Today, after voting against the latest of 31 Republican attempts to repeal and damage President Obama's historic efforts to reform healthcare, U.S. Representatives John Lewis, David Scott, Sanford Bishop and Hank Johnson highlighted a letter they sent to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. The letter urges him to implement an aspect of the Affordable Healthcare Act that offers states the chance to expand Medicaid coverage to millions of Americans who desperately need healthcare. Medicaid is a joint state/federal program that currently assists some of the nation's most vulnerable populations--homeless, poor children, pregnant women, and the disabled.
This expansion would extend Medicaid benefits to include the poorest men, women, children as well as the disabled who meet certain requirements. In Georgia the expansion of healthcare coverage would include 600,000 residents by 2019, many of whom rely on expensive emergency room treatment because they cannot afford consistent or preventive medical care.
The ACA law offers states that use the extension for three years of coverage fully funded by the federal government. For current Medicaid coverage, the federal government pays between 66 and 76 percent of the cost. In order to extend coverage the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost. Afterwards, the state is only required to pay 10 percent of the cost of coverage. The federal government commits to pick up 90 percent of the remaining costs during the fourth year and beyond.
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision upheld the ACA as constitutional, but did provide that state governors had the right to choose whether to extend healthcare benefits to more of their citizens. News reports indicate Gov. Deal is "holding off" on two of the most important aspects of the ACA-- the Medicaid expansion and creating the state exchanges -- that would allow hundreds of thousands of Georgians basic medical care. That is why Lewis, Scott, Bishop and Johnson sent this letter to the governor requesting that he not allow politics to be the guide, but determine to act on behalf of Georgians who need care.
"Access to basic, affordable healthcare should be a right and not a privilege available to only those who can afford it," said Rep. John Lewis. "People who are sick cannot afford to wait for public officials to make up their minds. It is very possible that some people will die who could have been helped while the governor comes to terms with this opportunity. I respect his need to evaluate what serves the good of the state, but we must come to the point where we see preserving human life as a compelling need rather than as collateral damage."
"When Georgians do not have health insurance, they live in fear of a health crisis for themselves or their children," Congressman Scott said. "They will probably defer seeing a doctor until they cause other people to be sick or they reach the emergency room, which increases everyone's health insurance costs. We encourage the state to enroll as many of our neighbors in a healthcare plan as possible so that we can curb the spread of disease and stop treating the ER as a doctor's office."
"With more than 2 million Georgians without health insurance, Georgia can't afford not to do this," said Johnson. "Last year alone, Georgia hospitals lost about $1.5 billion in uncompensated care. That hidden cost is unsustainable."