House Democrats Emphasize Medicaid Expansion, Military Families In Legislative Rollout
(APN) ATLANTA — In the flurry of activity that marked the first week of the 2016 year of the 2015-2016 Legislative Session, members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus gathered on Thursday, January 14, 2016, to announce their policy agenda.
High on the list was Medicaid expansion in Georgia, an option under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that Georgia Republicans have thus far rejected.
“We have families, communities, and jobs that are being lost because we won’t accept the dollars because we don’t like the name that’s on them,” House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-Atlanta) said.
300,000 Georgians fall into the Medicaid coverage gap, meaning they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to qualify for health care subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute and others.
The Expand Medicaid NOW Act, sponsored by Abrams, would expand Medicaid eligibility to up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, covering nearly half a million Georgians.
Asked how she intends to garner Republican support on an issue the party has steadfastly opposed, Abrams said she’s open to a “non-traditional approach” to expanding Medicaid.
The Affordable Care Act allows states to tailor their own Alternative Benefit Plans. Several states have won bi-partisan support for Medicaid expansion by creating plans that offer limited or different benefits to newly eligible Medicaid recipients.
Meanwhile, House Minority Whip Carolyn Hughley (D-Columbus) introduced a slate of bills, called the “A Promise Kept Initiative,” aimed at offering better support to military families.
“The Department of Defense has identified ten key metrics to judge how well a state treats its military families. Our neighbors in South Carolina have met all ten of these metrics, but we have not,” Hughley said.
The package includes five bills that address healthcare, education, employment, and child protective services for military family members.
For example, the Protecting Guardsmen’s Employment Act would ensure that Georgia workers called into service by the National Guard or Reserves have a job when they return from duty.
The 33 initiatives brought forth by House Democrats include a variety of bills previously introduced during 2015.
Among them are a measure to prohibit schools from suspending children in pre-Kindergarten through third grade (HB 135); a bill to put law enforcement agencies on a path toward testing a backlog of sexual assault kits (HB 560); and a bill that would allow voters to cast a ballot in any precinct in their county of residence (HB 26).
“The 2016 legislative package is a commitment to our shared values as Georgians, and to the understanding that we can move the needle towards progress as we put aside partisan differences to embrace common sense solutions,” Abrams said.