ATLANTA (WSAV) – Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday announced a new health care reform plan he says will address the 1.4 million Georgians without insurance.

He was joined by state officials and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma to introduce Georgia Pathways and Access.

The governor said health insurance premiums are too high and there is no competition in Georgia. Having residents struggling to access or pay for health care, he said, is “simply unacceptable.” 

“In Georgia, we have seen rates skyrocket,” Verma said. “Georgians are forced to make tough choices. Do they pay their mortgage, their rent or health insurance? No one has to make that choice but sadly, it is the unfortunate reality for many.”

At 14.8%, the Peach State has one of the highest uninsured rates in the country.

The governor slammed the Affordable Care Act, saying 129,000 Georgians have left the marketplace since 2016.

Kemp said Georgia Pathways and Access will offer more choices in a user-friendly way for Georgians to purchase patient-centered health insurance that fits their budget.

Sen. Nikema Williams, chairwoman of Georgia Democrats, said the governor has the wrong idea.

“Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is a simple and effective solution to these problems, and would extend coverage to nearly half a million Georgians,” Williams stated, in part. “Instead, Brian Kemp has concocted a health care ‘plan’ that would decrease Georgians’ access to health care coverage and rip health care away from 60,000 Georgians in the middle of a pandemic that he has mismanaged.”

The governor touted the more than 50 bills he has signed to improve health care in Georgia.

Under Georgia Pathways and Access, residents can enroll or re-enroll with insurance carriers, their local brokers or agents, or through private sector web-broker sites.

The program is expected to cost the state about $218 million a year compared to the price of fully expanding Medicaid: $547 million.

Georgia Pathways will launch on July 1, 2021, with the reinsurance plan starting in January of 2022.

Georgia Access is expected to launch in January 2023.