Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Governor Perdue Signs Healthcare Reform Bills

Today Governor Sonny Perdue signed Senate Bill 383 and House Bill 977 making High Deductable Health Plans paired (HDHP) with Health Savings Accounts (HSA) more affordable and available in the Georgia insurance market. Governor Perdue signed the legislation at Atlanta Medical Center alongside former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich and bill sponsors Senator Judson Hill and Representative Tom Knox.

“This legislation encourages more consumer choice by making quality, affordable healthcare coverage more available,” said Governor Sonny Perdue. “More insured citizens means lower costs for all taxpayers, and preventative care means a healthier population. It will also allow small business owners to provide low cost health insurance to employees and their families.”
A High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) is a health insurance plan that offers consumers lower premiums and higher deductibles than a traditional health plan. A Health Savings Account (HSA) allows consumers to set aside funds for future qualified medical health expenses on a tax-free basis. The health insurance reform legislation signed today has several provisions to make HDHPs paired with HSAs more affordable and available in the Georgia insurance market. The legislation incentivizes small businesses to provide HDHPs paired with HSAs.

“This is an extraordinary new law that will make Georgia the national leader in new and innovative solutions to expand health coverage,” said Newt Gingrich, founder of the Center for Health Transformation. “Georgians will soon have access to the kind of products and services other Americans will wish they had.”

House Bill 977 exempts insurers from state premium taxes for the sale of high deductible health plans with a Health Savings Account while allowing persons to deduct from state income taxes an amount equal to premiums paid to a HSA plan. HB 977 will affect mostly the self-employed and small business employees by providing a $250 annual tax credit for small business employers that spend at least $250 annually to enroll their employers in an HSA plan. The legislation will allow the Commissioner of Insurance to fast track the approval of HSA plans, exempt HSA plans from the ban on rebates and allow insurers to reward their members who enroll in an HSA plan for healthy lifestyle changes.

“This legislation is a comprehensive, market-based solution focused on empowering individuals and rewarding them for making healthy choices,” said Rep. Knox. “By harnessing the power of the free market, we’ll see more Georgians able to purchase and maintain their own healthcare coverage.”

Senate Bill 383 compliments House Bill 977, adding two provisions. First, Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRA) are accounts that employers may set up for employees that allows the employee to use pre-tax dollars to pay for health expenses, including health insurance. The bill states that HRA only plans that are not sold with or packaged with individual health insurance policies are not insurance. Second, HSA plans must comply with the consumer choice option under current law. This means that the insured will be able to choose any willing provider so long as the insured pays any increase in premiums and cost.

“Georgians suffer from sky-rocketing healthcare and insurance costs,” said Sen. Judson Hill. “Governor Perdue's signature makes Georgia the first state to deliver a patient centered, prevention focused, free market solution providing greater financial security to thousands of our working families through more affordable health insurance.”

Governor Perdue was also joined at the event today by Rep. Rich Golick, Rep. Jan Jones, Rep. Mickey Channell and Sen. Ralph Hudgens.

Governor Perdue further recognized the efforts of Sen. Hill and Rep. Channell to bring together the Georgia Hospital Association, Medical Association of Georgia, Georgia Health Underwriters Association and the Center for Health Transformation to put together a comprehensive reform package on these plans.

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