field cries about the high cost of medical, but
have you seen any insurance companies going under? The whole
medical feild and related industries are not being up front with
the citizens about cost. The governor needs to reject this bill
like he does on tax breaks for Georgians!

justsoyaknow 04/13/08 - 06:27 am
Couldn't agree more! Medical

Couldn't agree more! Medical insurance is just a legal scam, and with the power ($) to influence the legislators they always seem to get their way. Poor guys...always broke and looking for work. Does anyone really believe they'll "pass the savings"?

JimCox 04/13/08 - 08:42 am
Typical. If Sonny has any

Typical. If Sonny has any guts, he will veto the Bill.

thisreallysucks 04/13/08 - 09:19 am
Tort deform and tax

Tort deform and tax incentives to the insurance industry; anyone not getting the picture? This industry has scammed the legislature once gain. They are deft at getting their way when they disguise it as a help to the consumer. Well, if we have any money left after paying premiums, maybe we ought to invest it in insurance stocks!

fht610 04/13/08 - 09:20 am
What else do you expect from

What else do you expect from a GOP controlled legislature? That they look out for the average citizen?? Get real.......
You want something from the government, you need to buy it!

Craig Spinks
Craig Spinks 04/13/08 - 02:08 pm
Is anybody surprised?

Is anybody surprised?

NewsNut 04/13/08 - 10:14 pm
once again, the working man

once again, the working man gets stuck. big business gets the gravy.

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