For 10 years, Georgia state leaders have blocked access to affordable health coverage via Medicaid to almost 600,000 Georgians, Knetta Adkins with Georgians for a Healthy Future said last month.
Yesterday morning the House Appropriations Health Subcommittee met for a hearing about HB 669, a bill that would close Georgia’s coverage gap by extending health insurance to Georgians making less than $16,000 for an individual and $22,000 for a family of three (138% of the federal poverty line). Minority Leader Bob Trammell presented the bill to the committee and outlined the three goals of the legislation:
- To bolster economic activity across Georgia, especially in rural communities
- To move beyond a patchwork approach to health care by putting insurance cards in the wallets of more Georgians
- To better leverage state dollars that are currently going to the federal government rather than providing coverage for hard-working Georgians.
Leader Trammell pointed out that the General Assembly consistently aims to run Georgia like a business by investing dollars smartly and efficiently. However, by refusing to extend health insurance to low-income Georgians, the state is missing out on $8 million per day ($3 billions dollars per year) that could be used to help treat and care for Georgians. Leader Trammell added that other states that have closed their coverage gap have seen drops in uncompensated care costs as large as 60%. Further benefits included support for rural economies by preventing future hospital closures and better treatment for those with substance use disorders.
Some members of the subcommittee expressed their support for closing the coverage gap, while others had questions about the costs of extending coverage to low-income Georgians. As GHF has previously reported, Georgia can afford the estimated annual costs and the investment would draw down $9 federal dollars for every $1 dollar spent by the state for expanded coverage. Representative Stephens brought up the possibility of raising the tobacco tax to raise additional revenue for Georgia’s health care needs. All members of the committee recognized the need to increase access to care for all Georgians and the need for bipartisanship in finding a Georgia-specific way to resolve the issue.
No vote was taken on HB 669, so the bill remains in the House Appropriations Health subcommittee.
We are grateful to the committee for considering Georgia’s opportunity to put an insurance card in the pockets of low-income Georgians and support continued conversation on the issue. You can help by thanking the members of the committee and asking them to ensure the conversation continues to move forward towards a solution. Send an email now!
Rep. Butch Parrish – Chairman
Rep. Lee Hawkins – Vice Chair
Rep. Pat Gardner
Rep. Carolyn Hugley
Rep. Ron Stephens
Rep. Darlene Taylor