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Deal: No state exchange likely under Obamacare

8:50 PM, Nov 8, 2012   |    comments
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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal discusses the state's options under the Affordable Health Care Act aka Obamacare.

ATLANTA -- When President Obama won re-election Tuesday, it appeared to shut down any GOP hopes that the government might repeal his landmark health care law -- the measure widely known as Obamacare. 

Under the law, state governments like Georgia have until November 16th to notify the feds that they would operate state-run exchanges, to help individuals buy government-required health insurance. But Governor Nathan Deal says Georgia probably won't.

"We've pretty well indicated that we don't like the way that the program has evolved. It started out (that) the states were given some real options to how we designed our state exchanges. Those options have been pretty well removed by regulation over the last year and a half," Deal said Thursday.

Deal, like most Republicans, opposed the Affordable Health Care Act, which the president signed into law in 2010. If Georgia declines to create an exchange, the federal government will do it instead. Cindy Zeldin runs a health advocacy agency called Georgians for a Healthy Future. She served on committee appointed by Deal to weigh in on the proposed state exchange.

"It is a little bit of a missed opportunity," Zeldin said. She disagreed with the committee's recommendation to wait to see if the Supreme Court outlawed Obamacare before creating an exchange. The court upheld most of the health care law.

With an exchange, she says, "the state could be a little bit closer to its own consumers, it's a little bit closer to its own insurance market. If consumers have questions or complaints, it might be better to have that exchange here. But having said that, it's not like we won't have one at all." Zeldin says 1.9 million Georgians don't have health insurance.

Deal says he won't officially decide until the November 16 deadline. He says he's hoping the feds change some of the details that, he says, might make a state exchange more palatable. "There's always the possibility that they may decide they're going to liberalize the flexibility that states would be granted under an exchange. I have seen no evidence of that at this point," Deal said.

The bigger picture, Zeldin says, is that other states are moving forward to use the tools that are available under Obamacare. She believes Deal's reluctance to form a state exchange is rooted in his lingering opposition to Obamacare, which she called "unfortunate," especially given Tuesday's election results.

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