Author: Laura Colbert
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
This month, Cover Georgia celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness month and all the Georgia women who are affected by this disease, including Yosha Dotson. We also celebrate that Medicaid covers low-income women fighting Breast and Cervical cancers.
September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Month
One in four uninsured Georgians who also have low-incomes have a mental illness and/or addiction to drugs or alcohol. Right now, these Georgians often cannot access health services to help them recover except through our state’s limited mental health safety net. These Georgians–our friends and neighbors–could be covered and find better help if Georgia leaders expanded Medicaid to low-income adults.
Since 2010, 10 rural hospitals have closed in Georgia. That puts Georgia fifth in the nation for hospital closures. Rural hospitals in states that have not expanded Medicaid to low-income adults are more likely to close, shutting off access to care for their communities and residents.
Georgia is one of 10 states that has not yet expanded Medicaid. Our leaders’ in action leaves thousands of low-income Georgia adults without health insurance.
Instead of expanding Medicaid, Governor Kemp created a new program called Georgia Pathways to Coverage. This program will cover some low-income adults, but it has a lot of rules and requirements.
To qualify for Pathways, you must meet all of these four requirements:
- Be a U.S. citizen or a qualified permanent resident
- Be between the ages of 19 and 64
- Have an income below the poverty line. (If you don’t know if your income is below the poverty line, use the chart below.)
- Be working or doing other qualifying activities for at least 80 hours per month.
If you are uninsured and meet these requirements, you can apply for Pathways. You can apply online at gateway.ga.gov or by phone at 1-877-423-4746.
If you need assistance with your application, GHF’s enrollment assisters are here to help! Click here to ask for their assistance.
What does this mean for Georgians?
Pathways is a complicated program with many rules and restrictions, so we expect only a fraction of eligible Georgians will get covered through the program. The Governor and his administration have estimated that between 31,000-100,000 Georgians will be able to enroll in Pathways. (Full Medicaid expansion would cover more than 400,000 Georgians.)
Some people who are likely to be left out include:
- Stay-at-home parents
- Caregivers for aging family members or children with a disability
- People in mental health or addiction recovery programs
- Rural residents and people of color who live in areas where good jobs are hard to find
- People who do not have reliable internet access or a car
These folks may not meet the requirements for Pathways or won’t be able to keep up with the tedious monthly reporting. They will likely be left behind.
Medicaid expansion: an easier, better solution
Pathways is a broken bridge that lets too many Georgians and too much money fall through the cracks. Because of its complications and restrictions, thousands of Georgians will remain uninsured, and our state’s tax dollars–which are meant to help families access health care and keep hospitals open–will sit unused in Washington, D.C.
Georgians deserve better. We deserve access to affordable, quality health care regardless of how little money is in our wallets. We deserve healthy hospitals whose doors are open to care for their communities. We deserve to visit the doctor when we’re sick and fill a prescription without worrying about whether to pay our rent or the medical bill.
Luckily Georgia leaders can replace Pathways with a program that is simpler, covers more people, costs less per person, and meets our state’s needs: Medicaid expansion!
How you can help
Here are some things you can do to get Georgians covered and keep up the calls for Medicaid expansion:
- Spread the word about Pathways. Tell the uninsured Georgians in your life about the program and encourage them to apply. Here is some helpful information to print and share:
- If you apply for the Pathways program, tell us about it! We want to know if you got covered or were turned away. Record your story and enter a monthly $100 give away, sponsored by our partners at Vocal Video! GHF is committed to directly compensating select storytellers with electronic gift cards!
- If you are helping people enroll in Pathways, we want to hear from you too!
- Speak up for Medicaid expansion! Ask the Governor and our state legislators to expand Medicaid when they return to the state Capitol in January 2024.
- Don’t know what to say? We’ve got you covered. Here are some fast facts about Medicaid expansion that you can use to write or call your state leaders.
By working together, we can make sure that all Georgians–regardless of how much or little money they have–have health coverage and the access to care that comes with an insurance card.
Cover Georgia celebrates the 58th anniversary of Medicaid this Sunday, July 30th! Fifty-eight (58) years ago Medicaid was signed into law and since then has worked to provide affordable health care coverage to low-income children and families, pregnant people, people with disabilities, and seniors. One of Medicaid’s biggest lifetime achievements has been to narrow racial disparities in health care access all across the country.
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.