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Wednesday, October 2, 2013 - 3:26pm

Deal: GA Should Be OK During Government Shutdown

Georgia officials are working to make arrangements to ensure state employees whose salaries and benefits are paid with federal funds don't lose access to health insurance during the shutdown of the federal government, Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday.

It's one example of efforts the state is taking to deal with effects of the shutdown, which began Tuesday. Deal cautioned, however, that covering health insurance for those employees is not something the state could do indefinitely. Deal said he believes Georgia should be able to weather the shutdown without disruption as long as it's resolved by the end of the month.

"Overall, we are in fairly good shape," Deal told reporters after a ceremony for the Governor's Awards for the Arts & Humanities. "Most of our programs are funded with state money."

Deal reiterated entitlement programs funded by the federal government, including Social Security, would continue. It was not immediately clear how many state employees' salaries and benefits are paid for with federal funds.

In terms of the state's new federally run health insurance exchange, Deal said he was not surprised people reported trouble logging onto the electronic system during Tuesday's debut and was hopeful the exchanges "will become more functional."

"We are all watching and waiting with expectations that certainly something will get better," Deal said. "This is not something that should be unexpected. They knew this was coming, they knew it was coming for a long time. But it's obviously not as simple to put these things in place as people thought it would be."

Across the country, a combination of high demand and technical glitches overwhelmed online systems early Tuesday, which was the first day the public could purchase insurance coverage on the system. The open enrollment period lasts six months and the new coverage will not take effect until Jan. 1.

Deal said he was concerned about reports of discrepancies in premiums across the state under the health insurance exchange. He said the state insurance commissioner would be looking into the issue, and acknowledges part of the problem could be the availability of medical personnel in certain areas who are willing to participate in the health insurance exchange.