Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that the federal government has granted the state two waivers that could potentially give Georgians better access to health care.
“Today, we are proud to announce that our innovative approach to health care reform will be approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” Kemp said at a news conference Thursday afternoon. Channel 2′s Richard Elliot was at the state Capitol, where some Democrat said the plan doesn’t go far enough.
Democrats want a full Medicaid expansion, while Kemp is adamant that it would bankrupt the state. Instead, the Kemp administration asked the federal government to waive only certain aspects of the program.
In an elaborate ceremony, the woman who oversees the federal Medicare program signed the two waivers so that Georgia can move forward with its plan to overhaul healthcare statewide.
Kemp pushed the change the first day he took office.
Elliot spoke to him after the ceremony about how the change will impact the people who make too much for Medicaid and too little for subsidies. Kemp believes his plan will fix that.
One waiver allows the state to pay insurance companies subsidies, which Kemp believes will encourage more companies to go back into especially rural counties. He believes those subsidies will lower premiums by as much as 4% in metro Atlanta to 25% in some rural counties.
Another waiver will block access to healthcare.gov and instead refer customers to local brokers, who Kemp said will help them find affordable coverage.
“When you think about a lot of markets in Georgia, especially in the rural parts of our state, there’s only one carrier through healthcare.gov,” Kemp said. “There’s no other options. And that, you know, decreases competition, which raises the price.”
Georgia Democrats like Mary Robicheaux said the waivers don’t go far enough to provide coverage to more Georgians. They insist that Georgia needs a full expansion of Medicaid, not a partial one.
“Health care coverage should not be a partisan issue,” Robicheaux said. “Expanding Medicare would cover more Georgians, create more jobs when we need them.”
There are some requirements to be eligible for this. You have to either be working, be in school or vocational training or volunteer 80 hours a month.
The first part of the plan goes into effect next July and then the rest is phased in through January 2023.