Oxendine: Georgia won’t participate in health law’s first phase

ATLANTA – Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine today said Georgia would not participate in a federal plan to create a temporary high risk insurance pool for people who have been without insurance for six months.

“I have no confidence in any federal assertion that this so-called temporary program will not burden the taxpayers of Georgia,” Oxendine said in a statement. “I am concerned that the high risk insurance program will ultimately become the financial responsibility of Georgians at a time when our state is furloughing teachers, laying off employees, and cutting public safety and education funding.”

There is $5 billion in federal money available for the pool. The federal government could still run such a program in Georgia, The Associated Press reported.

“By law and by design, we will ensure that people in states that don’t participate will have an option,” The AP quoted Jeanne Lambrew, health reform director at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as saying.

Oxendine notified U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of his decision in a letter. Critics say the insurance commissioner’s decision could cost the state millions of dollars in federal grants.

Meanwhile, Georgia could still challenge the validity of the new federal law in court.

While Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat, said he would not sue the federal government over the law, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, has said he plans to file an action against the law. According to Oxendine, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, 18 states are suing the federal government over the new law.

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