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A consumer health advocates guide to the 2020 elections: U.S. President

This year, no Georgian has been left untouched by the health or economic impacts of COVID-19. America’s 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.

This election season (October 12 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.

Pictures from the Georgia state capitol featuring GHF and health advocates
Pictures from the Georgia state capitol featuring GHF and health advocates

In this blog, we cover the U.S. President’s impact on the health and well-being of Georgians and their families. 

One of the most visible positions on the ballot and one that plays a meaningful role in health care policy for Georgians is the U.S. President. The U.S. President serves as the head of government of the United States of America and leads the executive branch of the federal government, which is broadly responsible for implementing, supporting, and enforcing national laws.

The legislative power of the President

One of the powers that the U.S. Constitution assigns to the president is the power to sign or veto legislation passed by Congress. The President’s approval (or rejection) as the last step in the law-making process gives them outsized influence as bills are crafted and considered by Congress. This allows the President to wield significant power over new federal health care laws, despite having only a small role in the legislative process.

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Social Security Act, which established Medicare and Medicaid. Medicare is a health insurance program for the elderly and some people with disabilities. Medicaid is a health insurance program for some low-income Americans. In the first three years of the program, nearly 20 million eneficiaries enrolled.

Adding to President Johnson’s legacy, President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law on March 23, 2010, once again transforming the nation’s health care system. Key provisions of the law expanded Medicaid eligibility to nearly all adults with a family income at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. It also prohibited insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions or charging higher premiums based on health status or gender. As of February, 10.7 million Americans were enrolled in coverage through the health insurance marketplaces created under the ACA, including almost half a million Georgians.

The power of appointment

The Constitution empowers the President to make many executive and judicial branch appointments including Secretaries of executive branch agencies, federal judges, and other public officials (all subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate). These appointments include the justices of the Supreme Court and the heads of agencies charged with overseeing the health and wellness of Georgians and other Americans.

The federal agencies run by appointed Secretaries and other officials implement or enforce federal laws that directly impact Georgians. For example, HHS oversees the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and directs the Medicaid & Medicare programs. The agency has made decisions that have real day-to-day impacts on Georgia consumers, like the decisions to cut funding for unbiased, local health insurance enrollment assistance in Georgia by 85% or to reverse a rule that allows doctors and other health care providers to discriminate against LGBT Georgians and other diverse Georgians. This agency also recently approved Georgia’s flawed proposal to only partially expand Medicaid, rather than encouraging the state to seek a full Medicaid expansion.

The justices appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the President regularly weigh in on federal laws that shape health and health care for Georgians. The Court will hear arguments on the Health Care Repeal lawsuit on November 10th, and their decision on the case will determine if protections for people with pre-existing conditions under the ACA (and all other parts of the ACA) can continue or are erased.

This year’s election

Georgia is a new battleground in this year’s Presidential contest. Whether and how Georgia can address issues like COVID-19, health care affordability, the opioid crisis, and the sustainability of the rural health care system will depend on the choice that Georgia voters make this November. Before you vote, find out where each candidate stands on the health issues impacting Georgians and our nation.

This blog is part of a series from Georgians for a Healthy Future to educate consumers about the impact of the 2020 election on timely consumer health issues. Please be on the lookout for more blogs in this series, including our recent blog on the Georgia General Assembly.

*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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