Rep. Gardner Hopeful Gov. Deal will Support Medicaid Expansion


With additional reporting by Gloria Tatum, Kevin Moran, and Matthew Charles Cardinale.

(APN) ATLANTA — State Rep. Pat Gardner (D-Atlanta) says she is hopeful that Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, will change his mind over whether to expand Medicaid in Georgia pursuant to the Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Currently the U.S. states are split completely in half on the issue of Medicaid expansion, with twenty-five U.S. States and the District of Columbia having decided to allow expansion for 2014, and twenty-five states, including Georgia, having thus far rejected the expansion for 2014. [Indiana and Pennsylvania are seeking special waivers that, if approved, would allow expansion in 2015.]

One of the major components of the Affordable Care Act, and one of the most progressive, is the Medicaid expansion, even though it was one of the less publicly debated aspects of “Obamacare” when the legislation was making its way through U.S. Congress.

While all states already have a Medicaid program for extremely poor households, the expansion widened the net of people covered, to those making at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line.

If adopted by all states, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that 17 million low-income U.S. residents–who are unable to afford the subsidized insurance programs offered under the ACA’s new health care exchanges–would receive health care.

“It is important for Georgia to be included and for Medicaid to go through in Georgia. I am hopeful that Gov. Deal will eventually sign up Georgia,” Rep. Gardner tells APN.

According to Gardner one of the hold-ups is that Deal is requesting a federal block grant which will allow for more state control and flexibility over the program.

Right now the only option for poor people is the emergency room which costs us money and inflates our healthcare costs, Gardner said.

On Wednesday, December 04, 2013, President Francys Johnson of the Georgia State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), convened an Affordable Care Act Enrollment & Medicaid Expansion Planning Meeting. At that time, Johnson pledged the support of the Georgia NAACP on the issue.

On Friday, December 06, a diverse group over three hundred people came together at Grady Hospital in a mass rally in support of Medicaid expansion. The National Domestic Workers Alliance – Atlanta Chapter, U.S. Human Rights Network, Moral Monday Georgia, Cover Georgia, Atlanta Jobs with Justice, and others, are demanding Governor Deal implement Medicaid expansion in Georgia.

Medicaid expansion would provide coverage for over 600,000 Georgia residents, while creating over 70,000 new jobs.

Gov. Deal can prevent an estimated six hundred deaths per year in Georgia all at zero cost to the state over the first three years by expanding Medicaid.

The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute (GBPI), at its 2013 Fall Policy Forum, provided an analysis of the benefits of a “responsible policy” of Medicaid expansion:

GBPI noted that the Medicaid expansion is one hundred percent federally funded through 2016; that the state share in the long-term is only ten percent; and states have no long-term commitment to keep the expansion in place.

For example, Georgia’s share of cost is 2.1 billion dollars from 2014 to 2023, while it would receive 33.2 billion dollars in federal funds during the same period, which create up to 70,000 jobs statewide.

According to GBPI, Georgia’s economy would get a return of 30 dollars and 45 cents for every one dollar that Georgia invests over ten years, some of which would return to state coffers in taxes.

The ten-year net state costs, after new tax revenue as a result of economic growth, would be only 353 million dollars. The average yearly costs of Medicaid expansion as a percent of the 2014 budget is 0.2 percent.

“The fact that Governor Deal would turn down Medicaid money is a shame and a crime before God. Folks under the Gold Dome say that [Medicaid] is a Grady problem or an Atlanta problem. Let’s be real – what they are saying is that Medicaid is a Black problem, but it’s about hospitals statewide,” State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) said at the recent rally outside of Grady.

“There are six hospitals in the Piedmont Healthcare System. One in Pickens County, one in Henry County, and one in a rural county in North Georgia. Some of these hospitals are in counties that are not predominantly African American or Democratic. Some are in Republican, rural and suburban counties. This is not an Atlanta problem, but a Georgia problem,” Sen. Fort said.

“Every year, a thousand people die for every one million people who don’t have health care. Don’t take my word for this, the Harvard Medical School did this research,” Senator Fort said. “Because of Governor Deal’s partisan politics, the six hundred and fifty thousand Georgians who do not have health care, six to seven hundred of them will die next year.”

“Governor Deal is not signing the Medicaid expansion because he does not want to incur the wrath of the Koch Brothers Tea Party. He is being held hostage by the right wing of his party,” Sen. Fort told APN in an interview.

According to the Kaiser Foundation, the twenty-five states that have not yet expanded Medicaid are: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, in addition to Indiana and Pennsylvania.

Some notable Republican governors over the past year or so have announced their support for Medicaid expansion, despite their initial opposition. These governors include Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona, Terry Branstad of Iowa, Rick Snyder of Michigan, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Susana Martinez of New Mexico, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, Jack Dalrymple of North Dakota, and John Kasich of Ohio.