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Friday, October 21, 2016

This post is the final installment in the Roosevelt Institute’s National Women’s Health Week series, which addresses pressing issues affecting the health and economic security of women and families in the United States. Today, a close look at the state of Georgia, where the legislature is taking active steps against the Affordable Care Act.

Georgia has taken the lead in the mad dash to thwart the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and prevent poor people from accessing health care. Last week, Governor Nathan Deal (R-GA) signed into law two bills that ensure the state won’t be expanding Medicaid any time soon, and that make it decidedly more difficult for people to gain coverage under the ACA. These laws – a notch in the belt of conservatives preparing for the fall election – compound the social and economic injustices already experienced by many low-income Georgians.

House Bill 990 moves the authority to expand Medicaid out of the governor’s office and over to lawmakers. In a state where conservative politics run deep, HB 990 is Governor Deal’s clever way of way of ensuring Medicaid expansion will never get passed, and abdicating all responsibility for the health and economic consequences that will surely result. The second bill, HB 943, restricts state and local agencies and their employees from advocating for Medicaid expansion, bans the creation of a state health insurance exchange, and prohibits the University of Georgia from continuing its navigator program once its original federal grant expires in August. The university’s navigators have been working throughout the state – especially in underserved rural areas – to help demystify the ACA, assist individuals in gaining coverage on the national exchange, and help those who already qualify for Medicaid to enroll.

“Someone else will now have to reinvent the wheel and figure out how to get resources to people in rural areas,” said Beth Stephens of Georgia Watch, a non-partisan consumer advocacy organization.

Like many other states that refuse to participate in Medicaid expansion, Georgia isn’t faring so well by most socioeconomic indicators. The poverty rate, which now hovers around 20 percent, is 50 percent higher than it was in 2000. Nearly two million Georgians do not have health coverage, ranking the state fifth nationally in numbers of uninsured. Close to half of those individuals between the ages 18 and 64 have incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, many of whom would be covered under Medicaid expansion. Georgia has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates (7 percent) and today the average family makes $6,000 less than it did 10 years ago, when inflation is factored in. Individuals living outside of major cities have few health care options. In recent years eight rural hospitals have closed, leaving residents with scarce health resources and hospital workers without jobs.

To make matters worse, lawmakers in Georgia have been systematically dismantling the state’s social safety net. Of the 300,000 Georgian families living below the poverty line, only 19,000 receive TANF and more than three-quarters of those cases involve children only. That means that fewer than 7 percent of low-income Georgians are able to get the welfare assistance they badly need. On the same day that Governor Deal signed the aforementioned bills, he also signed HB 772, requiring certain individuals to pass – and foot the bill for – a drug test before receiving welfare and food stamps. That bill is thought to be the nation’s most stringent when it comes to public assistance.

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  • Independent1

    As if all the bad stats quoted in the above article weren’t bad enough, not expanding Medicaid is resulting in many hospitals closing in a number of Red States – Georgia being one of them. Hospitals closing have left large gaps in some areas of the state where hospitals are so far apart that people have actually died because they were not able to get to a still open hospital quickly enough. Not only has this happened in the case of accidents that have happened on Interstate 91 but also to people who encounter a sudden medical emergency even at home where they once had a nearby hospital but it’s now closed because of the lack of funding which Obamacare would have provided.

    See this from CNN:

    CNN) — The Obamacare website is open for business. But the Charlton Memorial Hospital in Folkston, Georgia, is closed.

    Because Republicans in half the states have blocked the expansion of Medicaid, funds to public hospitals with large uninsured populations have been slashed. So far, at least five public hospitals have been closed this year and 5,000 hospital employees have been laid off nationwide. The closures are expected to worsen in the coming years.

    In Georgia, as many as 15 more rural hospitals may close “within months” and in Tennessee, which is putting off a decision on expanding Medicaid, almost half of the 61 rural hospitals in the state might face “major cuts or closure.” This is a direct — and disastrous — consequence of Republicans’ ideological opposition to Obamacare.

    For those interested in more on this article, here’s the link:

    • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

      In an effort to protect poor, rural Georgians, the Republicans in the Georgia State Legislature (i.e. the majority) is doing everything it can to remove any possibility of medical assistance to poor rural Georgians. When are these rural Georgians finally going to stop voting against their own self-interests by reelecting these compassion starved mooks?

      • 1standlastword

        Why should you assume they vote!? This thread states the numbers of people who stand to gain from a compassionate conservative leadership is well over 60%. If those folks voted wouldn’t they be less worse off???

  • stcroixcarp

    The MMR of 63.8 for black women looks like christian state sponsored genocide. Let mothers die, fewer babies. Welfare problem solved.

    • Independent1

      Yes, it’s GOP actions like what are going on in Georgia which have resulted in 13 of the 15 states with the worst infant mortality rates being GOP-run states. The notion Republicans hold that they are, in fact, “pro life” is nothing more than a figment of their own imaginations.

