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The future of Medicaid expansion and health coverage in Georgia

Health care emerged as the priority issue for voters this election season. Historic voter turnout and engagement have highlighted the universal desire for affordable, quality health care. Every Georgian wants to be able to see a doctor when they get sick. Every community wants to safeguard their hospital and emergency room. Yet too many of Georgia’s rural hospitals have closed in recent years, and too many Georgians can’t afford health care. Georgia’s newly elected leaders will have the opportunity in 2019 to embrace a bold solution that would put health insurance cards in the pockets of almost half a million Georgians: Medicaid expansion. While elections come and go, the health care crisis confronting Georgia remains. Seven rural hospitals have closed in Georgia since 2013, and more than half of our remaining rural hospitals are financially struggling. Georgia’s uninsured rate of 14.5 percent is one of the highest in the country, and the uninsured rate in rural Georgia could to climb to 25 percent within the next few years. Substance use disorder and the opioid crisis are devastating communities statewide, demanding a sustained, concerted response. A strong majority of Georgians support Medicaid expansion. At least seven in ten Georgians think our state should expand Medicaid eligibility, according to polls from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 11Alive. Every day Georgia refuses expansion, our state loses $8 million in federal funding for health care. Although Election Day has passed, the civic responsibility to educate leaders and engage neighbors continues. Send a quick email to your lawmakers about the importance of Medicaid expansion and why you care about this issue. Then share your support for Medicaid expansion with media outlets in your community through a letter to the editor. Visit the tools page for information to guide your thoughts and continued engagement on this important issue.

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Many farmers struggle to protect most valuable part of their farm: themselves

Originally posted by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute

Julia Asherman is a first-generation farmer who owns and operates Rag & Frass Farm in Twiggs County. Rag & Frass produces beautiful vegetables, fruits and specialty flowers for customers throughout Middle and North Georgia. “I feel like farming is just very fulfilling,” says Julia, “I’ve always been a plant person.”

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, Julia wears all the hats in her company. She works nearly 365 days a year to make her farm profitable in the face of uncertainty from weather, pests and markets. Julia leverages available tools like farm insurance to help mitigate risk for her business, but she hasn’t been able to protect the most important part of her farm: herself.

For years, Julia had no affordable health insurance options. She wasn’t eligible for Georgia’s restrictive Medicaid program and didn’t earn enough money to qualify for financial help to buy health insurance on the marketplace. Her health premium would’ve been $500 a month, almost twice what she pays for her mortgage.

“I have a farm insurance policy that covers if a tornado takes down a greenhouse, and I have liability that covers if someone gets sick from something I produce,” Julia says, “but I don’t have anything protecting me.”

Farming is a fundamental profession, yet agriculture is also one of the most dangerous industries in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every day, about 100 agricultural workers suffer an injury that forces them to miss work. Farmers are nearly twice as likely to die on the job as police officers and five times as likely as firefighters. From tractors rolling over to snake bites, farmers face frequent threats to their health.

I have a farm insurance policy that covers if a tornado takes down a greenhouse, and I have liability that covers if someone gets sick from something I produce, but I don’t have anything protecting me.

Julia Asherman, Rag & Frass Farm

“I’m on a tractor, I’m using heavy equipment, I’m on ladders,” Julia says. “I get on my own roof when I have to patch the roof. There are just a lot of risks.”

Up to 4,200 Georgia agriculture workers could gain affordable health insurance if state lawmakers expand eligibility for the state Medicaid program, according to a 2013 analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. All told, Julia and 470,000 other Georgians could be covered through Medicaid expansion. For every one dollar invested by state leaders, Georgia would receive nine federal dollars back for health care. That’s a return on investment that any small business owner would love to have, according to Julia.

Georgia’s Medicaid program currently provides health coverage to almost 2 million residents, including about 1.3 million children and half a million Georgians who are blind, disabled or elderly. About 8 percent of Georgians who qualify for Medicaid are pregnant women or parents with dependent children and very low income (e.g., a family of three would have to bring in less than $6,612 a year to qualify).

Hear Julia’s story in her own words with this short video.

