Commenters pan Kemp’s Medicaid expansion plan as too limited

    Gov. Brian Kemp announced in early November his plan to partially expand Medicaid coverage. In comments to state and federal health officials, people said expansion should cover more people. Jill Nolin/Georgia Recorder

    New analysis of the thousands of comments submitted during the public airing of Gov. Brian Kemp’s Medicaid waivers found most people who took the time to weigh in oppose the plans.

    Georgians for a Healthy Future and Cover Georgia – which are two groups that advocate for full Medicaid expansion – combed through more than 2,700 statements submitted during the recent state and federal public comment periods. Nine out of 10 of the comments filed were unsupportive of the proposals, the report found.

    Kemp unveiled a plan in November that called for slightly expanding eligibility for Medicaid by letting adults who make up to $12,000 a year enroll. The $120 million plan – $36 million of which would be the state’s share – would likely extend coverage to about 50,000 adults, as long as they work, attend school, undergo job training or complete community service.

    Another waiver proposal would let Georgia create a reinsurance program, bypass healthcare.gov and combine government subsidies with employer contributions. That plan would require the state to chip in $104 million to match the $264 million coming from the federal government.

    Federal health officials are still reviewing the proposals.

    The report released Wednesday found that 88% of the comments collected during the state-level comment period opposed the governor’s plan. About 4% supported it. Many of them questioned the proposed conditions – like a work requirement – placed on coverage.

    Opposition deepened during the federal round of comments: About 92% of commenters opposed the proposal. About 2% backed it.

    The groups behind the report, who also actively encouraged people to weigh in during the comment periods, found that most of the commenters who said they opposed the proposals favored fully expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

    “The comments submitted paint a really compelling picture about the inadequacy of the Pathways to coverage plan,” Laura Colbert, executive director for Georgians for a Healthy Future, said during a call Wednesday with reporters.

    “Repeatedly, commenters described how their loved ones would be left out, how Georgians would struggle to get or maintain coverage and how inequities across race, geography and health status would be maintained or exacerbated under this plan,” Colbert said.

    Georgia Democrats who have long championed the cause have revamped their call for expansion as a way to aid Georgians sickened with COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Full expansion would extend coverage to about a half million low-income Georgians.

    Georgia is one of 14 states that opted not to go that route under Obamacare. Republican leaders have cited the cost – which would run into the hundreds of millions of dollars – and criticized the program as ineffective. Kemp pitched his proposals as a more innovative approach to improving health care in Georgia.

    “Medicaid expansion is a risky, one-size-fits-all approach that costs too much and fails to deliver,” the Republican governor said when he first announced his proposal. “Georgia Pathways is innovative, it’s affordable and it’s tailored to meet the health care needs of Georgians in every part of the Peach State.”

    Jill Nolin
    Jill Nolin has spent nearly 15 years reporting on state and local government in four states, focusing on policy and political stories and tracking public spending. She has spent the last five years chasing stories in the halls of Georgia’s Gold Dome, earning recognition for her work showing the impact of rising opioid addiction on the state’s rural communities. She is a graduate of Troy University.