      Even in Massachusetts today there are protests over John Kerry being scheduled to speak at the Boston College commencement exercises because Catholic organizations feel he has supported non-Catholic principles. What these activists don’t seem to realize is that THEIR EFFORTS to make abortion illegal are actually anti-life, because making abortion illegal will not reduce abortions, and in fact, may well increase them. And not only that, making abortions illegal will also increase the death rates of women because many of them will end up having to find a quack to try and perform their abortion which may well cost them their lives.

      Back in the 1950s, news reports appeared quite often of women being found dead in alleyways, warehouses and even worse locations because they had bled to death from a botched abortion; where the tool of choice was a coat hanger. And without legal abortion clinics which actually counsel women on the downsides of abortions which sometimes changes their minds, studies have shown that abortions are actually more frequent where they are illegal. When are these activists going to learn that making abortions illegal is not the solution to reducing abortions and only creates the potential for more women dying, which is anti-life. The solution is contraceptives and better family planning which reduces the likelihood of a woman becoming pregnant with an unwanted baby in the first place.

      • latebloomingrandma

        I think shutting down Roe v. Wade would help a certain group of self righteous people feel really good about themselves. The fact that abortions would probably increase is something that they don’t believe would happen. I shudder to think what “entrepreneur” would start a new underground industry, probably in the dark side of the web, into butcher shop abortion mills.

        • Allan Richardson

          Just like prohibiting alcohol made self-righteous “temperance” activists feel better, while alcohol use, being illegal, went underground, skyrocketed, caused more damage to public health than ever, and turned a minor ethnic criminal institution into THE MAFIA, a virtual government in itself.

          And while the illegal alcohol demand was due to the desire for a form of amusement, the illegal abortion demand will be — as it once was — due to a need to be RESCUED from poverty for the mother and her older children. As someone once pointed out, a woman who “wants” an abortion doesn’t “want” it the way another woman might “want” a new purse or coat; she “wants” it the way a fox in a trap “wants” to gnaw its own leg off.

  • Lola Johnson

    Those poor Georgians don’t have health care, but they still have the vote, if they choose to use it to punish those arrogant fools who’ve forgotten whom they are supposed to represent.

    • Joyce

      You are so right, Lola! The key to winning is going out to vote. If we don’t vote, we will lose. Don’t think your vote doesn’t count! It counts more than you can know. Make the effort to vote. Sometimes it’s difficult to get out and vote, but your lives will be so much better off if you make your rights happen! Please vote!

    • 1standlastword

      Georgia has always been a pit! I doubt any of those people vote…period

  • latebloomingrandma

    What sane, pro- America, pro-life, pro-Christian mind would gloat and brag with glee in denying poor Americans health care? As a nurse, I will never understand this “philosophy.” As the world’s supposed champion of human rights, how can we espouse this, and be content with women in the richest country in the world find their babies dying at birth? Will the 21st century belong to some other country? Did our top place in history last only a few decades?

    • Independent1

      If the GOP has it’s way, America will not be racing to be the best country but rather the worst country on the planet in many socially responsible measures. Just as Texas, which should be a shining example of a red state, but instead has been comparing as the worst state in the nation for a number of years, by coming in as one of the worst 10 states in America in 100% of 23 subjective socially responsible measures: including poor police and fire protection, the country’s worst environment, the highest percent of its residents with health insurance – including children, the percent of its population living in poverty, the percent of its politicians who are committed of a crime, the lowest percent of any state’s population who vote, having the lowest percent of its population with college degrees, spending the least on education, having the country’s worst healthcare delivery system and on and on.

  • midway54

    Not much new here. We repeatedly see the dupes and yahoos in Dupedom South dependably coming through with their votes for some of the worst rightwing scoundrels in the House and Senate. Our Plutocracy with its robber barons is firmly in place and delighted to see the crazies in a foot-stamping, flag-waving activity in the ole meetin’ hall associated with booing and squalling against them socialist libruls.

  • Jambi

    Those poor people need to be punished for being poor?,,,

    • Susan Dean

      According to GOP “logic” people are poor because of their refusal to work. If only they would get off their you-know-whats and get a job, they wouldn’t be poor. So of course they have to be punished for their laziness–unemployment statistics and wage stagnation notwithstanding.

  • dana becker

    Deal will win the Republican of the Year award for all of these wonderful accomplishments and I hear the Christians are getting his award ready for being the best Christian he can be. Kudos. What a wonderful human being. I have tears in my eyes. This man is just wonderful.

  • bsmllc

    Ridiculous premise to the article. Almost NO ONE takes pride in hurting another person. You may not agree with whether a particular policy is the best way to help or not, but to say someone is intentionally and pridefully evil as this article implies embodies the problem with our politics today. To try and destroy the value of someone’s character rather than debate the worth of their solutions is truly evil. As a progressive, I couldn’t be more ashamed of what I read here.

    • Allan Richardson

      These politicians may not be taking “pride in hurting” but they ARE taking pride in promoting policies that WILL hurt people, and they are not too stupid to fail to understand it; to the contrary, they are smart enough to PRETEND they don’t believe it. They may not ENJOY the sadistic harming of others, but they are WILLING to do it in order to profit in terms of money, votes, and power. And some of the voters who support them ARE enjoying the idea of harming those “other” people.

