More than half of Georgians believe all or at least parts of the Affordable Care Act should be repealed, but an even greater number think the state should move forward with one of the law’s most controversial elements – Medicaid expansion, a poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows.
Expanding Medicaid would extend health coverage to about 650,000 low-income Georgians. Although the federal government would cover most of the cost of expansion, Gov. Nathan Deal has rejected it, saying Medicaid is already overtaxed and the state can’t afford to make it even bigger.
Fifty-seven percent of Georgians support the expansion, however, while 39 percent oppose it, according to the statewide poll conducted for the AJC by Abt SRBI. Almost nine in 10 Democrats supported the move versus just 25 percent of Republicans. Support for the expansion was strongest among poll respondents in metro Atlanta (69 percent in favor); people who earn less than $50,000 a year (71 percent); and those in the 18-39 age group (62 percent).
Locust Grove resident Jeffrey Sims, 51, said he doesn’t understand why Georgia has rejected the expansion, which could provide insurance for many people who need it and can’t afford it. That’s especially true since the federal government would pay for much of it, Sims said.
“I wouldn’t care who the president was if my state can get that money,” he said. “They’re putting people’s lives in jeopardy just playing politics, and I don’t think that’s right.”
At the Capitol today, the NAACP and other liberal groups plan to stage a “Moral Monday” protest, modeled on such demonstrations that started in North Carolina. One of the “Moral Monday” goals in Georgia is Medicaid expansion.
Georgia and 22 other states have rejected the expansion. About half of states and the District of Columbia plan to expand this year, while Indiana and Pennsylvania have said they may move forward with expansion after 2014. While Medicaid expansion is a pillar of the health care law, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the federal government couldn’t force states to expand.
Expanding Medicaid would bring more than $30 billion additional federal dollars to Georgia over a decade. Deal estimates expansion would cost the state $4 billion in that time, though the law’s supporters argue it would be closer to half that. The governor and other Obamacare opponents have questioned whether the debt-ridden federal government would be able to keep its end of the bargain.
Cobb County resident Steve Clark, 70, agrees and opposes expansion.
Even if the federal government does cover a big chunk of the cost, which Clark suspects it won’t, the state will still have to pick up 10 percent of the tab for new Medicaid enrollees, he said.
“That’s 10 percent that could go to schools,” Clark said. “If we spend the money on schools, maybe the next generation won’t have to be on Medicaid.”
Despite widespread support for an expansion, 53 percent in the poll said all or parts of the Affordable Care Act should be repealed.
The poll results mirror the findings of a survey conducted for the AJC in September. It found that while nearly half of Georgians thought the health law should be fully or partially repealed, a majority also favored some of the law’s major elements — including the Medicaid expansion — when asked about them individually.
The differences point to a lack of awareness about the law’s provisions, said Seth Brohinsky, an associate of the opinion research firm Abt SRBI, which conducted both polls.
“People support something like (Medicaid expansion) when they’re given specifics,” Brohinsky said. “But when (asked) generally about Obamacare, people have a negative connotation.”
He added that in the recent poll a greater number of people supported repealing the law in its entirety versus repealing just certain parts of it than those surveyed last fall. It’s a significant change that may have been fueled by troubles in the law’s roll out at the end of the year, he said.
Recent college graduate Brittney Rice of Cobb County said that while Congress could make some improvements in the law, she supports letting Obamacare stand.
“For me, applying for jobs is a full-time job,” Rice, 23, said. “I do that every day, all day and every night. I’m just not able to find one. It would be horrible to think I couldn’t be insured.”
Athens resident Shelby Hart, 23, who serves in the Navy, said he believes the government should have waited to enact the law until its many problems had been fixed and until politicians could work out a solution that works for everyone.
“It’s not necessarily a bad idea,” he said. But “until you have something that everyone can accept just don’t push it on the people.”
Staff writers Aaron Gould Sheinin and Richard Halicks contributed to this article.
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