Julia saw these limits firsthand when she went to her local DFCS office to ask about Medicaid coverage for herself given her low income. “They actually told me that I would need to be blind or pregnant to get [Medicaid].”

Beyond the risks of injuries on the job that could cripple her farm, Julia hasn’t been able to afford basic preventative care like mammograms or physicals in recent years. She sees public investments in other local services and can’t figure out why health care solutions are ignored by state leaders. “I don’t understand why there’s a public library but nobody cares if I can get a mammogram.”

I see my health as vital to my farm’s existence and success. If I’m not healthy or able to work because I’m injured, that’s the thing that makes me worry about losing the farm.

While Julia has struggled for years to stay healthy and grow her business, state lawmakers have repeatedly rejected billions of federal dollars meant to pay for health coverage. Every year state lawmakers block Medicaid expansion, Georgia forfeits $3 billion to the federal government. Those dollars could be used to put an insurance card in the pockets of farmers and entrepreneurs like Julia. The majority of people who would be covered by Medicaid expansion are working.

Julia has persevered through all challenges that have confronted Rag & Frass farm thus far and cultivated a growing small business with customers across the state. Yet the biggest risk outside of her control gives her pause.

“I see my health as vital to my farm’s existence and success,” says Julia. “If I’m not healthy or able to work because I’m injured, that’s the thing that makes me worry about losing the farm.”

You can make a difference for Julia and 470,000 other Georgians by showing your support for Medicaid expansion. Contact your lawmakers today. And visit Rag & Frass to buy incredible produce and flowers!


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Julia Asherman: Many farmers struggle to protect most valuable part of their farm—themselves

Originally posted by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute

Julia Asherman is a first-generation farmer who owns and operates Rag & Frass Farm in Twiggs County. Rag & Frass produces beautiful vegetables, fruits and specialty flowers for customers throughout Middle and North Georgia. “I feel like farming is just very fulfilling,” says Julia, “I’ve always been a plant person.”

As an entrepreneur and small business owner, Julia wears all the hats in her company. She works nearly 365 days a year to make her farm profitable in the face of uncertainty from weather, pests and markets. Julia leverages available tools like farm insurance to help mitigate risk for her business, but she hasn’t been able to protect the most important part of her farm: herself.

For years, Julia had no affordable health insurance options. She wasn’t eligible for Georgia’s restrictive Medicaid program and didn’t earn enough money to qualify for financial help to buy health insurance on the marketplace. Her health premium would’ve been $500 a month, almost twice what she pays for her mortgage.

“I have a farm insurance policy that covers if a tornado takes down a greenhouse, and I have liability that covers if someone gets sick from something I produce,” Julia says, “but I don’t have anything protecting me.”

Farming is a fundamental profession, yet agriculture is also one of the most dangerous industries in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every day, about 100 agricultural workers suffer an injury that forces them to miss work. Farmers are nearly twice as likely to die on the job as police officers and five times as likely as firefighters. From tractors rolling over to snake bites, farmers face frequent threats to their health.

I have a farm insurance policy that covers if a tornado takes down a greenhouse, and I have liability that covers if someone gets sick from something I produce, but I don’t have anything protecting me.Julia Asherman, Rag & Frass Farm

“I’m on a tractor, I’m using heavy equipment, I’m on ladders,” Julia says. “I get on my own roof when I have to patch the roof. There are just a lot of risks.”

Up to 4,200 Georgia agriculture workers could gain affordable health insurance if state lawmakers expand eligibility for the state Medicaid program, according to a 2013 analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. All told, Julia and 470,000 other Georgians could be covered through Medicaid expansion. For every one dollar invested by state leaders, Georgia would receive nine federal dollars back for health care. That’s a return on investment that any small business owner would love to have, according to Julia.

Georgia’s Medicaid program currently provides health coverage to almost 2 million residents, including about 1.3 million children and half a million Georgians who are blind, disabled or elderly. About 8 percent of Georgians who qualify for Medicaid are pregnant women or parents with dependent children and very low income (e.g., a family of three would have to bring in less than $6,612 a year to qualify).

Hear Julia’s story in her own words with this short video.

Julia saw these limits firsthand when she went to her local DFCS office to ask about Medicaid coverage for herself given her low income. “They actually told me that I would need to be blind or pregnant to get [Medicaid].”

