New health care law costing state, employees millions

Photo by Brian Mastre

Photo by Brian Mastre

ATLANTA - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said the new federal health care law is already costing the state and its employees millions of dollars in higher premiums, with more cost increases coming.

Under the law, young adults can remain on their parents' insurance plans up to age 26, which will increase the state's costs by $17.7 million in fiscal 2011 alone, according to data provided by the governor's staff.

"We know the real cost though still lies ahead," Deal said during a news conference Wednesday at the state Capitol.

Area Democrats also gathered to celebrate benefits they said the overhaul produced.

Deal focused on costs to the state. The expansion of Medicaid in 2014 to cover Americans with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level will add 650,000 new Georgians to the state's Medicaid rolls -- a 45 percent increase, he said. Deal's office estimates that will cost the state roughly $2.5 billion over the next decade.

"It is not going to be sustainable," he said, "certainly not at the state level."

Deal and other GOP governors have asked the Obama administration for more flexibility in managing Medicaid.

"Let us decide how we can tailor a delivery system that we think is more appropriate and would be more cost effective and actually produce better results," Deal said.

President Barack Obama has said there could be some flexibility but with conditions.

While Deal withdrew legislation last week that would have created a commission to recommend options for Georgia to create its own health insurance exchange, the governor said he will appoint a study group to look at the issue. It would be better for the state to create an exchange than face a federally imposed situation, Deal said. At the same time, Georgia and other states are still seeking the law's overturn in federal court.