In 2007, more than 15 percent of Georgia residents reported they were unable to see a doctor when necessary due to cost. The price of health insurance for a family plan in Georgia increased 48 percent between 2003 and 2009. Premiums for single policyholders increased 29 percent over the same period.  The average premium for Georgia families in 2009 was $12,792, approximately 28 percent of the median annual household income.
Of the Georgia residents who do have health insurance, 48 percent are covered through their employment. Public programs such as Medicaid and Medicare insure 27 percent of the population, and 5 percent of Georgia’s residents purchase individual private policies. This leaves 20 percent of the population, 1,870,200 people, uninsured.
Who are the uninsured in Georgia?
Georgia’s children, age 18 and younger, are uninsured at a rate of 11 percent. The uninsured rate for non-elderly adults, those aged 19-64, is 26 percent. For children living in households with incomes less than 139 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, the uninsured rate jumps to 16 percent. Nearly 50 percent of non-elderly adults in this income range lack health insurance. 
RELATED: Learn more about how the Affordable Care Act affects you. Visit ACAStart.com.
Hispanics in the state, excluding those who are 65 or older and eligible for Medicare, are uninsured at a rate of 44 percent. Among non-elderly Blacks, the uninsured rate is 23 percent, and 17 percent of the non-elderly Whites are uninsured in Georgia. 
How does the Affordable Care Act affect Georgia residents?
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, requires states provide its citizens with access to an online marketplace where individuals and small businesses may purchase health insurance policies. States have the option of establishing their own exchange, operating an exchange in cooperation with the federal government, or turning all administration of the health care marketplace over to the federal government.
Under the new law, all new policies, and in-force policies upon renewal, must cover a core of essential health benefits, including hospitalization, emergency services and mental health treatments. Annual wellness checkups and other preventative screenings must be covered with no co-payments or deductibles. Residents may not be denied health insurance for pre-existing health conditions, and insurers may not place a lifetime cap on benefits. Households with incomes at or below 400 percent of the Federal Poverty Level may be eligible for tax credits to offset premium costs.
In June 2011, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal created the Georgia Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee. The 25-member committee was tasked with studying the efficacy of establishing a state-based health insurance exchange that complied with provisions of the ACA. The committee concluded that a private or quasi-governmental exchange for small businesses in Georgia may be effective in easing the burden of health insurance costs for businesses, but the committee did not recommend establishing an exchange for individuals.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, in a November 16, 2012 letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, announced that Georgia would not be establishing its own state-based Health Insurance Exchange. Therefore, by default, the Georgia insurance market place will be run by the federal government.
Georgia’s health insurance market place
The federal website HealthCare.gov is the portal though which Georgia residents may compare, select and purchase health insurance policies with coverage effective January 1, 2014. All policies offered in the Georgia exchange cover a core of Essential Health Benefits based on the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia’s HMO Urgent Care 60 Copay plan.
The HealthCare.gov site has a web chat function, and may be accessed with mobile devices. The site also offers information about available tax credits and subsidies. For assistance by phone, consumers may reach the call center 24-hours a day at 1-800-318-2596.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded more than $3.25 million in grants to community health centers across Georgia to provide outreach and in-person enrollment assistance.
For enrollment assistance in Georgia, the following community health centers may be able to help:
- Albany Area Primary Health Care, Inc.
- Athens Neighborhood Health Center
- Christ Community Health Services Augusta
- Community Healthcare Systems, Inc.
- East Georgia Healthcare Center
- First Choice Primary Care, Inc.
- Four Corners Primary Care Center, Inc.
- Oakhurst Medical Centers, Inc.
- Palmetto Health Council Inc.
- Primary Care of Southwest Georgia
- Southside Medical Center
- Southwest Georgia Health Care, Inc.
- Valley Healthcare System, Inc.
External resources for Georgia residents
- Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
- Cover USA.org
- The Kaiser Family Foundation
- Office of Insurance & Safety Fire Commissioner
- State Refor(u)m
Gillian Burdett is a freelance writer covering all things home and living. Her work can be found on Examiner.com.