Beyond the risks of injuries on the job that could cripple her farm, Julia hasn’t been able to afford basic preventative care like mammograms or physicals in recent years. She sees public investments in other local services and can’t figure out why health care solutions are ignored by state leaders. “I don’t understand why there’s a public library but nobody cares if I can get a mammogram.”

I see my health as vital to my farm’s existence and success. If I’m not healthy or able to work because I’m injured, that’s the thing that makes me worry about losing the farm.

While Julia has struggled for years to stay healthy and grow her business, state lawmakers have repeatedly rejected billions of federal dollars meant to pay for health coverage. Every year state lawmakers block Medicaid expansion, Georgia forfeits $3 billion to the federal government. Those dollars could be used to put an insurance card in the pockets of farmers and entrepreneurs like Julia. The majority of people who would be covered by Medicaid expansion are working.

Julia packs up after a successful day at the farmer’s market 

Julia has persevered through all challenges that have confronted Rag & Frass farm thus far and cultivated a growing small business with customers across the state. Yet the biggest risk outside of her control gives her pause.

“I see my health as vital to my farm’s existence and success,” says Julia. “If I’m not healthy or able to work because I’m injured, that’s the thing that makes me worry about losing the farm.”

You can make a difference for Julia and 470,000 other Georgians by showing your support for Medicaid expansion. Contact your lawmakers today. And visit Rag & Frass to buy incredible produce and flowers!


Retired Clay County Teacher Struggles with Multiple Conditions

 

Teresa began working as a teacher for the Headstart preschool program in 1994 but retired in 2010 because multiple health conditions made it difficult for her to work. Now her family’s only source of income is her husband’s monthly disability check, which is too high to allow him to qualify for Medicaid and too low to allow them to qualify for financial help to purchase private insurance through the Affordable Care Act. (Teresa cannot qualify for Medicaid no matter how low her income is because she does not have a disability or a child under the age of 18.) Both of them fall in Georgia’s coverage gap.

Teresa and her husband are just two of 197 of the Georgians in Clay County that are uninsured because Georgia’s decision makers have not extended health insurance coverage to low-income adults in Georgia (those making less than $16,000 annually for an individual or $20,780 for a family of three.)

Teresa struggles to manage multiple health conditions, the worst of which is a jaw condition that has caused her teeth to rot. Because Teresa has not had health coverage since 2009, she has had to find alternative, insufficient treatments for her jaw condition. She would have to pay $5000—almost four months of income—to receive the necessary medical remedies to alleviate her pain and stop the dental deterioration. If Georgia were to close the coverage gap, Teresa would be able to see her doctor on a regular basis without having to forgo appointments and services that would otherwise be too costly.

Georgia’s Governor and legislature have so far rejected the option to close the state’s coverage gap, leaving people like Teresa and her husband uninsured. Until Georgia’s policymakers extend health insurance to all low-income Georgians, Teresa, her husband, and 240,000 other Georgians will likely continue to skip health care appointments and forgo needed care because they have no pathway to coverage.

Originally posted at HealthyFutureGA.org.


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Eight questions for health care voters to ask Georgia candidates

Originally posted at HealthyFutureGA.org

Georgians across the state are being asked to decide how they will cast their votes in November for positions such as Governor, Insurance Commissioner, state senator and state representative. The decisions made by voters about these elected positions will directly impact critical consumer health issues in Georgia like access to health care, affordability of health insurance, the opioid crisis, and the sustainability of the rural health care system.

As candidates crisscross the state or their districts asking for support, voters will consider their stances on a number of important issues including health care. To help voters make their decisions, we put together this list of questions for voters to ask of candidates about five timely and pressing consumer health care issues.

These questions can be used at town halls and candidate forums or posed to candidates via social media or in one-on-one conversations.