  • charles king

    People of Georiga do some Critical Thinking and put those Plutocracts (Commissionors) out to pasture cause Obamacare is working and all the help that the government is giving to its needy citizens. Why? are your state government being so hostle to its citizens. Who? and What? States are refusing help for its citizens. The next time you VOTE just leave their Names un Voted for. The Vote is still Supreme so Vote their sorry-asses OUT. This is America, By the People, For the People, and Of the People, Democracy is still alive. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING

  • irishtap

    Whatever became of the ‘so called party of – fiscal responsibility, Christian family values, and the “party of business”? There is nothing here to imply responsible business acumen exists within their addled ranks. Indeed – this bunch would prefer business’s shut down, before acting in any manner that is fiscally rational.
    As for the moral aspect of this heinous conduct, I could not be more certain these ‘FOXING hypocrites’ would denigrate the Lord himself, should he attempt to impart some humane wisdom to them.
    How can such high degree of stark, blistering, atrocious depravity be somehow exempt, of being considered : criminal activity against humanity? The GOP never has been ‘fiscally responsible or the drum beat for family values’ but, what passes for a political party today – doesn’t even bother to pretend anymore.
    These sinister bastards have morphed into ‘something other than human’.

    • Allan Richardson

      They have already condemned the Vicar of Christ in a cartoon in the AJC in which he is reading from the “Holy Gospel of Marx.”

  • Allan Richardson

    When Georgia Republicans open their mouths, Honey Boo Boo is embarrassed to be from Georgia.

  • Independent1

    Here’s an article about how Obamacare’s private option is helping hospitals in Arkansas, and Arkansas does not want to be like Georgia and Alabama where hospitals are being forced to close.

    See this from the DailyKos:

    What happens when you provide an affordable option for health coverage to a lot of lower-income people? You don’t have as many uninsured people being forced to use their only option—the emergency room. That’s pretty obvious, but we’re still in a political world where the obvious good of a thing like more health coverage for more people has to be spelled out. So here it is, in Arkansas.

    Preliminary data from a survey of acute care hospitals in Arkansas suggests a dramatic decline in the number of uninsured patients hospitals are seeing since the enactment of the private option, Surgeon General Joe Thompson and Bo Ryall, president of the Arkansas Hospital Association, testified before a legislative subcommittee today. […]

    Here are the three key statewide findings, comparing the first quarter of 2014 against the first quarter of 2013 […]:

    * The total number of emergency department visits declined by 2 percent.
    * Of those who did visit the emergency department, the number of uninsured patients was reduced by 24 percent.

    * For people who required hospitalization, the number of uninsured patients was reduced by 30 percent.

    And here’s the latter part of the article:

    That means, Surgeon General Thompson says, is that the state is “going in the right direction to improve the fiscal stability and well-being of our hospitals,” not to mention the health and stability of the people who now have access to regular health care. Ryall added that the private option for Medicaid adopted by the state is saving hospitals: “Ryall noted rural hospital closings in Georgia and Alabama. ‘We don’t want to see that happen in Arkansas,’ he said. ‘We thank you as legislators for passing the private option. We think it’s helping your constituents and helping your local hospitals.'” One hospital CEO backed that up in his testimony: “The difference between us being in the red and us being in the black is the private option,” said Ron Peterson, CEO of Baxter Regional Medical Center.

    That’s not just an economic plus for the hospital, it’s a boon for the local economy—in many rural areas the hospital and the schools are the biggest employers, and the Medicaid expansion doesn’t just allow the hospital to continue to operate, it allows it to flourish, potentially creating even more jobs. All of which will make Republicans stick their fingers in their ears and sing “la-la-la-la.”

  • That’s how Conservatives/Republicans/ roll. Anything that they can do to put a crimp in an initiative that President Obama initiated (despite the ACA being based on a Republican idea) is to them, good.

    That they can do that AND put some serious hurt on some poor people (particularly darker skinned ones, though they’ll take poor whites in a pinch), that’s excellent and a sign of a job well-done.

    Because everyone knows that if you’re poor or sick, it’s your own fault.

    • Troll Slayer

      Race doesn’t have anything to do with it. The only color politicians see is green.

      • Yeah, that’s what people always say about policies that, by strange and unusual magics, end up harming lots of black and brown people.

        By the way, on what basis do you say that such policies don’t have a racial component because, unless you’re the one formulating them, you have no idea what you’re talking about.

        • Troll Slayer

          “by strange and unusual magics, end up harming lots of black and brown people.” – Narrow minded.

          There is nothing “magical” about it considering “lots of black and brown people” in this country live in poverty. The policies that hurt poor “black and brown people” hurt all poor people, Caucasians as well. The policies that benefit wealthy people also benefit wealthy “black and brown people”. If you want to argue about this, then you will be arguing for the sake of arguing.

          BTW, on what basis do YOU say that such policies DO have a racial component, because unless you’re the one formulating them, you have no idea what you’re talking about.