Warnock: “Correction” to broaden Medicaid in Georgia and different holdout states

Senator Raphael Warnock says he is still working on a plan that would create a state Medicaid-like program that would expand insurance coverage to people in states like Georgia that haven’t expanded the insurance program for the poor and the disabled. Riley Bunch / GPB

US Senator Raphael Warnock says he is finalizing a proposal that would extend Medicaid coverage to more Georgians and bypass GOP leaders who have rejected calls to expand the insurance program for the poor.

Warnock, who is in Georgia on Senate hiatus this week, said Tuesday he has asked the White House to include a “federal fix” in the next job package that would allow eligible Holdout residents to receive medical care .

“I hope to see legislation soon that will allow Georgians in the coverage gap and those on low incomes to be insured through the federal government while the state continues to incentivize its Medicaid program,” Warnock told reporters outside from Grady Memorial Hospital on Tuesday.

Instead, Governor Brian Kemp is pursuing a plan that would expand Medicaid slightly, with coverage around 50,000 people. But Biden’s government has suspended the state proposal because of concerns about the requirement that participants complete 80 hours of work, school, or other qualifying activity each month in order to receive and then maintain their coverage.

The program was scheduled to start this Thursday, but state officials told the US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services late last week that the program’s implementation date would be postponed to “at least” August 1st.

Frank Berry, the outgoing commissioner of the state health ministry, wrote in a letter to the federal agency confirming the ongoing review of the state’s waiver request, writing that state officials “appreciate the ongoing discussions.”

State officials have so far rejected new federal incentives in the coronavirus relief package signed in March for the dozen states that have not fully expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

The federal government’s sweetened offer to expand could provide Georgia with between $ 1.3 billion and $ 1.9 billion for two years, which could translate into about $ 710 million in net income for the state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 500,000 low-income Georgians could get health insurance, including those who earn around $ 18,000 a year.

The governor’s office declined to comment on Warnock’s federal bypass proposal on Tuesday.

Warnock argued Tuesday that Republican state officials were wrong in expanding Medicaid.

“They are complicating the situation by first digging on their heels for years, leaving us one of only 12 states that refuse to expand Medicaid, and now trying to put the burden on workers and people trying to find work Work requirements to get medical care, ”Warnock said on Tuesday.

“I happen to think that health care is a human right and that when we offer Medicaid enhancements to the workers and the poor we will enable them to work and find work,” he added. “And they turned it upside down, and that’s why we keep having these seizures.”

Warnock has not set out the details of his plan or when exactly the proposal will be made public. The Senator penned a letter with Senator Jon Ossoff to Senate leaders last month asking them to use CMS to create a “federal Medicaid-like program” or to pursue other strategies that accomplish the same goal.

“It’s definitely doable,” said Laura Colbert, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future, a patient advocacy group. “For this, the federal infrastructure could be adapted quite easily – on the part of the state.

“The conversations we hear go very far from what the federal solution to the coverage gap is,” she added.

For example, the federal marketplace could be opened up with no cost sharing obligation, although coverage might not be as much as Medicaid. There is also a proposal that would allow cities and counties to pursue the Medicaid expansion on their own.

The Georgia Senators have also urged the federal agency to “completely repeal” the state’s plan. The Department of Health and Human Services only revoked Indiana and Arizona’s plans with work requirements just last week.