Closing the coverage gap
  • Over 240,000 Georgians make too little to receive financial help to buy private health insurance but do not qualify for Medicaid, meaning they fall into the Medicaid coverage gap. Many of the families who fall in the gap are hard-working people who work in industries that make up the backbone of our state: trucking, food service, and childcare. Do you support using federal funds to close the Medicaid coverage gap and offer affordable health coverage to these 240,000 Georgians while boosting the Georgia’s economy? Please explain.
  • A 2016 Department of Health and Human Services study showed that marketplace premiums were on average 7 percent lower in states that extended Medicaid to low-income residents. Do you support closing the Medicaid coverage gap as one method to reduce health care costs and lower the uninsurance rate for consumers in Georgia? Please explain.
Georgia’s health insurance marketplace
  • Health insurance premiums for Georgia consumers will rise by as much as 15 percent in 2019 due to the repeal of the individual mandate by Congress and the elimination of cost-sharing reductions, among other things. If elected, what improvements would you make to our health care system to ensure your constituents have access to high quality, comprehensive and affordable health insurance?
  • The federal government has expanded insurance companies’ ability to sell short-term plans that do not cover key services like mental health treatment or prescription drugs. These plans will increase health care costs and roll back consumer protections that many families in our state depend on. How do you think Georgia should regulate these plans?
Opioid/substance use crisis
  • In 2016, about three Georgians died each day from drug overdoses and thousands of Georgians live with substance use disorders regularly. To slow this crisis, a broad spectrum of strategies will be needed from prevention and early intervention to expanded access to treatment. If elected, what would you do to address the state’s substance use crisis?
 Communities left behind
  • Seven rural hospitals in Georgia have closed since 2010. Rural hospitals are often the largest employer in the area and are the economic engines that help to support local small businesses (like the flower shop or pharmacy). If elected, what will you do ensure that rural communities have adequate access to quality, affordable health care?
  • People of color in Georgia have shorter life expectancies, higher rates of chronic disease, and are more likely to be uninsured and live in medically underserved areas. The causes of these outcomes are complex and linked to reduced access to quality education, fewer economic opportunities, discrimination, and other social and economic factors. As (Governor/Insurance Commissioner/other position title), how would you address the health disparities experienced by people of color in Georgia?
Defending health care gains
  • Over the past two years Congress has repeatedly attempted to repeal the AffordableCare Act (ACA) and slash federal Medicaid funding that our state relies on, despite the fact that 74 percent of the public view the Medicaid program favorably. If elected, will you support/continue to support the program in the face of threats? Please explain.

 


Did you ask one of these questions to a candidate? Let us know! We want to know which questions were most helpful and how candidates are responding. Email Michelle Conde at mconde@healthyfuturega.orgwith your feedback.


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Tool Kit for Medicaid Expansion

You can help spread the word about Medicaid expansion on social media and through your networks! Leverage the resources below, tag social media posts with #coverga and link to https://coverga.org to help your network take action.

For example:

Now is the time for Georgia lawmakers to support struggling rural hospitals, address the opioid crisis and provide health care access to 470,000 Georgians by expanding Medicaid. #coverga https://coverga.org

We can’t afford to wait

State lawmakers can help 470,000 Georgians access affordable health care by expanding Medicaid.

Now is the time for Georgia lawmakers to support struggling rural hospitals, address the opioid crisis and provide health care access to 470,000 Georgians by expanding Medicaid eligibility.

Georgia has refused more than $12 billion federal dollars meant to put health insurance cards in the pockets of Georgia families. We can’t afford to keep waiting to expand health coverage.

Georgia is turning down $8 million a day —$3 billion per year—in money we could be using to help hardworking Georgians access health care.

Georgians can’t afford another year of turning down billions of federal dollars that could be coming back to the state to stabilize struggling hospitals, create thousands jobs and provide health coverage to working Georgians.

As taxpayers, Georgians have already invested in boosting access to health care. If we don’t accept this opportunity in Georgia, the federal government simply keeps our tax dollars.

Basic details

About 240,000 Georgians make too little to get financial help to buy health insurance and don’t currently qualify for Medicaid. These Georgians are stuck in the coverage gap with no affordable insurance options. Why? State leaders keep turning down money meant for health coverage.

Many people in the coverage gap work low-wage jobs where they’re not offered health benefits.

The majority of people who would be covered by expanding Medicaid are working. Many of these workers are in some of Georgia’s most important economic sectors: construction, transportation, education and retail.

Strengthen rural communities

Expanding health coverage would support Georgia’s rural hospitals, economic anchor institutions for rural communities across the state.

