Georgia democrats push governor to include Medicaid expansion in special session

Nearly 70 state lawmakers signed on to a letter drafted by state Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven) urging Gov. Brian Kemp to allow the legislature to take up the issue of Medicaid expansion during a special session this fall.

Lawmakers must meet later this year to redraw district lines based on data from the 2020 U.S. Census.  Gov. Kemp will issue the call for a special session and last week, he told a House committee that he would also be open to them taking up legislation to deal with crime during that time.

"This governor has made it clear that he wants to expand the scope of the special session beyond the Constitutionally-mandated redistricting process," said Rep. Wilson in a news conference Tuesday.  "We are calling on Gov. Kemp to include Medicaid expansion on the agenda." 

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Georgia is one of just 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid in some form since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. That left hundreds of thousands of Georgians in what's known as "the coverage gap" because they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to participate in government subsidies on the healthcare marketplace.  

As part of the American Rescue Plan in March, Congress approved increased incentives for those 12 states to expand Medicaid.  

"They have incentivized our state to close the coverage gap through the American Rescue Plan with a $2 billion incentive," said Laura Colbert, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future.  

Policy analysts said that money would be enough to cover the state's full expansion costs and still have about $700 million left over that could be used for other budget needs.

"The truth is that we have a perfect opportunity right now. The incentives to expand Medicaid and the reasons to do so have never been clearer or better. Georgia needs to seize this moment," said Rep. Wilson.

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The Kemp Administration, however, continues to wait for word on whether the federal government will approve their waiver proposals.

"Our office continues to work with the Biden Administration on the Georgia Pathways and Access plan that was passed by the legislature in 2019 to expand access to healthcare for tens of thousands of low-income Georgians and then lower the cost of healthcare for millions more Georgia families," said Cody Hall, the governor's director of communications.

Rep. Wilson argued that the Biden Administration has rejected similar plans.

"We've also seen that courts have consistently struck down waiver programs that have work requirements in them like the one in Gov. Kemp's proposal. So, we know that that plan's not going anywhere," Rep. Wilson said.

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