The clock is ticking for Georgia lawmakers who still hope the state will eventually expand Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of poor residents.
The 19 states, including Georgia, that have so far refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would have until Jan. 1, 2020, to sign up new enrollees in the government health program for poor Americans, according to a new GOP health plan unveiled Monday evening. The proposed bill would then “freeze” enrollment with lawmakers expecting the number of enrollees to eventually drop off as people’s incomes change.
An estimated 600,000 or more Georgians -- most of them low-income, single men without children -- would gain health insurance if the state expanded Medicaid. Gov. Nathan Deal and other top Republicans have long rejected such a move, saying it would be too costly for the state to broaden an already inefficient and bloated program.
But in recent months, a growing number of Republican lawmakers and business leaders in Georgia have advocated for expanding the program. Doing so would bring in billions of dollars in new federal funding that proponents say would help bolster Georgia’s ailing rural health care system.
Early versions of Republicans’ Obamacare replacement plan called for an immediate stop to Medicaid expansion. The bill revealed Monday with its grace period marks a significant change in thinking, likely in response to protests by lawmakers and governors of the 15 red states that have already expanded the program.
Georgia Medicaid currently provides health coverage to roughly 2 million people, most of them low-income children, pregnant women, the elderly and disabled.
IN-DEPTH: Left behind by Obamacare