Closing the coverage gap would create at least 12,000 new jobs and $1.3 billion in new activity in Georgia’s rural communities each year.

Support behavioral Health

About 25% of uninsured Georgians who would qualify for Medicaid expansion coverage suffer from mental illness or substance abuse.

States that expanded Medicaid connected treatment services to more people with mental illness or substance abuse disorder.

Help women access care

Closing Georgia’s coverage gap would extend health insurance to more than 155,000 uninsured women in Georgia.

Georgia ranks among the bottom five states for women’s health insurance coverage.

Financial security

Just one medical bill can send you into bankruptcy when you’re uninsured. Hardworking families in Georgia need health coverage to get care when they need it without facing huge medical bills or going into bankruptcy.

Accountability

Georgia has refused $12 billion federal dollars meant to put health insurance cards in the pockets of Georgia families. Contact your reps and ask them: why? https://coverga.org

Six Georgia rural hospitals have closed since 2013 and many more are struggling. But Speaker David Ralston “isn’t in the mood” to expand health coverage and stabilize rural communities. https://coverga.org

Instead of expanding health coverage, Lt. Gov. Cagle spent a year studying the state’s biggest health care problems. His solution? More research. How long do we have to wait? https://coverga.org


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A Health Insurance Card in Every Georgian’s Pocket

This blog originally posted at GBPI.org

Thousands of Georgians are stuck without any affordable options for health insurance because state leaders repeatedly reject billions of dollars meant to pay for coverage. About 240,000 workers, students, veterans and other Georgians make too little to get financial help to buy health insurance and do not currently qualify for Medicaid. The majority of these Georgians are working in low-wage jobs where they are not offered health benefits.

Georgia is one of 18 states yet to expand Medicaid eligibility to cover more low-income residents. The map below shows the number of uninsured Georgians who could get coverage if Georgia lawmakers voted to fully expand Medicaid. The federal government covers up to 90 percent of the cost for states to expand income eligibility. This amounts to about $3 billion each year in federal dollars coming back to the state to pay for health care services.

Georgia is home to the fifth-highest rate of uninsured people in the country. Accepting the federal money can help hospitals struggling to stay open and cover the costs of caring for a high number of uninsured patients. Georgia would save an average of $200 million each year from lower costs of providing care to the uninsured.

To find out how a state decision to expand health coverage can benefit your community, browse the map below. Click a county to see detailed data and download specific county resources.

Number of Georgians that Could Gain Health Coverage by Expanding Medicaid

Download Your Fact Sheet

Georgia (statewide)Appling, Atkinson, Bacon, Baker, Baldwin, Banks, Barrow, Bartow, Ben Hill, Berrien, Bibb, Bleckley, Brantley, Brooks, Bryan, Bulloch, Burke, Butts, Calhoun, Camden, Candler, Carroll, Catoosa, Charlton, Chatham, Chattahoochee, Chattooga, Cherokee, Clarke, Clay, Clayton, Clinch, Cobb, Coffee, Colquitt, Columbia, Cook, Coweta, Crawford, Crisp, Dade, Dawson, Decatur, DeKalb, Dodge, Dooly, Dougherty, Douglas, Early, Echols, Effingham, Elbert, Emanuel, Evans, Fannin, Fayette, Floyd, Forsyth, Franklin, Fulton, Gilmer, Glascock, Glynn, Gordon, Grady, Greene, Gwinnett, Habersham, Hall, Hancock, Haralson, Harris, Hart, Heard, Henry, Houston, Irwin, Jackson, Jasper, Jeff Davis, Jefferson, Jenkins, Johnson, Jones, Lamar, Lanier, Laurens, Lee, Liberty, Lincoln, Long, Lowndes, Lumpkin, Macon, Madison, Marion, McDuffie, McIntosh, Meriwether, Miller, Mitchell, Monroe, Montgomery, Morgan, Murray, Muscogee, Newton, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Paulding, Peach, Pickens, Pierce, Pike, Polk, Pulaski, Putnam, Quitman, Rabun, Randolph, Richmond, Rockdale, Schley, Screven, Seminole, Spalding, Stephens, Stewart, Sumter, Talbot, Taliaferro, Tattnall, Taylor, Telfair, Terrell, Thomas, Tift, Toombs, Towns, Treutlen, Troup, Turner, Twiggs, Union, Upson, Walker, Walton, Ware, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Webster, Wheeler, White, Whitfield, Wilcox, Wilkes, Wilkinson, Worth


