Governor’s Health Care Plans Met With Skepticism At Public Hearing

Stephen Morton / Georgia Port Authority via AP

Gov. Brian Kemp’s plans to tweak the state’s individual insurance marketplace and expand Medicaid coverage to a limited population are facing pushback.

A handful of people appeared at a public hearing in Macon Wednesday to express their concerns about the proposals. They worried about how the plans would be implemented and how many Georgians would be affected.

“This is a first step, but I think this is a very halfhearted, anemic step, and we need to push forward for greater coverage,” said Dr. Kimathi Blackwood, who practices in Macon.

Blackwood acknowledges expanding Medicaid coverage to more people might increase costs in the short-term, but he argues that it will come with long-term benefits.

Mainly, people with regular access to preventative health care services won’t develop conditions that require costly interventions in the future.

“I really think that we need to look seriously at saving money in the long run by having greater coverage for Medicaid,” he continued.

Kemp’s office estimates 50,000 people currently meet the requirements for the Medicaid program, including at least 80 hours a month of work or other forms of community engagement.

That’s just a portion of the hundreds of thousands of uninsured people in the state.

Meanwhile, those who help Georgians enroll in health coverage are skeptical about the governor’s plan to stop using, the federal website used to pick individual insurance plans.

Instead, consumers would be connected with brokers or insurance companies through a Georgia-specific platform.

“If it is the traditional, government-created website, it’s not going to be user-friendly based on history,” said Sarah Sessoms with Insure Georgia, a nonprofit in Macon that helps people sign up for health coverage.

It’s not clear what that platform could look like or how much involvement Georgia will have in running it, though state officials have said they’ll rely heavily on private sector companies to do so.

What is clear is that the Kemp administration hopes severing ties with will free up the state to offer subsidies for health plans that don’t meet current federal coverage standards.

Both the marketplace and Medicaid plans need federal approval before taking effect. State officials hope to have them both up and running by 2022.

More public hearings on the plans are scheduled for the coming days in Bainbridge, Gainesville, Rome and Kennesaw. The state is also accepting written comments here.