A market approach to health options for Georgia

Georgians don’t just need access to affordable health care; Georgians need greater access to meaningful health care. The free-market principles of competition can help drive down costs, provide for greater accessibility and provide Georgians with more health care options.

It’s true that House Bill 47, signed into law last week, will allow Georgia licensed insurance companies to sell products they sell in other states to Georgians. It is also true that cost isn’t the only consideration for the uninsured. Many consumers are stuck in a stagnant health insurance market with fewer carriers and plan choices than their cross-border neighbors. HB 47 would help the uninsured access a more-customized benefits package that meets their health needs.

Some 18 percent of Georgia’s population has no health insurance. These Georgians are one bad illness or accident away from a complete health and financial disaster. Our state’s uninsured are individuals, families and small business owners who do not have access to insurance through their employer or a family member. The only option they have to purchase insurance is in Georgia’s one-size-fits-all individual marketplace, which simply lacks the choice and competition to work well for the consumer. HB 47 will unlock the forces of the free market and provide more options for Georgia’s insurance buying consumers.

In addition to bringing greater choices and access to health insurance, HB 47 also will allow Georgia to benefit from innovative plans in other states. Cross-border purchasing of health insurance will cause pressure to create a more competitive Georgia health insurance market. It will bring about quicker access to innovative plans because insurers would face fewer “barriers to entry” into Georgia. In other words, HB 47 will allow Georgians to benefit from new ideas in other states while maintaining access to all of the core consumer and licensing protections important to this state.

If a greater range of plans enters Georgia’s market, it means only that Georgians are freely choosing those plans and becoming insured, and it also would reveal that Georgia’s current marketplace, which inhibits choice, simply is not working. It is also important to remember that this will be Georgia companies selling plans it offers in other states to Georgia consumers. This will ensure Georgia residents with access to Georgia courts, Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner’s grievance resolution process and all other consumer protections afforded insurance buyers today. Simply put, the purpose of insurance regulation is not to achieve fairness or protection for insurers. It is to achieve fairness and protection for Georgians.

It is clear that a one-size-fits-all solution is not working for Georgia’s diverse uninsured population. The Legislature chose to provide a way for Georgians to gain greater access to more affordable, meaningful coverage without added government regulation.

In the end, the debate boiled down to a simple point. Opponents of HB 47 believe the state government is in the best position to decide what is and is not in a consumer’s insurance policy in Georgia. Conversely, the majority party in the Legislature trust Georgia’s residents to make an informed choice about what insurance option is best for their family or business. We also understand that in the history of humankind, it has been proved over and over again that it is a good thing for consumers to have more choice and more competition in a marketplace. That is exactly what HB 47 will provide.

State Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, is the Senate majority leader.

State Rep. Matt Ramsey, R-Peachtree City, is House Majority Caucus vice chairman.