|Georgia black lawmakers urge Gov. Deal to expand Medicaid for poor|
|Written by Valerie J. Morgan|
The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus is urging Gov. Nathan Deal to support legislation that expands the Medicaid program to cover low-income people, part of President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
The expansion, which Deal has rejected so far, would provide access to healthcare coverage for more than 1 million residents, say the state’s black lawmakers, who held a press conference today.
Deal is expected to announce his stance on the issue when he addresses the House and the Senate on Thursday.
“Medicaid expansion is a necessity for hundreds of thousands of African Americans who are currently without health care,” said State Rep. Dee Dawkins-Haigler (D-Lithonia), who heads the Caucus. “It is imperative that vulnerable populations have access to quality health care."
While African Americans make up 30 percent of the population of Georgia, they suffer disproportionately as it relates to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and chronic lung disease, Dawkins-Haigler said. Accepting the assistance from the federal government will help to bridge the heath care disparity gap, she said.
Under the legislation, the federal government would fund the entire cost of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years, gradually phasing down to 90 percent of the cost after that. The new law expands Medicaid to cover low-income people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $15,400 a year for a single person.
Georgia is among the Republican-led states that has opposed the legislation with Gov. Deal saying it would create a deficit in the state’s budget. The governor cited unknown costs, lack of flexibility, and lack of state control in his decision to reject the program. The Supreme Court ruled last June that the federal government could not compel states to create the exchanges or expand Medicaid as the Affordable Care Act attempts to do.
This week, however, Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer announced she plans to support the expansion, saying it would help poor Arizonans and help hospitals that now must give care without pay.
Republican-led New Mexico and Nevada also have agreed to accept the expansion.
“We just feel that if the Republican states are coming on board with this, Georgia should do the same to help its residents,” said Dawkins-Haigler.