Georgia waiver ending federal marketplace could push rate of uninsured children even higher

Health

Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid have approved Georgia’s 1332 State Relief and Empowerment waiver, allowing the state to exit the federal insurance marketplace. This would eliminate the central source of help for nearly 500,000 Georgians, including 36,681 children under age 18, who enrolled in a plan found on the marketplace in 2019. This waiver approval comes at a time when Georgia has the 4th highest rate of uninsured children in the country, with nearly 197,000 uninsured children last year.

Georgia’s application says the waiver will help lower the state’s high uninsured rate, lower premiums, and improve access to coverage. However, the best solution to that problem is to join 38 other states and the District of Columbia and adopt the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid to low-income adults and their families. Research has shown that in states that have expanded Medicaid for adults, children are less likely to go uninsured because their parents have coverage.

The waiver will change how and where families purchase health insurance coverage by eliminating the one-stop-shop of Healthcare.gov and requiring people to use private insurance companies and brokers to compare plans and enroll in coverage. This change will increase confusion about where and how to access good-quality health insurance, likely hindering enrollment, and prompting many people to go uninsured. When parents go uninsured, children are likely to follow, meaning this waiver will have detrimental impact on Georgia’s already high rate of uninsured children.

For more information on how the waiver could hurt children, read comments First Focus on Children submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services.