Monday is the last day to sign up for healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act this year.
Anyone who wants coverage under the ACA will have until tonight at midnight to begin an application. Open enrollment for policies through the federal healthcare reform act won’t begin again until November.
Bill Corr is the Deputy Secretary for U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He says many Georgians are still not participating.
“There are about 1.7 million Georgia residents who are uninsured,” he said. "And as of the middle of March, about 177,000 had signed up through our health insurance marketplace.”
Corr says those figures are disappointing. Nationwide 6 million Americans have signed up.
Georgia lawmakers this month passed a bill barring state agencies from carrying out ACA mandates. They also passed a bill barring Gov. Nathan Deal from expanding Medicaid. Deal says he supports the bill and is expected to sign it into law.
Corr says that’s a mistake.
“The state of Georgia is turning down $9.2 million every day that it does not expand its Medicaid program. And it leaves many Georgians who are poor without health insurance,” he said.
Corr said the federal government has made an offer that Georgia shouldn’t refuse. The state won’t have to pay any of the cost of new Medicaid enrollees for the first three years and the only 10 percent after that.
But Gov. Deal and most Republicans say Georgia can’t afford to spend any more money on Medicaid, even if the federal government would absorb 90 percent of the additional costs after 2016.
When lawmakers in state Senate debated the bill barring Medicaid expansion this month, that was the sticking point for Republicans.
To rebut speeches made by Democratic lawmakers, Senator John Albers, a Roswell Republican, rose to ask one simple question. “Is it not true that we know after 2016 Georgia will incur costs?”
Only one Republican lawmaker spoke in favor of the ACA, also known as Obamacare. And that was Chuck Hufstetler of Rome. He’s arguably the only prominent member of the Georgia GOP to do so, and it’s largely because of the Medicaid component.
“Our stance is hurting our state, but we’re not lowering the federal deficit,” he told colleagues on the Senate floor. “I just don’t believe that it’s consistent, after sending the Medicaid Financing Act last year to the Department of Community Health and the executive branch – that we now want to take control of Medicaid expansion, as we go into recess for the rest of the year, without a single hearing on Medicaid expansion in the last two years.”
He added, “The majority of Georgians do oppose Obamacare, but six out of 10 believe we ought to expand Medicaid. There is a difference between the two.”
State Senator Vincent Fort, who leads a local chapter of Moral Mondays urging Medicaid expansion, said the fight will continue.
“It’s not a moment. It’s a movement,” he said.
But it’s unlikely the bill will fail to become law. And to enable Georgia to expand Medicaid in the future, lawmakers in the legislature would have to vote to do so if Deal signs the bill.
Healthcare.gov, the federal Web portal for signing up for healthcare coverage, won’t go dark when the open enrollment period ends. Policy-holders will be able to make changes to their coverage and get information.