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Initiatives show healthy logic

POSTED: September 25, 2007 5:04 a.m.
Earlier this summer, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle presented a plan to give consumers more healthcare choices. He wants Georgians to be able to purchase affordable, portable health insurance through a simplified free market system. I couldn’t agree more.
We must find a way to meet the healthcare needs of all of our citizens. More than a million uninsured Georgians are hardworking adults or the children of these men and women. Most of these people cannot afford the skyrocketing cost of health insurance and others may not want to purchase a product that isn’t portable between employers. Additionally, many young, healthy people don’t believe they need insurance or choose not to slog through the myriad of complex health insurance options.
Lt. Gov. Cagle is proposing the Georgia Health Marketplace, a creation of healthcare products that will be available for purchase through a Web-based system. Multiple insurers, physician groups and state subsidized healthcare plans, such as PeachCare for Kids, will be represented, and will provide a strong and competitive market to individuals and small business owners.
The Health Marketplace would also allow the consumer to choose from two different coverage plans, which will enable individuals to purchase routine care services in bulk directly from physicians. They will also be able to choose catastrophic insurance policies, which will have low monthly premiums and could be linked to health savings accounts or coverage plans.
The coverage plans will include physicals, office visits, lab tests, imaging, minor surgical procedures and specialist referrals. These bulk plans will lower costs to consumers and give them the opportunity to choose a primary care physician they are comfortable with in the long term. The catastrophic insurance policies will allow those who cannot afford traditional health insurance the opportunity to purchase insurance at the lowest price, but would have higher deductibles and limit coverage to major medical needs.
The goal is to have the Georgia Health Marketplace function as a marketplace where health insurance can be compared, bought and sold. Any health insurer, licensed by the state of Georgia through the Georgia Department of Insurance, would be allowed to list their products on the Web site, allowing consumers to pick and choose the plan or plans that best suit their needs.
We know that this initiative alone will not solve the health insurance crisis which is plaguing our country. Other states have implemented similar plans with great success, and I believe that the Georgia Health Marketplace is a move in the right direction toward giving our citizens more choices and better prices.
Lt. Gov. Cagle also wants to look at what he calls the Healthcare Safety Net, a pilot program that will offer clinical services to indigent patients in non-emergency situations. These services would be offered in five clinics and would focus on the top 25 non critical conditions most often seen in emergency rooms. These clinics would also offer chronic disease treatment and prevention services.
Next year, when the Georgia General Assembly convenes at the State Capitol, we will look at several programs, including the lieutenant governor’s, and work toward the implementation of a good, sound plan that will benefit many of those who are currently uninsured. If you have ideas or suggestions about how to better serve our uninsured citizens, I hope you will contact my office at (404) 656-0089.

Williams is the Senate Majority Leader. He represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Liberty, Long, Montgomery, Tattnall, Toombs, Wayne and Wheeler counties.
 

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