Caucus urges Deal to expand Medicaid now

12/20/2013, 6:03 a.m.

African-American state lawmakers and political and civic groups are urging Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Medicaid so that 650,000 people who lack coverage can be insured.

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus and representatives from the NAACP, the Coalition of 100 Black Women, sororities, the Federation of Democratic Women, and the Rockdale County Democrats held a news conference on Dec. 18 to push for Medicaid expansion.

State Sen. Vincent Fort of Atlanta, Democratic whip and a 17-year GLBC member, urged Deal to act immediately.

“On behalf of Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler [D-Lithonia], chairman of the GLBC, we implore the governor to expand Medicaid coverage as soon as possible,” Fort said.

“The time for Medicaid expansion has come and would cover 650,000 people in the state of Georgia who would otherwise be uninsured. A Harvard medical study conducted this year tells us that for every 1 million people who go without health care, 1,000 will die. That translates to 600 to 700 people dying next year if Governor Deal does not take action,” he said.

“Further, the Georgia Public Policy Institute says every $1 of Medicaid expansion funds generated equals to $15 for the economy. Medicaid expansion is not only the right thing to do for health care reasons but is also the right thing to do for Georgia’s economy. This is not a partisan issue – it’s a Georgian issue.”

Other legislators in attendance included Rep. Earnest “Coach” Williams (D-Avondale Estates), Rep. Dexter Sharper (D-Valdosta), Rep. Kimberly Alexander (D-Hiram), Rep. Karen Bennett (D-Stone Mountain), and Sen. Gail Davenport (D-Jonesboro).

Under Medicaid expansion, the federal government will cover 100 percent of the costs of expansion for the first three years, the caucus said.

In 2017, the federal government will cover 95 percent of the costs for this expanded population and will phase down to 90 percent in 2020.

These percentages are written into the Affordable Care Act and cannot be changed without an act of Congress. Medicaid expansion will bring in $14 billion over the course of the first five years that would go to providers, nurses and hospitals.

The state would spend $714 million over the first six years, an increase of 2 percent over what it normally spends on Medicaid.

The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus is the largest state black caucus in the nation. For more information, visit www.galbc.org.