In a letter sent July 11, the congressmen urged Deal to apply the feature that offers states the chance to expand Medicaid coverage to millions of Americans who need healthcare.
Medicaid is a joint state and federal program that currently assists some of the nation’s most vulnerable populations – the homeless, poor children, pregnant women, and the disabled. This expansion would extend Medicaid benefits to include the poorest men, women, children as well as the disabled who meet certain requirements.
In Georgia the expansion of healthcare coverage would include 600,000 residents by 2019, many of whom rely on expensive emergency room treatment because they cannot afford consistent or preventive medical care.
The Affordable Healthcare Act law offers states that use the extension for three years of coverage fully funded by the federal government. For current Medicaid coverage, the federal government pays between 66 and 76 percent of the cost. In order to extend coverage the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost.
Afterwards, the state is only required to pay 10 percent of the cost of coverage. The federal government commits to pick up 90 percent of the remaining costs during the fourth year and beyond.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld the ACA as constitutional, but did provide that state governors had the right to choose whether to extend healthcare benefits to more of their citizens.
News reports indicate Deal is “holding off” on two of the most important aspects of the ACA– the Medicaid expansion and creating the state exchanges – that would allow hundreds of thousands of Georgians basic medical care.
Bishop, Johnson, Lewis, and Scott sent the letter to the Deal requesting that he not allow politics to be the guide, but determine to act on behalf of Georgians who need care.
“Access to basic, affordable healthcare should be a right and not a privilege available to only those who can afford it,” Lewis said. “People who are sick cannot afford to wait for public officials to make up their minds. It is very possible that some people will die who could have been helped while the governor comes to terms with this opportunity.”
Johnson with more than 2 million Georgians without health insurance, Georgia can’t afford not to do this.
“Last year alone, Georgia hospitals lost about $1.5 billion in uncompensated care,” said Johnson. “That hidden cost is unsustainable.”