Posted: 8:29 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, 2013

Ch. 2 investigates complaints of availability of information for uninsured

By Lori Geary

ATLANTA —

Less than three weeks from now, uninsured Georgians will be able to sign up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.

Georgia leaders left it up to the federal government to set up a health insurance exchange that will go online Oct. 1 at www.healthcare.gov.

Channel 2's Lori Geary looked into complaints from some folks who say Georgia leaders are doing very little to help Georgians get information on the complicated new law.

Health policy experts tell Geary there are between 300,000 and 600,000 Georgians who could qualify for health care subsidies under Obamacare.

According to Families USA, a single person can qualify for a subsidy if he/she makes between $11,490 and $45,960. For a family of four, income must be between $23,550 and $94,200 to qualify. There will be four levels of health care coverage packages: bronze, silver, gold and platinum.

Many Democrats accuse Republican leaders in Georgia of failing to inform all Georgians about the options that will be available to sign up for on Oct. 1.

"Let them know they need to be doing their jobs for Georgia, not partisan political posturing," state Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, said at a rally Thursday outside Republican Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens' office.

Hudgens said he plans to be an obstructionist when it comes to Obamacare at a recent forum in Floyd County.

Geary tried to get an interview with Hudgens on the issue but a spokesman for his office said he was traveling for the day and they were directing everyone with questions about Obamacare to the federal website.

But when Geary looked on the State Insurance Commissioner's website, she couldn't find that information anywhere. She did find it easily available on other states' websites.

On South Carolina's Department of Insurance website, the information was front and center. It was also on the home pages of Florida's and Alabama's Department of Health Insurance websites.

Professor Bill Custer, who is a health administration professor at Georgia State University, says the state insurance website is normally the place you would find this kind of information, but not in Georgia.

Custer is perhaps one of the few Americans who have read the entire law, which is more than 2,000 pages long. Custer adds, "Most states have started to provide consumers with information to help them get registered, making decisions or being aware of the actual choices. Georgia has not done that at all."

Custer says, though, there's no reason to panic because the exchanges will be open for sign-ups on Oct. 1.

Two agencies here in Georgia have received more than $3 million in grants to train so-called navigators who can guide people through the sign-up process.

One is Structured Employment Economic Development Corp., known as Seedco. It's a national organization helping low-income households since 1987. The other is the University of  Georgia, whose College of Family and Consumer Sciences and Cooperative Extension Service will provide navigators in several offices outside Metro Atlanta.

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