A policy expert with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute says low enrollment numbers do not match the state’s $20 million dollar investment in Gov. Brian Kemp’s program to expand health care coverage in Georgia.
The governor’s plan, called Pathways to Coverage, is meant to help more lower income Georgians receive Medicaid health insurance, but includes a work requirement.
Georgia is the only state in the nation requiring enrollees to work 80 hours per month or participate in education, job training, or other approved activities such as community service.
Qualifying adults are those between ages 18 and 64 who earn less than 100% of the federal poverty level — and who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid. For 2022, the federal poverty level was $13,590 for a single person and $27,750 for a family of four.
The Department of Community Health reports 1,300 people have enrolled since the program began in July, which is only about 1% of the 100,000 Georgians estimated to enroll in the first year.
Taxpayers have made a $20 million investment in Georgia Pathways, and, so far, it’s unclear if they are getting the return on that investment, Leah Chan with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute said.
“People are essentially getting caught in the application process,” Chan said. “And so we could be missing a lot of people who are eligible but just don’t understand how to make it through the many steps that it takes to apply.”
Chan said the GBPI has known for a while that Medicaid expansion is a better deal for Georgia’s bottom line.
“We know that Pathways to Coverage costs five times more per person than full Medicaid expansion,” she said. “We also know that with full Medicaid expansion, Georgia would get a sign-on bonus of up to $1.2 billion that would basically cover the state cost of full Medicaid expansion for the first two years. So it’s the so from an economic standpoint, you know, full Medicaid expansion is a better deal for Georgia.”
More data and transparency around this program are needed to better understand barriers to coverage so that as many people as possible are getting access to health care and state dollars are being used effectively, she said.