Author: Laura Colbert
Georgia Democrats have campaigned for Medicaid expansion over the past decade, with strong support among their voters. Georgia Republicans have been more hesitant to embrace the policy, which would allow low-income adults and parents to access health care through Medicaid. New polling commissioned by Georgians for a Healthy Future finds that the support for expansion today goes far beyond Democrats. A strong majority supports expansion, suggesting that expansion in 2022 would benefit incumbents running for re-election.
For starters, 88 percent of Georgians say that all residents of our state should have access to health insurance coverage. Of course that means different things to different people, and support for Medicaid expansion doesn’t reach that level, but GHF’s polling found that the more Georgians know about expansion, the greater the support.
With no additional information provided, 59 percent of Georgians support expansion. But that number rises to 77 percent when respondents were asked: Do you favor or oppose expanding health insurance coverage for a family of three making roughly $30,000? Once they realize how the program targets our neediest citizens, Georgians respond more favorably.
Currently, Gov. Brian Kemp has a plan pending federal approval that would expand Medicaid in Georgia on a much more limited basis. Instead of covering 500,000 Georgians, it would cover only 50,000 Georgians at even lower income thresholds.
This plan has support across party lines. But again, once Georgians find out more details, support for full expansion far surpasses that of Kemp’s more limited plan.
When voters find out that Kemp’s plan would cover families of 3 making less than $22,000, but full expansion would cover the family making up to $30,000, Georgians favor full expansion 49-32. The same is true when voters learn that under Kemp’s plan, the federal government would cover only 66 percent of the cost — leaving state taxpayers with the rest of the bill — but that under full expansion the federal government would cover 90 percent of the costs. (Today, our tax dollars are going to OTHER states to cover 90 percent of healthcare costs for many of their residents but not for our own!)
What really tilts the scales toward full expansion is the cost per person. Under Kemp’s plan, the state would pay $2,420 per person. Under full expansion the state’s tab is only $496 per person.
As Georgia’s elected leaders look toward another razor-thin election in 2022, they may consider which policies are electorally popular. Medicaid expansion is a policy that could benefit candidates across parties. Even a majority of GOP voters supports expansion when they hear its benefits. Polling particularly strongly amongst Republicans were providing low-income people with preventative care and helping keep rural hospitals open by increasing their number of paying patients. GOP voters also responded favorably to covering Georgians with mental health and substance abuse disorders. This group makes up about 25 percent of newly eligible beneficiaries under expansion.
Regardless of what state leaders decide to do between now and November 2022, we know that statewide candidates favoring expansion will enjoy a distinct advantage at the polls. Medicaid expansion is good for Georgians’ health — but its also good politics.