Julia Conde knows what it’s like to not have health insurance. When her husband lost his job of 28 years, she said her family suddenly found themselves without coverage.
“It’s a very difficult position to be in,” she told state officials Friday during a public hearing in Acworth on Georgia’s plans for a limited Medicaid expansion.
“When you are making decisions,” Conde said, “remember that it’s not only going to be only numbers, it’s going to be real families and people affected.”
Conde was one of dozens who came to the final two public comment hearings on Gov. Brian Kemp’s Medicaid proposal and his intentions to tweak the state’s individual insurance market and break ties with Healthcare.gov.
Many who spoke worried that the plans would leave needy Georgians without health coverage and eliminate the tools they rely on to enroll in insurance on the individual marketplace.
“Fundamentally, people in the state of Georgia want something quite simple: if they get sick, they can afford to go to a doctor,” Abbie Fuksman told those gathered at the North Cobb Regional Library.
“There is probably no domestic policy in the last two decades that has achieved more undisputed favorable results medically and financially for people than Medicaid expansion.”
Like Fuksman, many argued that full Medicaid expansion, as laid out under the Affordable Care Act, would insure more people for less money than Kemp’s plan. It’s a common refrain among elected officials and health advocates.
They said the governor’s limited expansion could still leave coverage gaps and millions of federal dollars to support the program on the table.
Others spoke out against the proposed requirement that people work or volunteer for at least 80 hours a month to qualify. Such standards in other states have been blocked in court.
Kemp’s plan to stop having people sign up for individual health coverage through the federal website, Healthcare.gov, also met strong opposition.
The proposal would have consumers pick plans through third-party, non-government channels.
“Having Georgians visit a series of independent websites belonging to e-brokers and insurance companies whose main motivation is to make profits and not necessarily provide the best coverage options for consumers will make finding coverage even more burdensome,” Lauren Panchley said.
She did have kind words for Kemp’s proposal to establish a reinsurance program, which his office estimates could lower individual insurance premiums in some parts of the state by double digits. That plan generally received positive comments from those in attendance.
“We’ve gotten a lot of constructive feedback about things that we may or may not have thought about when we were thinking through our application,” said Ryan Loke, a health policy adviser to Gov. Kemp.
Georgians can submit written comments on the proposals online through the Georgia Department of Community Health website. The deadline is Dec. 3.
The state is also accepting comments, postmarked by Dec. 3, by mail at the following addresses:
For comments on the Medicaid proposal, which would expand coverage to a limited population who meets certain work requirements:
c/o Board of Community Health
P.O. Box 1966
Atlanta, GA 30301
For comments on the individual insurance plan, which includes breaking ties with Healthcare.gov:
c/o The Office of the Governor
206 Washington St.
Suite 115, State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334