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Fast facts on Georgia’s coverage gap

Originally posted at GBPI.org

Georgia’s Health Coverage Gap

  • State lawmakers can put an insurance card in the pockets of 473,000 Georgians by bringing home money from the federal government to pay for coverage.
  • About 240,000 Georgians make too little to get financial help to buy health insurance on the Marketplace and don’t currently qualify for Medicaid. These Georgians are stuck in the coverage gap with no affordable health insurance options.
  • Rural Georgia is struggling. Six rural hospitals have shuttered since 2013 across the state, and more than half of Georgia’s remaining rural hospitals are financially vulnerable to closure.
  • 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. Georgia’s uninsured rate of 12.9 percent is fifth worst in the country. In rural Georgia, the uninsured rate could climb to more than 25 percent by 2026.
  • Georgians are already paying taxes toward closing our coverage gap, but state leaders have refused billions in federal health care dollars meant to pay for Georgians’ health coverage and stabilize struggling rural hospitals.

Hardworking Georgians need health coverage to stay healthy

  • Working Georgians who could gain coverage earn income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level: about $16,750 for an individual, $22,715 for a family of two and $28,675 for a family of three.
  • The majority of people who would be covered by expanding Medicaid are working but often not offered health benefits through their job.
  • Closing Georgia’s coverage gap would extend health insurance to more than 155,000 uninsured women in Georgia. Georgia ranks among the bottom five states for women’s health insurance coverage.
  • Closing the coverage gap could extend health insurance to nearly half of Georgia’s uninsured veterans, expanding coverage to 32,000 uninsured veterans and military spouses in our state.

Now is the time for state lawmakers to expand health coverage

  • Most other states have already put insurance cards in the pockets of hard-working families, helping them afford to see a doctor when they get sick. Georgia is one of only 17 states to not close the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid.
  • State leaders have delayed offering serious solutions for Georgia’s worsening health care crisis for years, waiting on Congress to provide a solution that hasn’t come.
  • As Georgia leaders refuse to close the coverage gap, the federal government simply keeps our tax dollars. Each year we wait, our state misses out on $3 billion federal dollars meant to pay for Georgians’ health coverage. That’s more than $8 million each day.
  • Georgia has already missed out on $12 billion federal health care dollars. Georgia can’t afford to keep waiting.

Closing coverage gap yields big economic benefits for state

  • For every dollar the state spends on closing the coverage gap, Georgia receives up to $9 in federal funding.
  • Closing the coverage gap could create 56,000 jobs in Georgia each year and boost the state’s economic output by $6.5 billion annually.
  • Closing the coverage gap would create at least 12,000 jobs and $1.3 billion in new economic activity in Georgia’s rural communities each year.

Stabilize struggling rural hospitals by closing the coverage gap

  • Many Georgia hospitals are struggling because they treat so many patients who lack health insurance and can’t afford high out-of-pocket costs. Closing the coverage gap opens up an important revenue stream to ensure rural communities have access to health care.
  • Taxpayers end up paying a share of the cost for uninsured people who show up in emergency rooms. Closing the coverage gap would allow people to go to their doctor instead of the emergency room when they get sick.
  • Other states have seen significant reductions in uncompensated care after closing their coverage gaps: Arkansas experienced a 56.4 percent decrease, and Kentucky saw a 59.7 percent decrease.

Strengthen mental health, substance use treatment by expanding health coverage

Georgia can afford to close the coverage gap

  • 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 bargain-basement tobacco tax to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
  • Closing the coverage gap would extend health coverage almost half a million Georgians, support struggling hospitals, create 56,000 jobs and bring in $3 billion from the federal government. The net cost to Georgia would be $136 million a year on average.

