A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation provides the latest evidence of the importance of expanding Medicaid in Georgia. According to the report, more than 409,000 Georgians who could otherwise get health coverage through expanded Medicaid will instead remain uninsured, or stuck in a “coverage gap” created by the state’s refusal to expand eligibility. The number of Georgians who will fall in this coverage gap is the third largest of any state refusing to expand Medicaid.
The coverage gap is created by Georgia’s refusal to expand Medicaid and the state’s limited eligibility for low-income adults. Adults in Georgia without dependent children are not eligible for Medicaid, regardless of their income. People with dependent children are eligible only up to about half the poverty level, or about $9,500 annually for a family of three.
Beginning January 2014, states can expand Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act to cover adults with income up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is about $15,900 for any individual or $27,000 for a family of three. This expansion could extend health insurance to 500,000 to 700,000 uninsured adults throughout the state.
If Georgia fails to expand Medicaid, adults with income above the poverty level, which is$11,500 for an individual or $19,500 for a family of three, would be eligible for tax credits to buy private insurance through the new health insurance marketplace. However, Georgians with income below that threshold would be ineligible for tax credits that would make coverage more affordable and would fall into the gap detailed in the Kaiser report.
Georgia is home to the fifth largest number of uninsured residents of any state in the U.S. Failing to expand Medicaid will ensure many of the Georgians who are most in need of help to get health insurance won’t get assistance and Georgia will continue to be notorious for having one of the largest uninsured populations in the country.