Georgia is one of only 12 states that has not expanded Medicaid. Almost one-half million Georgians could gain health care if “the powers that be” would approve the expansion of Medicaid.
Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GBPI) Facts on Medicaid Expansion
About 255,000 Georgians make too little to buy health insurance and do not qualify for Medicaid. They have incomes below the poverty line ($12,769 for an individual and $21,720 for a family of three) and fall into the coverage gap with no affordable health insurance or Medicaid.
Another 219,000 uninsured Georgians make slightly above the poverty line but still don’t have health insurance because of high deductibles or copayments that they can’t afford.
The expansion of Medicaid would give 470,000 Georgians health care.
Georgia can afford to close the coverage gap, but state leaders have so far chosen to spend tax dollars in other ways, like $309 million for insurance company tax breaks. State leaders could also increase Georgia’s low tobacco tax to the national average to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year, according to GBPI.
Medicaid and Mortality
There are needless deaths when states refuse to expand Medicaid as reported in a new study on Medicaid and Mortality published in the National Bureau of Economic Research. The study reveals that in states that have refused to expand their Medicaid coverage, approximately 15,600 people have died as a result. States that have adopted Medicaid expansion have seen reduced deaths as a result.
This study is the first large-scale assessment of the effect of Medicaid expansion on mortality. The study finds that low-income individuals experience dramatically worse health and higher rates of death than high-income individuals.
The study finds that Medicaid expansion could reduce these disparities between the haves and the have nots.
American Rescue Plan
Thanks to the passage of the American Rescue Plan that gives Georgia new financial incentives politicians can no longer use the “too expensive” excuse.
“Covering low-income, uninsured Georgians through Medicaid was already a good deal for our state. The new incentive makes it a deal too good to pass up, especially for struggling rural communities,” Laura Colbert, Executive Director, Georgians for a Healthy Future, said in a zoom meeting
Under the new relief bill, “if Georgia opts in to the program the federal government, for two years, will increase what it pays for the state’s existing Medicaid programs by 5 percent. Georgia will earn a total of $1.3 billion dollars that more than covers the cost of expansion and will leave us with $710 million dollars in savings,” Colbert said.
Currently, in Georgia, adult workers without children in the home are not eligible for Medicaid coverage and parents have very limited eligibility. Under Medicaid expansion, individuals earning up to $17,775 annually would become eligible.
Even with the federal government’s generous plan, many Republicans are still finding unrealistic excuses to not expand Medicaid. Governor Brian Kemp is pushing a state health care plan that would expand coverage to only about 50,000 Georgians. This junk plan will take effect on July 1.
The state plan creates a state bureaucracy and its limited expansion will reduce federal funding of Medicaid. It appears to mostly benefit young, healthy individuals who don’t have any pre-existing conditions who can work or attend school 80 hours a month. The federal Medicaid agency is in the process of revoking the work requirement on Georgia’s Medicaid waiver program.
The state plan may not serve the needs of poor, or sick people with pre-existing conditions who need healthcare the most, as reported by Streets of Atlanta.
Other parts of the state plan undermine protections in the Affordable Care Act and allow junk plans to be sold, as reported by Streets of Atlanta.
Unfazed by Republican excuses, Democrats and healthcare professionals are moving forward with facts and promoting Medicaid Expansion that will actually help the people it is intended to help – the poor, low-wage uninsured workers, disabled, and people with pre-existing conditions.
New data released from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families(CCF) finds that cashiers, cooks, maids and housekeeping staff, waiters/waitresses, and freight and stock laborers are among the most common jobs held by the thousands of uninsured low-wage workers that would be eligible for health insurance if the state expanded Medicaid.
Many of those low-wage workers are also working in industries that have been hit hard by the pandemic — including hospitality and retail,” said Joan Alker, executive director, Georgetown University CCF, and lead author of the report.
“We have all relied on these critically important workers during the pandemic and now it’s our turn to help them get reliable, affordable health insurance so they can continue to do their jobs and care for their families” said Mica Whitfield, Georgia State Director of 9 to 5 for Working Women. “With generous federal funding available, there is no excuse to deny these uninsured workers the health coverage they need.”
“In Georgia, women make up about 50% of all workers and are primarily the breadwinner in 2/3 of Georgia families. Women are struggling to support their families through low-wage jobs with little if any benefits. They are often tip workers in the restaurant industry and make too much to qualify for Medicaid but are uninsured because they can’t afford adequate health coverage,” Whitfield said in a zoom meeting.
“Expanding Medicaid would greatly help Georgia’s small business owners and their employees,” said Rachel Shanklin, Georgia Outreach Manager for Small Business Majority. “A recent survey of Georgia small business owners found that 6 in 10 support expanding eligibility for the state’s Medicaid program. This move would lower health care costs for small businesses and their employees, which is critical for businesses as they recover from the economic effects of the pandemic and put employees back to work.”
“We constantly hear that healthcare is the top barrier for small businesses and expanding the Georgia Medicaid plan would ease the strain on small business owners. Expanding Medicaid would cover more than 450 thousand Georgians the majority are working adults who don’t receive health benefits through work or can’t afford to participate in their employer’s plan. Expanding the Georgia Medicaid plan would also create 56 thousand jobs each year and boost the state’s economy by 6.5 billion annually,” Shanklin said in a zoom meeting.
Because of the extra funds allocated for this program by Congress, Georgia would gain an estimated $350 million beyond the costs of the program for each of the first two years. These savings ($710 million total) would give Georgia the flexibility to address other challenges and priorities facing the state such as restoring cuts made to Georgia schools during the pandemic; re-building safety net programs and services for communities of color, immigrants, people with disabilities and other hard-working groups hit especially hard by the pandemic; extend broadband internet service to disconnected communities; or fill other needs felt by Georgia families and communities, as reported in a press release from Georgians for a Healthy Future.
“Expanding Medicaid to Georgia workers is a powerful way to thank them for the work they did to keep our state’s economy moving over the last year. It’s also an opportunity to bring home billions of tax dollars that will accelerate our state’s recovery,” Colbert said.
“Rural counties are also likely to see a very significant reduction in their uninsured rates. This would provide much-needed support at a time when rural hospitals and providers have been under enormous strain,” Alker said.
Previous research by the Georgetown University research center found that Medicaid expansion would greatly benefit rural areas. In Georgia, nine counties with the highest uninsured rate for workers are rural. The counties are: Atkinson (35.1%); Wheeler (35.1%), Candler (34.6%), Treutlen (33.5%), Berrien (31.5%), Gilmer (31.0%), Colquitt (30.1%), Decatur (27.2%), and Jeff Davis (27.1%).
Expanding Medicaid, “is a way to bring home billions in tax dollars that would really accelerate our state’s recovery from the pandemic. This is the best deal available for Georgia and it’s time for our lawmakers to act for all Georgians to have a pathway to affordable healthcare,” Colbert said.