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Five reasons Georgia should follow Virginia’s example

Last week, Virginia became the latest state to expand health care coverage to low-income adults when the Virginia legislature voted to close the its coverage gap and Governor Northam signed the new budget. More than 400,000 Virginians are expected to gain coverage as a result, and the state anticipates declines in uncompensated care costs for hospitals, an increase in people receiving needed health services, and greater financial security for those set to gain coverage. The vote comes after years of advocacy and engagement from constituents and advocates who worked to convey to legislators the importance of health coverage and the impact the change would have on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Virginians.

Unlike Virginians, 240,000 hard-working Georgians cannot yet look forward to putting a health insurance card in their pockets. These friends and neighbors make too little to get financial help to buy health insurance and don’t qualify for Medicaid in Georgia, leaving them stuck in the state’s coverage gap.

Georgia remains one of 17 states that is still refusing billions in federal health care dollars to provide health coverage to low-income adults in the state. As in Virginia, Georgia’s Governor and state legislature can choose to close the coverage gap at any time, and here are five reasons they should do so as soon as possible:

Thousands of Georgians would gain health coverage–240,000 Georgians would gain the peace of mind, access to care, and financial protection that insured Georgians have. These Georgians make less than $12,140 a year  or $20,780 for a family of three. Most are working in sectors like retail, child care, construction, and food service, low-paying jobs that do not come with benefits.

Georgia’s rural hospitals are economic anchor institutions–rural communities need their hospitals to provide accessible healthcare, sustain well-paid jobs, and facilitate economic stability. Closing the coverage gap would create at least 12,000 new jobs and $1.3 billion in new activity in Georgia’s rural communities each year.

The resulting job growth is greater than what the state would gain by attracting Amazon’s HQ2–extending health coverage to more Georgians would create 56,000 new jobs across the state, more than the 50,000 jobs that Amazon is promising at its second headquarters. Even better, the new jobs would be scattered across the state rather than concentrated in and around Atlanta.

Georgia’s tax dollars are currently sitting unused in Washington, D.C.–By refusing to extend health insurance to low-income Georgians, the state is missing out on $8 million per day ($3 billion dollars per year). Instead of giving up hard-earned tax dollars, Georgia’s policy makers could bring that money back to the state to help low-income parents, veterans, and workers put health insurance cards in their wallets.

It is the biggest step Georgia can take to slow the substance use crisis —One quarter (25%) of Georgians who fall in the coverage gap are estimated to have a mental illness or substance use disorder. If they were covered by health insurance, treatment and recovery services would be within reach, allowing them to resume full, healthy lives. As a result, 36,000 fewer Georgians each year would experience symptoms of depression and the state could make significant progress in addressing its ongoing substance use crisis.

After five years of delay, Virginia’s leaders made the right decision and as a result, 400,000 Virginians will see healthier futures. Now is the time for Georgia’s decision makers to follow suite by putting 240,000 insurance cards in wallets all across the state.

Originally posted at HealthyFutureGA.org


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Grandmother in Georgia’s coverage gap

Susie is the sole caretaker of her young granddaughter, but she has a hard time caring for herself because she is stuck in Georgia’s coverage gap. She makes more than $6300 annually, so she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid coverage as a caregiver, and she doesn’t make enough to receive financial help to buy health insurance through the Marketplace. Susie is currently undergoing treatment for cancer but because she lacks health coverage, Susie is only able to receive cancer treatments from a doctor that allows her to make low monthly payments. Susie has other chronic health issues that need to be managed but finds it difficult to receive consistent care without insurance. Because Georgia’s elected officials have not extended Medicaid to cover caregivers like Susie, she struggles to care for herself while working to ensure her young granddaughter receives the care and support she needs to grow up healthy and thrive.

Medicaid provides access to needed health care services for low-income soon-to-be-moms, new mothers, and very low-income parents of minor children. For mothers, Medicaid makes being a mom a little easier by ensuring that their children have access to the health care services they need to grow and stay healthy. For others, Medicaid would help them get or stay healthy so they can best fulfill the responsibilities of being a mothers or caregivers. Over 150,000 uninsured women like Susie would gain health insurance if Georgia’s decision makers extended Medicaid to cover low-income adults (those making less than $16,000 annually for an individual or $20,780 for a family of three).

Originally posted on HealthyFutureGA.org


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