One of the most important things that will be decided in the Governor’s election this year will be whether or not 800,000 uninsured Georgians will get health insurance. Will we remain the state with the fifth highest number of uninsured residents? If Brian Kemp is elected, that will be the outcome. And his reason for not expanding Medicaid will be that it is too expensive for Georgia to do and besides, these indigent people should get a job and then they will have health insurance. He will also say that he is going to increase the annual tax credit for rural hospitals. Let me give you the facts on all those false arguments.
If we were to expand Medicaid in Georgia, as 33 other states have done, state lawmakers could insure 443,000 more Georgians. If Georgia expanded Medicaid it would bring in $3 billion a year from the federal government. Additionally that money would lead to the creation of thousands of medically related jobs which would increase our tax base. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute estimates that the total cost per year would be around $136 million, which would be offset by the higher incomes from new jobs.
About 240,000 Georgians can’t get insurance through the marketplace and make too much to qualify for Medicaid in Georgia. Basically only pregnant women and the blind get Medicaid in Georgia. Over 50 percent of people working full time make too much to qualify for Medicaid. These are hard-working people who work for places like Walmart where they pay $9 an hour and only hire for 30 hours so they don’t have to provide health insurance. With their low income they find another part time job but can’t afford to purchase insurance.
The tax credit created by the legislature (the proceeds of which goes to rural hospitals) gives an average of $543,000 a year in revenue to each hospital, with some receiving as little as $2,000 a year. That means these hospitals still cannot afford to stay open and give free care to people who come to them with no Medicaid. If we expanded Medicaid, each hospital could get $2 million a year. Seven rural hospitals have closed in the last five years and more than half are financially vulnerable to closure.
In addition, opioid abuse and unmet mental health needs are decimating communities statewide, exacerbated by high uninsured rates among working Georgians who simply can’t afford access to care. The problem is only getting worse. Georgians are already paying taxes toward closing our coverage gap, but state leaders like Brian Kemp have refused billions in federal health care dollars meant to pay for Georgians’ health coverage and stabilize struggling rural hospitals.
What if Stacey Abrams is elected Governor? We will expand Medicaid, thereby insuring hundreds of thousands of Georgians at a small cost that will be offset by the extra income generated by thousands of new jobs in the medical field. Rural hospitals will stabilize because they won’t be taking sick people who cannot pay for their care.