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Ten Health Care Questions for Georgia Candidates

Decorative: Pictures from the Georgia state capitol featuring GHF staff and health advocates
Pictures from the Georgia state capitol featuring GHF and health advocates

This year, no Georgian has been left untouched by the health or economic impacts of COVID-19. America’s singular failure to control the pandemic has spotlighted the importance of public policy decisions that prioritize health and wellness. The consequences of underfunding essential public health infrastructure and Medicaid, and the disparate impact that public policies have no Black Americans and other people of color is clear. National, state, and local leaders, many elected by the public, are responsible for the policy decisions made ahead of and in response to COVID-19, its economic fallout, and the movement for racial justice.

Ahead of the 2020 election season (October to November 3, 2020), Georgians have the opportunity to learn more about these elected positions, the decision-making power each has, and how those positions impact their health and the well-being of Georgians. This year, Georgians will cast their votes for the U.S. President, members of U.S. Congress, state legislators, state supreme court judges, and other positions.

As Georgia candidates on this fall’s ballot crisscross the state or their districts asking for support, voters will consider their positions on a number of important issues including health care. To help voters make their decisions, we put together this list of questions for voters to ask of candidates about five timely and pressing consumer health care issues. These questions can be used at town halls and candidate forums or posed to candidates via social media or in one-on-one conversations.

COVID-19

  • (The U.S./Georgia) has largely failed in its response to the coronavirus, endangering the health and financial well-being of all Georgians. If you are elected, what will you do to promote a science-based response to the pandemic? What will you do to ensure Black and Latinx communities in Georgia are made whole during the response and recovery?
  • The pandemic has exposed how interconnected our health is to housing, food, employment, internet access, and transportation. Georgians can’t live healthy lives without equitable access to all of these things. What are two ways that you will address these “social determinants of health”  if you are elected? 

Medicaid expansion

  • More than 400,000 Georgians do not qualify for Medicaid in Georgia and make too little to get financial help to buy private insurance at healthcare.gov, meaning they fall into the Medicaid coverage gap. Many of the Georgians who fall in the gap are essential workers at low-wage jobs that put them at risk during COVID-19: truckers, grocery and food service workers, childcare workers and home health aides. Do you support closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid to low-income Georgians while boosting the state’s economy? Please explain.
  • Only a small fraction of low-income, uninsured Georgians would be able to get covered under Governor Kemp’s proposed Medicaid waiver plan. The plan will cost 3 times more per person than a full expansion and most people who weighed in on the plan during comment periods were opposed to it. What is your position on the Governor’s plan and what actions will you take to expand health coverage to all low-income Georgians?

The Affordable Care Act

  • Governor Kemp has put forward a plan to disallow Georgians from using healthcare.gov and instead puts insurance companies back in charge of shopping and enrolling in health insurance. This plan will increase the number of Georgians without health insurance by as much as 60,000 and many more will end up in substandard plans that don’t cover basic services like prescription drugs. What will you do to protect Georgians from the Governor’s proposed changes? What actions will you take to get more Georgians enrolled in comprehensive, affordable health insurance?
  • Georgia is one of 20 states that is suing the federal government to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act. (If you have a pre-existing condition or benefit from the ACA in another way, include 1-2 sentences about yourself here.) If the ACA is eliminated, thousands of Georgians with pre-existing conditions—including people who have contracted COVID-19—would no longer be protected by the law and at least 400,000 Georgians would lose their health coverage. Do you support Georgia’s participation in this lawsuit? What actions will you take to maintain and expand comprehensive, affordable health insurance for all Georgians?

Mental health and addiction

  • Financial stressors, the difficulties of parenting, and almost universal uncertainty brought about by COVID-19 have dramatically increased depression, anxiety, stress, and substance use among Georgians. Many will seek supports and services to deal with their symptoms. A national law requires that most health insurance plans treat mental health and addiction equal to other conditions. However, Georgians with and without health insurance still face barriers to services and treatment. If elected, what steps would you take to make it easier and more affordable for Georgians to get needed mental health and substance use services?
  • The trauma of COVID-19 is wearing on the mental health and increasing substance use among teenage Georgians and even younger children. School-based services have shown promise for addressing behavioral health issues but those services harder for schools to provide and students to access while maintaining social distance. If elected, what policies will you pass that will expand school-based prevention, treatment and recovery services for Georgia students?

Communities left behind

  • Nine rural hospitals in Georgia have closed since 2010. Rural hospitals are often the largest employer in the area and are the economic engines that help to support local small businesses (like flower shops, pharmacies, and restaurants). If elected, what will you do ensure that rural communities have adequate access to quality, affordable health care? Will your policies include Medicaid expansion?
  • Black Georgians and other Georgians of color have shorter life expectancies, higher rates of chronic disease, and are more likely to be uninsured and live in medically underserved areas than white Georgians. The causes of these outcomes are complex and linked to reduced access to good quality housing and education, fewer economic opportunities, systemic racism and race-based violence, and other social and economic factors. As (Senator/Congressperson/other title), name two policies that you would push/support to ensure that Black, Latinx, and other Georgians of color have equitable opportunities to live healthy lives in healthy communities?

Did you ask one of these questions to a candidate? Let us know! We want to know which questions were most helpful and how candidates are responding. Email Michelle Conde at mconde@healthyfuturega.org with your feedback.

*Georgians for a Healthy Future is a non-partisan, 501(c)3 organization. We do not endorse or support any candidates or political party.


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