Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff joined House Democrats in a letter last week pushing health officials to pull the plug on the state’s plan “in its entirety as soon as possible.”
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Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff joined House Democrats in a letter last week pushing health officials to pull the plug on the state’s plan “in its entirety as soon as possible.”
Credit: Screenshot from a March 2021 Fox 28 livestream

Georgia’s U.S. senators and congressional Democrats are urging the Biden administration to “fully rescind” a health care plan that federal officials first paused in February — and to do so soon.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration has pushed back on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ decision to withdraw its approval of a Georgia plan that would slightly expand Medicaid to as many as 50,000 people if they complete 80 hours every month of work, community service or job training or if they are full-time higher education students. The federal agency objected to these strict eligibility requirements in a letter.

Georgia’s plan is still under review with no clear timeline for a decision, although state officials plan to start implementing the program this July. State officials have vowed to challenge any decision to revoke the federal government’s approval.

Democratic Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff joined House Democrats in a letter last week pushing health officials to pull the plug on the state’s plan “in its entirety as soon as possible.”

“Withdrawing approval for this (health care plan) is essential to ending the far-reaching efforts your predecessors made to block hundreds of thousands of low-income Georgians from accessing health insurance,” they wrote.

The letter, which was addressed to U.S. Heath Secretary Xavier Becerra and acting CMS administrator Elizabeth Richter, was distributed to reporters late Monday afternoon.

“Georgia Pathways and Access makes healthcare accessible — for the first time — to thousands and affordable for millions more,” said Cody Hall, a spokesman for the governor, referring also to a new reinsurance program designed to lower insurance premiums.

“CMS’ decision to halt our waiver programs at the eleventh hour, with the support of Senators Ossoff and Warnock, needlessly deprives these Georgians of health care during a pandemic,” Hall added.

The group wrote that the state should instead embrace the new federal incentives packed into the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package for the 12 holdout states like Georgia that did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

“The state’s misguided and inhumane demonstration is no substitute for health insurance that Georgians desperately need,” they wrote in the letter. “We urge you to immediately correct the wrongs of the past Administration and rescind Georgia’s Section 1115 waiver, while restoring the integrity of Medicaid, one of this country’s most critical and vital health care programs.”

The sweetened federal offer to expand could mean between $1.3 billion and $1.9 billion in funding for Georgia for two years, which could be a net gain of about $710 million to the state, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 500,000 low-income Georgians could gain health insurance coverage, including individuals who make about $18,000 a year.

Lawmakers have included $76 million in next year’s budget just to start building Georgia’s program. If the state cannot proceed with restrictive eligibility requirements, the plan would become much more expensive — potentially as much as $650 million, according to an analysis from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

This story comes to GPB through a reporting partnership with Georgia Recorder.