The majority of Georgia residents want the state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and disagree with conservative state lawmakers’ decision to reject it, according to a new public opinion survey.
The poll was conducted by the Schapiro Group in August and sponsored by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, an organization that advocates for the expansion and “access to affordable, quality healthcare for underserved individuals and communities.”
The poll also found that an even higher percentage of residents have a positive view of the Medicaid program. Among those surveyed, 75 percent said they believe Medicaid is very important for health care, and 91 percent say Medicaid is an important program for the state.
States that expanded Medicaid under the ACA in 2013 and 2014 have seen sharp declines in their uninsured rate, while the percentage of uninsured in Georgia has only dropped from 22.4 percent to 20.2 percent during that time.
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“Georgia’s candidates for U.S. Senate and governor should not underestimate our state’s residents and their overwhelmingly positive view of Medicaid and their disapproval of the decision not to expand Medicaid,” Gary Nelson, president of the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, told Georgia Health News.
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate David Perdue has led Democrat Michelle Nunn by just a few percentage points over the past few months, and Deal has also maintained a slight lead over state Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur).
However, a poll released Friday shows both candidates tied headed into the final three weeks of the campaign.
Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey found that seven out of 11 major metropolitan areas with rates of uninsured people higher than the national average are in states that have refused to expand Medicaid. That includes Atlanta.
Gov. Nathan Deal (R) in 2012 said he would not expand Medicaid to cover an estimated 650,000 low-income residents because he said it would be too expensive—a common Republican charge despite the federal government’s commitment to cover costs during the expansion’s first few years and most of the costs beyond that.
“I think that is something our state cannot afford,” Deal told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And even though the federal government promises to pay 100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, I think it is probably unrealistic to expect that promise to be fulfilled in the long term, simply because of the financial status that the federal government is in.”
Georgia lawmakers claim that expanding Medicaid would cost anywhere from $2 billion to more than $4 billion over the next ten years. The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute estimates that the expansion’s positive effect on tax revenue would reduce the overall cost, and that expansion would only cost the state $350 million over the next decade.
Georgia lawmakers this year refused to expand Medicaid during the legislative session, instead passing legislation that prohibits legislators from even advocating for Medicaid expansion. Georgia joined 22 other states that have refused federal funds to expand Medicaid.
The refusal to extend access to health care to low-income Georgians coupled with new restrictions on reproductive health care has led to significant grassroots opposition. Activists in the state have followed the lead of those in North Carolina by staging Moral Mondays protests.