You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Sebelius urges Deal to expand Medicaid

With three weeks to go before the end of open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Monday urged Georgians to explore their coverage options before it’s too late.

Sebelius, visiting Atlanta Monday morning, also said she hopes Gov. Nathan Deal will still consider expanding the state’s Medicaid program, another key element of the Affordable Care Act. Georgia is losing out on $9.2 million in federal funding every day because it’s not expanding, she said, pointing out that, meanwhile, hospitals and taxpayers are picking up the cost of caring for the uninsured.

“It’s not free to do nothing because people are still coming through the doors of emergency rooms,” Sebelius said during a visit to the Center for Black Women’s Wellness near downtown Atlanta. “People are still missing days on their work sites, not able to take care of their kids, living sicker and dying younger.”

State lawmakers are considering House Bill 990, which would give them, rather than Deal, the power to expand Medicaid.

Supporters of expansion say the bill would create another barrier to low-income Georgians getting the health care they need. The state, they say, can’t afford to pass up the more than $30 billion in new federal funding expansion would bring.

The federal government has promised to pay 100 percent of expansion costs for the first three years, with its share falling to no less than 90 percent thereafter. But Deal and top state Republicans have remained skeptical that the feds will hold up their end of the bargain. And, they say, Georgia can’t afford to expand a program that is already overwhelmed and inefficient.

“One hundred percent federal funding is a myth,” state Rep. Jan Jones, R-Milton, who sponsored the bill, said last week. Congress can always reduce the feds’ share, “which would be catastrophic to our budget if we expanded (Medicaid).”

Expanding Medicaid would extend health insurance to an estimated 650,000 poor Georgians, many of them adults without children. The government health program already covers 1.7 million mostly low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled.

Sebelius, while acknowledging she doesn’t know whether HB 990 will pass or fail, said she hopes the debate over whether to expand Medicaid in Georgia will continue, as it has in other states. Half of states are moving forward with expansion, six are still debating it and 19 have rejected it, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

A second bill also targeting Obamacare, House Bill 707, would bar any state or local government or agency in Georgia from creating a health insurance exchange or insurance navigator program. Both bills have passed the House and are up for debate in the state Senate.

Deal opted more than a year ago to let the federal government build and operate an online health insurance exchange in Georgia. About 101,000 people have already chosen health plans through — more than 80 percent of whom qualified for federal tax credits to help lower the cost. Open enrollment closes March 31. Individuals who skip insurance coverage this year face a penalty of $95 or 1 percent of taxable income, whichever is higher. That penalty will increase substantially in future years. The next open enrollment period begins in the fall for coverage that will take effect in 2015.

“What we need to do is have people understand that in three weeks they run out of time, at least for 2014,” Sebelius said. “There’s a lot of health security and financial security on the line.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

After failure of GOP health plan, what’s next?
After failure of GOP health plan, what’s next?

The implosion of the GOP’s effort to gut Obamacare drew a mix of cheers and expressions of dismay across Georgia as health care providers, insurers, consumer advocates, lawmakers and voters struggled to grasp what it means for the future of health care in the Peach State. One thing is certain: the collapse of the GOP plan means Barack Obama&rsquo...
In Tom Price’s backyard, a deep divide over health overhaul
In Tom Price’s backyard, a deep divide over health overhaul

The doomed Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act could well prove the defining debate of the 2018 midterm elections, and the stark divide among candidates racing to represent a swath of suburban Atlanta offers an early glimpse of the electoral challenges facing conservatives. In Georgia’s Sixth District, several of the 18 candidates ...
Senate approves bill creating fracking regulations in Georgia
Senate approves bill creating fracking regulations in Georgia

A bill that creates new fracking regulations in Georgia gained unanimous approval in the Senate Friday. House Bill 205, sponsored by House Rules Committee Chairman John Meadows, R-Calhoun, regulates an eight-county region in northwest Georgia prime for fracking — the process of drilling into the earth to extract oil and gas. The bill, which...
Homeland Security measure is attached to immigrant felon database bill
Homeland Security measure is attached to immigrant felon database bill

The Senate heard a bill Friday that requires the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to post and share information about undocumented immigrants who have committed felonies. While this is already collected by the agency, House Bill 452 would create a public database that would include personally identifying information such as an individual’s home...
Georgia Senate advances increase in tax on most used-car sales
Georgia Senate advances increase in tax on most used-car sales

The Georgia Senate backed legislation Friday that would increase taxes for many used-car buyers but lower them for Georgians who lease cars. House Bill 340, sponsored by state Rep. Shaw Blackmon, R-Bonaire, was aimed at addressing problems created by a 2012 law that changed how cars are taxed in Georgia. That law started the phaseout of the annual...
More Stories