Biden admin reconsidering Georgia's plan to scrap ACA exchanges

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the 11th anniversary of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) legislation being signed into law, March 23, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

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The Biden administration is seeking public comments as it reevaluates its predecessor's approval of Georgia's plan to stop using the Affordable Care Act's online health insurance exchange, it said in a court filing Friday.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the filing asked U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., to stay a lawsuit, brought by a Planned Parenthood affiliate and an Atlanta women's health center, challenging approval of the state's plan, until the end of a 60-day notice and comment period on Feb. 9.

"We applaud the Biden administration for opening a comment period as an important step toward rescinding Georgia's unlawful...waiver," said Emily Singer, a spokesperson for Democracy Forward Foundation, a legal non-profit that represents the plaintiffs.

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An attorney for Georgia, which intervened in the case, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, allows for states to obtain waivers to try their own approaches to health insurance as long as they match the ACA in coverage, comprehensiveness and affordability.

In November 2020, under former Republican President Donald Trump, HHS approved Georgia Access, a program that would end the state's use of the healthcare.gov federal health insurance exchange without creating a state exchange to replace it. Instead, consumers would buy insurance from private brokers or directly from insurers.

In their lawsuit, filed the week before Democratic President Joe Biden took office, Planned Parenthood and Feminist Women's Health Center said Georgia's plan would result in consumers being steered toward non-ACA compliant "junk" plans that offer little coverage, and that many might not obtain coverage at all.

The case is Planned Parenthood Southeast Inc et al v. Azar et al, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia, No. 21-cv-00117.

For Georgia: Jeffrey Harris of Consovoy McCarthy

For plaintiffs: Craig Benson of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, John Lewis of Democracy Forward Foundation and Carrie Flaxman of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

For HHS: Christopher Lynch of the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Division

Read more:

Georgia asks to defend Trump-era ACA waiver scrapping exchanges in court

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Brendan Pierson reports on product liability litigation and on all areas of health care law. He can be reached at brendan.pierson@thomsonreuters.com.