The state will challenge the federal government’s recent decision to reject key elements of Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to expand Medicaid slightly in Georgia.
The future of the Republican governor’s health care plan has been uncertain since early this year, when the United States Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services raised concerns about the work requirements of low-income Georgians for obtain and maintain coverage. The proposal was initially approved by the Trump administration last October.
The Biden administration on Thursday informed state officials that it had withdrawn approval of the work requirement, underscoring the pandemic’s long-term impact on the poor.
“CMS believes the COVID-19 pandemic and its expected consequences have made the state’s labor demands unachievable,” wrote Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, who heads CMS. in a letter of December 23 to state officials.
The federal agency concluded that the work requirement “significantly compromises” the effectiveness of the program in promoting coverage for those newly eligible for Medicaid. The federal government has also withdrawn from the state’s obligation on some participants to pay monthly premiums. The state can proceed with the rest of the governor’s plan.
Kemp spokeswoman Katie Byrd said the governor was considering challenging the decision.
“Georgia has proposed and received approval to implement an innovative waiver that would expand coverage and access in a budget-prudent manner. We are disappointed that the Biden administration has chosen to turn its back on a bipartisan group in the Georgia General Assembly that have come together to help create a fair and balanced healthcare framework that expands options and reduces costs. costs, ”Byrd said in a statement.
“Although they tried to hide behind the holidays by announcing two days before Christmas, we plan to challenge their flawed – possibly political – decision in court.”
Other state GOP officials have hit back directly at President Joe Biden.
“It is shameful that President Biden has denied thousands of Georgians medical coverage. Like the Grinch, he stole hope from so many families who need it – just on Christmas, ”Speaker of the House David Ralston, a Republican from Blue Ridge, said in a statement.
Kemp, who is running for reelection next year, continued the GOP’s decade-long resistance to the full expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, calling it too costly in the long run. Georgia is one of the twelve states that have not extended Medicaid. Congress passed a new federal sweetener for recalcitrant states this year, and Democrats have also proposed a federal bypass program.
Instead of a full expansion, the governor proposed extending Medicaid coverage to low-income adults who complete 80 hours of work, school, or other eligible activities each month. Up to 50,000 people would likely receive coverage from his plan over time.
The federal agency’s move intensifies debate over Medicaid expansion ahead of next year’s election. Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial candidate who has focused her campaign on expanding Medicaid, is running again.
“Rather than sue for improperly denying health care to over 400,000 Georgians during the worst medical crisis in a century, instead table a law to expand Medicaid and serve low-income Georgians statewide,” Abrams tweeted Christmas Eve.
Supporters of Medicaid’s full expansion have also responded to the federal agency’s decision by urging state leaders to change course.
Without the work requirement, at least 237,000 additional Georgians would become eligible for coverage under the governor’s plan – but at a much higher cost, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. The cost to the state would likely reach $ 650 million in the first year alone, compared to $ 76 million for state officials budgeted for that year.
“The federal government’s rejection of a work report requirement blocks what would have been an unnecessary obstacle to obtaining health care coverage for employed and unemployed Georgians, but the cost of the program now goes soar, “said Caitlin Highland, director of strategic communications at GBPI. .
“The full expansion of Medicaid is both the morally just and fiscally responsible choice to help Georgians access health care while leveraging $ 1.9 billion in federal funding to cover the costs of expanding Medicaid as well as ‘other government priorities such as education, rural broadband and workforce development. “
The governor also defended a second waiver after the Biden administration pushed back a provision that would circumvent Healthcare.gov. The federal government reopened the plan for public comment until Jan. 9. This plan also includes another provision creating a reinsurance program which has been received more favorably.