SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Next week, when Georgia lawmakers meet in Atlanta for a special session redistricting, a group of 68 Democratic lawmakers want to debate another topic: Medicaid expansion.
“Georgia has the third-highest uninsured population in this country,” said Rep. Matthew Wilson, a Democrat from Brookhaven.
Wilson says in July, he sent a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp calling on him to include Medicaid expansion.
“A lot has developed in the realm of Medicaid expansion over the course of the summer,” said Wilson. “We know that the Biden administration has made it perfectly clear that Gov. Kemp’s partial Medicaid expansion program is dead on arrival. It will not be approved by the Biden administration, so we’re back to square one.”
Under the Trump administration, the state had sought and been granted a waiver to allow it to offer Medicaid to more Georgians than have it now, but not to the larger number of people the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) says should qualify.
The Biden administration will not allow that, and Wilson says it means the state continues to leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table that it could be collecting as part of the Affordable Care Act.
He also says that recently, Georgia Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock announced that the 12 red states that have not expanded Medicaid can still do so and receive up to 100 percent federal funding to pay for the cost.
Wilson points out that Georgians pay federal taxes but that the money is not coming back to the state at this point.
“The expansion would be fully paid by the federal government and by our taxpayer dollars,” he said, “and Georgia would net $700 million and create 64,000 jobs.”
Wilson says the state is missing out on money that could not only offer people much-needed preventative care, but that if federal expansion funds had been received over the last decade (since Obamacare was passed), that funding could have helped keep rural hospitals open.
He says a dozen rural hospitals have closed, i.e. because hospitals are still required to treat patients, especially those who enter their emergency rooms. But if those patients don’t have insurance, the hospital is out that money.
He says up to 500,000 Georgians are eligible for the expansion of Medicaid.
“This has to be our top priority when we reconvene under the gold dome next week, and I along with my colleagues are committed to urging Gov. Kemp to put it on the agenda so we can take it up,” said Wilson.
He acknowledges, however, the governor makes the agenda for the special session and that he never heard from Kemp after his July letter.