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Senators Jon Ossoff, Rev. Warnock Introduce Legislation to Promote Health Care Access, Bring Critical Federal Dollars to Georgia

The States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act of 2021 would allow Georgia, other states to receive full federal benefit from expanding Medicaid

Capitol Beat: “Medicaid expansion cost-share deal would stay put in Warnock, Ossoff bill”MORE HERE

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA), joined by U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA), introduced legislation to incentivize Medicaid in Georgia and nationwide, bring needed federal dollars to the state, and promote health care access for low-income Georgians and Americans amid the current health and economic crises. The States Achieve Medicaid Expansion (SAME) Act of 2021 would allow states that expanded Medicaid after 2014, or who expand Medicaid in the years ahead, to receive the same full federal matching funds as states that expanded Medicaid earlier under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. The effort was also led by U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner (D-VA), and Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (D-ME), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Chris Coons (D-DE) cosponsored the legislation.

“Health care is a human right, and for too long, too many Georgians have been denied access to affordable health care through Medicaid,” Sen. Reverend Warnock said. “I’ve long believed that expanding Medicaid in Georgia is an important step toward making affordable health care for all a reality; in 2017 I was even arrested at the U.S. Capitol for advocating for Medicaid expansion. Now, as a voice for Georgia in the U.S. Senate, I’m proud to introduce the SAME Act to encourage states like Georgia to expand critical Medicaid coverage to those who need it most, and help ensure during this pandemic and beyond that families are able to get the health care they need to not just survive, but thrive.”

“Medicaid expansion would save Georgians’ lives, make health care more affordable for Georgia families, and prevent the closure of Georgia’s clinics and hospitals. This bill would ensure Georgia gets the same funding as other states that expanded Medicaid years ago, and create even more incentive for our state government to do what should have been done a decade ago and expand Medicaid for Georgia families,” Senator Ossoff said.

The SAME Act would ensure states that chose to expand Medicaid after January 1, 2014, or who choose to do so in the future, are eligible for the same level of federal matching funds as those that expanded the program earlier under the terms of the Affordable Care Act—providing an additional incentive for states to expand their Medicaid programs. The Affordable Care Act directs financial support from the federal government to states that have expanded their existing Medicaid programs to provide health care coverage to all individuals up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal government covers the full cost of expansion for three years, phasing down to a 90 percent match rate for the sixth year of the expansion and in subsequent years. In passing the Affordable Care Act, Congress intended for all states to expand Medicaid in 2014. However, the Supreme Court’s holding in National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) v. Sebelius made expansion optional for states. As a result, states choosing to expand coverage after 2014 do not receive the same federal matching rates as those that expanded immediately. The SAME Act would address this discrepancy by ensuring that any states that expand Medicaid receive an equal level of federal funding for the expansion, regardless of when they chose to expand. Under the bill, a state would receive three years of full federal funding, phasing down to a 95 percent Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) in Year 4; a 94 percent federal contribution in Year 5; 93 percent in Year 6; and, 90 percent for each year thereafter.  

“There are few things that would benefit Georgians and Georgia communities more than expanding Medicaid coverage to struggling adults and families. Health coverage would unlock the health care system for hundreds of thousands of poor Georgians, strengthen rural hospitals and community health centers, and boost our state’s economy. There is no better way for our state to recover from the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 and prepare for success beyond the pandemic than by expanding Medicaid to all low-income Georgians. We thank our Georgia Senators for their work on this important issue,” said Laura Colbert, Executive Director of Georgians for a Healthy Future.

“As Martin Luther King, Jr., said, ‘Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.’ The large numbers of Georgians going without healthcare due to our refusal to expand Medicaid has been a moral failure for long enough. We thank Sens. Warnock and Ossoff for their efforts to encourage our state leaders to care for these vulnerable citizens caught in the coverage gap,” said Carole Maddux, Executive Director of Georgia Interfaith Public Policy Center.

“Every Georgia family needs access to health care to work, care for loved ones and be active members of their community. Our state’s refusal to fully expand Medicaid has kept too many Georgians uninsured and risked too many lives. Full Medicaid expansion has always been the fiscally responsible choice to cover nearly 500,000 Georgians and maximize federal funding of our state’s budget. Yet state leaders have chosen a more expensive health care option that covers a fraction of those in need and costs more per enrollee. The SAME Act comes at a time when the need for health care access is more urgent and, if enacted, removes any excuse for Georgia leaders to refuse full Medicaid expansion. Increasing the amount of federal funds that would flow to our state, the SAME Act is a smart choice that helps us put Georgians first,” said Georgia Budget and Policy Institute CEO and President Taifa Smith Butler.

Currently, 39 states and the District of Columbia have adopted Medicaid expansion since 2014. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in the twelve states that have not yet expanded their programs as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act, more than 4 million low-income individuals are currently without health care that they would be eligible for through Medicaid—including 490,000 Georgians. Additionally, more than 2 million low-income adults fall into a “coverage gap”—including 184,000 individuals in Georgia—due to incomes that are too high to be eligible for Medicaid, but are too low to meet the limit that would allow them to receive tax credits to purchase affordable coverage in the health care marketplace. Without Medicaid expansion, most of these individuals are likely to remain uninsured, as they have limited access to employer coverage and frequently find the cost of unsubsidized marketplace coverage to be prohibitively expensive. Additionally, numerous studies have shown that expanding Medicaid benefits states directly and indirectly, in the form of jobs and earnings growth, additional federal revenue, increased Gross State Product, increased state and local revenues and reduced uncompensated care and hospital costs. 

Text of this legislation is available here. A summary is available here

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