(The Center Square) — Georgia Democrats want the state to advance a full Medicaid expansion, saying a plan Gov. Brian Kemp championed has been a failure.
The Center Square reported exclusively in August that less than 300 people have enrolled in the new Georgia Pathways to Coverage program as of Aug. 17.
The program launched on July 1 and provides Medicaid to Georgians between 19 and 64 years old with a household income up to the federal poverty level and who meet the qualifying activities threshold but are not eligible for regular Medicaid.
“Pathways doesn’t cover enough Georgians, and those that it does cover, it takes too long to get it done,” Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler, D-Stone Mountain, said in an announcement. “This is a failure of leadership, and it is a failure of governance.”
Butler said lawmakers can end what she called a “failed experiment” by passing Senate Bill 24 to expand Medicaid and cover up to 500,000 people. A spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia did not respond to a request seeking more information on the possible cost of an expansion.
“Think of all the hospitals that could still be open, the jobs we could have created, and the loved ones we could have saved had we just expanded Medicaid years ago,” Butler added.
A Georgia Department of Community Health spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request to confirm updated enrollment numbers. However, reports indicate less than 1,500 people have enrolled in the Georgia Pathways program.
A spokesman for Kemp, a Republican, did not respond to a request for comment.
However, in his State of the State, Kemp said the state negotiated with the federal government on the program but blamed President Joe Biden’s administration for delaying its launch for more than a year. At the time, the governor indicated roughly 345,000 Georgians could qualify for the program, though officials in August said the estimated adoption rate would reach around 90,000 to 100,000 by 2025.
“From the beginning of my administration, we have made expanding access to affordable health care a top priority and despite the noise from naysayers, we’ve made significant strides over the years through a multi-pronged approach that includes Georgia Access and several new laws related to healthcare access,” Kemp said in a release this month announcing the program received the 2023 National Spotlight Award from the National Association of Medicaid Directors.
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor