Georgia’s two U.S. senators and a metro Atlanta congresswoman are pushing to include an expansion of Medicaid in the final version of a budget reconciliation bill now before Congress.
“Health care is a right, and if you believe health care is a right, you don’t believe it’s a right in 38 states,” Sen. Raphael Warnock said Thursday, referring to the states that have already expanded Medicaid, a list that does not include Georgia. “Can you imagine Social Security being a right in only 38 states? Can you imagine Medicare being available in only 38 states?”
Warnock was joined at the Thursday morning announcement by Sen. Jon Ossoff and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, D-Suwanee. Also attending were Democratic U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn of South Carolina.
“We’re urging Congress to include Medicaid expansion in the reconciliation to ensure every American has access to the health care they need,” Ossoff said, “and end the needless suffering and death in states where politicians, out of contempt for low income people and vain partisanship, refuse to do what’s right.”
State Democratic lawmakers are asking Gov. Brian Kemp to include Medicaid expansion in the legislature’s upcoming redistricting special session.
A letter 67 Democratic members of the Georgia House and Senate signed in July called the need for legislative action to expand Medicaid coverage “urgent.”
Georgia Democrats have pushed for Medicaid expansion since then-President Barack Obama steered the Affordable Care Act through a Democratic Congress in 2010 with no Republican votes.
But Georgia remains among 12 Republican-run states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid, with former Gov. Nathan Deal and now Kemp citing the program’s costs.
Kemp prefers a more limited expansion, which the Trump administration approved last year. But the new Biden administration has put that plan on hold because of concerns that it includes a work requirement for Medicaid recipients.
“One of my top priorities in Congress has been ensuring that Americans of all backgrounds have access to quality, affordable health care, which is why I introduced the Medicaid Saves Lives Act in the House,” Bourdeaux said Thursday. “In Georgia’s 7th [Congressional] District, across the state, and around the entire country, too many people are unable to access the medical care they need due to the Medicaid coverage gap.
“Despite significant financial incentives provided by the Affordable Care Act and the American Rescue Plan, Georgia and the 11 other non-expansion states still have refused to act,” she said. “Expanding Medicaid has the potential to provide health care coverage to over four million Americans, including 646,000 Georgians. We must change the notion that the state you live in can dictate your access to affordable health coverage.”
Georgia Democrats’ July letter claimed a full-blown Medicaid expansion for those with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level would cover nearly 500,000 Georgians who make too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid but can’t afford to buy private health insurance.