“I bring experience to the table. I started working as an attorney for insurance commissioner Ralph Hudgens in 2011. I’ve worked in all areas of the department. It’s an important job that touches everyone’s lives,” said Jay Florence, the current deputy insurance commissioner and a candidate for insurance commissioner in the 2018 election, Tuesday as he and former University of Georgia head football coach Ray Goff stopped in Douglas on a tour of South Georgia.
About six weeks ago, Commissioner Hudgens announced that he would not run for re-election. Florence immediately recognized the opportunity and decided to run for the position. An attorney by profession, Florence is from Athens. He attended the University of Georgia and, later, he enrolled in law school at the University of South Carolina. “Please don’t hold that against me,” he joked Tuesday afternoon.
Florence sees several important issues on the horizon for Georgia but none more so than what will happen with the future of the Affordable Care Act, almost universally referred to as Obamacare. The government-run healthcare plan has never not been in the news since former President Barack Obama proposed the plan several years ago. Republicans have long promised some form of “repeal and replace” if they ever gained control of Congress and the presidency. It happened this year but lawmakers (and President Donald Trump) are finding just how difficult it is to make any changes to Obamacare, much less repealing it and replacing it. Despite the challenges, Obamacare is facing its own uncertain future and no matter what happens moving forward, changes are coming to insurance in Georgia.
Take, for instance, what happened this year when Blue Cross Blue Shield, Georgia’s largest insurer, announced it would pull out of the individual market in Georgia. Had the company done so, 85 counties in South Georgia would have no insurance provider, said Florene. “We talked them into staying,” he said. “The situation with Obamacare is getting bad enough that something has to be done. A lot of that will come back to the states. We need someone in the office with the experience to handle what’s coming.”
Goff is serving as Florence’s campaign manager and brought him to South Georgia because of the contacts he has down here. A South Georgia native himself, he also recruited the area when he was on staff with the Bulldogs. He recalled playing with Douglas’s Joel Parrish and recruiting Andre “Pulpwood” Smith, George Smith (the embattled running back who eventually went to Texas A&M), and working with Chamber of Commerce president Stanley Lott at UGA. “I had a great relationship with [former Coffee High head football coach] Bonwell Royal. I miss coming to South Georgia and Douglas. Being here today brings back a lot of memories. I miss the area, I miss the people. It’s great being back down here again,” said Goff.