Georgia – In Georgia, a Republican-led plan requiring people with low incomes to work for their health insurance is facing problems. This might change in the future after Georgia House Speaker recently said that he and his colleagues consider better healthcare for Georgians, carefully avoids calling it “Medicaid expansion” or “Obamacare”. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Georgia Governor’s initial experimental plan failed, at least for now.
Governor Brian Kemp bad forecast for the program
The Republican Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, hoped 31,000 people would join this program in its first year, starting in July. But after four months, only 1,800 have signed up. Experts say the program’s complicated rules and many steps are to blame for the low numbers. Chris Pope, from the conservative MI think tank, agrees it’s not going well. He believes the paperwork is overwhelming, especially for those already struggling.
Democrats have been encouraging states to join the expanded federal Medicaid program to help more people in need. In 2021, the Biden administration offered more federal funds to do this. However, Republican leaders like Kemp are hesitant to accept this without linking health benefits to having a job.
Georgia remains with one of the highest uninsured rates nationwide
The Georgia program’s low participation hasn’t helped reduce the state’s high uninsured rate, among the worst in the U.S. This might discourage other states, like Alabama, Mississippi, and South Carolina, from adopting similar Medicaid expansions, despite pressure from the healthcare industry.
Yet, some in Georgia believe it’s too early to judge the program, as many might not know it exists.
Georgia Representative Lee Hawkins, a Republican and head of the House health committee, hopes the program will work well. He acknowledges that spreading the word about new initiatives is always challenging.
Georgia is unique in having a Medicaid work requirement. However, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly, a Democrat, has proposed a similar requirement to win over the Republican legislature. In Arkansas, Republican Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders is also waiting for federal approval for a comparable plan.
Work requirements for Medicaid were part of the Trump administration’s plans, and 13 states received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. However, legal challenges and the Covid-19 pandemic delayed these plans, and later, the Biden administration withdrew these approvals. Despite this, Georgia managed to get court approval in 2022 to go ahead with the work requirement while slightly expanding Medicaid.
This topic has been a major point of discussion in Georgia, especially in the Democratic campaigns for governor in 2018 and 2022.
Governor Kemp, who won these elections, chose to expand coverage only to those earning up to the federal poverty level, which is $14,580 for an individual or $30,000 for a family of four. However, this coverage is only for those who can prove they are working, studying, or volunteering for 80 hours a month.
Georgia Republicans are asking for patience, pointing out that the state’s Medicaid agency is currently busy checking the eligibility of millions of people for the first time since the pandemic.
“As with any newly launched program, we expect enrollment to build over time,” a health department spokesperson said.