Census Data Underscores Urgency for Medicaid Expansion

Posted by Timothy Sweeney

Georgia once again was among the worst in the country in terms of health insurance coverage, according to new Census data released Wednesday. But a closer look at the numbers offers insights on who is hardest hit and how the state can help Georgians get the health insurance they need.

Nearly 2 million Georgians went without health coverage in 2010-2011, which is more than 19 percent of all Georgians. Compared with other states, Georgia was ranked 44th in overall coverage (51st being the worst) and was home to the 6th largest number of residents without coverage.

Health insurance coverage varied dramatically by age, according to the Census data. Nearly all Georgians over age 65 had health coverage. And, 90 percent of Georgians under age 18 were covered.

Who was left out?  Working-age Georgians.More than one quarter of Georgians between the ages of 18 and 64 went without health insurance coverage.

Why?  For more than a decade, employer-sponsored health insurance coverage has been eroding.  It’s down 8 percent since the start of the recession and 14 percent since 1999/2000.

Seniors and children are largely protected from this erosion by effective public health insurance programs.  Seniors get Medicare. Medicaid and PeachCare cover kids.

But most working-age adults have nowhere to turn when they can’t get or afford coverage through their job.  While Medicaid and PeachCare cover more than 40 percent of Georgians under age 18, they cover only 16 percent of Georgians ages 18 to 64.

The high uninsured rates among working-age adults emphasize the urgency for Georgia to implement health care reform, including the expansion of Medicaid in our state, which would provide more low-income adults with access to health insurance starting in 2014.

In fact, there’s evidence that national health care reform is already working.  Nationally, nearly 1 million fewer 19 to 25 year-olds went without coverage in 2011 compared to 2009, thanks to a health care reform provision that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ private health insurance until age 26. Next week, data from the American Community Survey will show us whether or not this national trend holds true for young adults in Georgia.

Georgia must now build on the early success of the Affordable Care Act by expanding Medicaid.  The expansion of Medicaid comes at a low cost to the state because the federal government will pay for the vast majority of the expense.

New federal funding from the expansion could bring as much as $30 billion into our state over the next ten years. These new dollars would flow to hospitals, clinics, and other health care providers throughout the state, boosting the economy and helping to finance health care workforce development throughout Georgia.

To learn more about benefits of the Medicaid expansion, attend GBPI’s Fall Policy Forum: Expanding Coverage in Georgia. We will hear about the benefits of using Medicaid to expand access to health coverage from two national health care experts. Don’t miss this highly anticipated event. Dr. Heidi Allen and Dr. Ben Sommers will present their research, including findings that state Medicaid expansions have saved lives, improved the health and well-being of state populations, and made families more financially secure.





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