Politics

Lawmakers, Advocates Skeptical Of Kemp’s Medicaid Waiver Plan

Georgia House Minority Leader Bob Trammell said the state needs to take more urgent action to get more people covered.
Georgia House Minority Leader Bob Trammell said the state needs to take more urgent action to get more people covered.
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This week, Gov. Brian Kemp released his plan to explore Medicaid waivers that could possibly expand access to healthcare coverage in Georgia.

But many are skeptical of that plan, saying it’s light on details and doesn’t stack up against what they say are better alternatives.

First among them are Democrats like Georgia House Minority Leader Bob Trammell. He said the state needs to take more urgent action to get more people covered.

“When you don’t have insurance, you need coverage to be able to go to the doctor and tend to your healthcare needs. We can do it faster through Medicaid expansion, and that’s what we should do,” Trammell said.

Trammell points to a report prepared this year by state auditors that says full Medicaid expansion as laid out by the Affordable Care Act could cover half-a-million Georgians.

Kemp has long opposed Medicaid expansion. Instead, his administration wants to pursue a waiver that could bring in more federal dollars to help targeted populations and has put $1 million towards hiring a consultant to craft such a plan.

“There are three questions that any proposal for coverage of people should ask,” said Trammell.  “Who does it cover? What does it cost? When can we implement it?”

He said full Medicaid expansion is the best path forward to cover the most people at the lowest cost. Democrats in the state Senate are behind a bill that would do just that.

Laura Colbert, with patient advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, also worries that the Kemp administration’s waiver plan likely won’t go far enough.

“Many of the Georgians who are excluded in this proposal will likely remain uninsured and continue to struggle to get the health coverage and care they need,” she said in a statement.

Colbert takes particular issue with the fact that Kemp’s plan doesn’t seek to expand the income qualifications for Medicaid.

The legislation that would guide the waiver caps eligibility at 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

Medicaid expansion under the ACA would expand coverage to people making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

Still, the specific details of any waiver, like how many more people could be covered, are up in the air. The Kemp administration says figuring that out will be the job of the outside consultant.

But that won’t happen any time soon. Once a firm is hired to begin that work, the governor’s staff says it will likely be months before any specific waiver pitch is put together and sent to the feds and even longer until it’s implemented.