Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

State insurance commissioner okays massive premium hikes on ACA exchanges

State Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens has approved premium increases of more than 50 percent for the four insurers still participating in Georgia’s health care exchanges next year. From my AJC colleague Ariel Hart:

But even companies that originally filed for mild double-digit increases are now going for the gold as well. Ambetter, Alliant and Kaiser each plan to raise rates from 51 percent on average to 56.7 percent on average.

It doesn’t have to be that way, according to the list. In comparison, if Washington does assure the industry that the subsidies won’t be yanked, the rate increases would be perhaps 25 percentage points lower.

Hudgens blamed Obamacare itself, though insurance companies say the real fault lies with nine months of congressional disarray over what the United States health care system should look like. Here's the take from Andy Miller of Georgia Health News:

The ever-increasing premiums proposed by insurers reflect the instability rocking the insurance exchanges, which provide health plans for individuals and families who don’t have job-based or government coverage. The exchanges in the individual states were created under the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare.

Almost 500,000 Georgians signed up for coverage this year in the state’s exchange.

We’ve written before about Hudgens’ reluctance to step between insurers and consumers. And here's more on the health care situation in Georgia.


One week later, the Trump administration has pushed the military button for Puerto Rico relief. From the Washington Post:

In the first six days after the hurricane made landfall here, the Navy had deployed just two ships, citing concerns that Puerto Rico’s ports were too damaged to accommodate numerous large vessels. But harrowing reports of isolated U.S. citizens struggling in the heat without electricity and running low on food and water have now spurred the Pentagon to throw resources into the relief ­effort even though they haven’t been specifically requested by territorial officials.

A hospital ship and a coordinating Army general are among the additions intended to address the humanitarian crisis.


State Sen. Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for governor, attracted 50 protestors to a Cherokee County high school on Wednesday, where they demanded the firing of a math teacher who had required some students in her class to turn their Donald Trump t-shirts inside out.


The godfather of Georgia’s medical marijuana program is readying a push for a major expansion. State Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon, sent out a plea to the 2,500 Georgians registered with the Department of Public Health to receive cannabis oil for debilitating diseases, asking them to press lawmakers to allow the in-state cultivation of the drug. He said the process to obtain the oil from other states is too “overwhelming” to keep up with the demand. “We MUST create an instate cultivation model that allows our citizens to access the product HERE in Georgia, and we need to do it now,” he wrote. (Greg Bluestein)


Some good news for non-conventional campaigners: A new study says traditional politicking has it all wrong. The study from Joshua L. Kalla of the University of California and David E. Broockman of Stanford University concluded that the notion that candidates should try to persuade voters is generally a waste of time. The findings suggest, instead, that campaigns “increasingly focus on rousing the enthusiasm of existing supporters” rather than try to win over new ones. That’s exactly the strategy outlined by Democrat Stacey Abrams, whose campaign aims to energize first-time and irregular voters.


Georgia’s higher education system usually issues a “no comment” on pending litigation. That’s why the response from the University System of Georgia on the lawsuit challenging the “campus carry” legislation was so surprising. It ain't them, a spokesman for the Board of Regents said:

“While the USG opposed the campus carry legislation, we are not a party to this lawsuit. To be clear, we are abiding by HB280 just as we abided by the previous law that prohibited guns on campus. This lawsuit does not represent the position of the University System of Georgia.” (GB)


U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, has a confession to make in her latest fundraising email pitch: “I have no idea what he’s going to do.” She’s referring, of course, to her once-and-possibly-future adversary Jon Ossoff. She vanquished the Democrat in June after the most expensive U.S. House contest in history, but he hasn’t ruled out a comeback. Which is why he provided good fodder for an appeal for cash.

The subject line in her email? "Lurking." (GB)


It looks like someone’s planning a birthday party next week for the Rev. Joseph Lowery, the civil rights veteran. He’ll be 96.


Poultry is big business in Georgia. But in Hall County, home to U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, chickens are a humongous business. And so when his Democratic colleagues urge Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue not to propose a rule that would increase line speeds in poultry plants throughout the United States, Collins was ready.

Liberals are against science, Collins writes – flipping the usual script. He gets specific. Here's a taste of the op-ed that appears in The Hill newspaper:

The first casualty of their argument is geography. These critics say that faster line speeds would force workers on those lines to dismember chickens at dangerous rates. The geography of the production process, however, makes their claim disingenuous.

Poultry plants exist in two distinct sections—one for first processing and one for second processing. Every petition to raise line speeds that I’m familiar with applies strictly to the first-processing zone, where birds enter the plant and undergo cleaning to make the food safer before ending this journey in chillers. The primary duty of workers on these lines is inspection. They wield cotton swabs, not paring knives.

Workers who debone the birds operate only in second-processing areas, physically separate from the largely-automated first-processing lines. The chillers represent a full stop in the process and physical division between these sections of a plant, so raising line speeds in the first area doesn’t require work speeds in the second area to increase. The geography lesson here is simple: The layout of these plants means that increases in line speeds in the first-processing zones would, by design, not jeopardize worker safety.


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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.