State Dems pan governor's healthcare plan, call for Medicaid expansion

They said Gov. Brian Kemp's healthcare waiver plan announced last week will cause people to lose access to care and coverage.

ATLANTA — State Democrats warned tens of thousands of Georgians could lose their health care under the governor's new plan.

On Wednesday, Georgia House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, along with Democratic candidates for the state House, said Medicaid needs to expand in Georgia.

They said Gov. Brian Kemp's healthcare waiver plan announced last week will cause people to lose access to care and coverage. Trammell said it could also lead to more rural hospitals closing, which could be devastating to Georgia's poorest families.

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"Since before the pandemic began, rural hospitals have been in trouble in Georgia and have closed at an alarming rate," Trammell said.

"This summer, Southwest Georgia Regional Medical Center announced that it was closing its doors, and our rural hospitals are more likely to close because Georgia is a state that hasn't expanded Medicaid, when compared to similarly-situated hospitals in the 38 states that have expanded Medicaid."

The push for Medicaid expansion comes after Kemp announced last week the "Georgia Pathways and Access" healthcare program, which he said will provide more affordable insurance to those who otherwise could not afford it.

His plan offers federally subsidized health insurance to Georgians - but only through private brokers. That's different from the Affordable Care Act marketplace, which uses government-based providers.

The governor said it would increase competition among providers and lower premiums. But the program did not expand Medicaid.

Instead, under a separate measure, some of Georgia's lowest-income residents can qualify for the assistance - if they work, volunteer, receive job-training or attend school.

RELATED: Gov. Kemp, state officials announce changes to Georgia health insurance

Critics said Kemp's waiver program could significantly reduce access. One analysis by a policy group - The Brookings Institute - said Georgia's healthcare waivers would likely lead to tens of thousands of Georgians losing their health coverage.

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Their report said the plan would eliminate the ACA exchanges as a possible source of health care without incentivizing new health insurance business.

The Georgia Pathways program, meanwhile, is expected to go live in July 2021.