Ed Rynders, James Beverly

State Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon (right) talks with Rep. Ed Rynders, R-Albany, on the House floor during the first day of the legislative session Monday, Jan. 11, 2016, in Atlanta.

(The Center Square) – Democratic lawmakers in Georgia plan to push for Medicaid expansion when the General Assembly reconvenes next month.

Given the health implications of the COVID-19 outbreak, members of the Georgia House Democratic Caucus said affordable health care coverage is high on their priority list.

"We would call on the General Assembly and the governor to expand Medicaid and make available the coverage that could cover over 600,000 Georgians under the Affordable Care Act," caucus Chairman James Beverly, D–Macon, said. "It's never been more important than it is now."

Medicaid is partially funded by the state and federal government and is at no cost to its participants. As of November, there were 1.8 million Georgians enrolled in Medicaid.

The Kaiser Family Foundation estimated the mean cost per enrollee in the Georgia Medicaid program is $4,398. The federal government covers 67 percent of that cost. The state administers the program that caters to low-income families, the disabled, pregnant women and the elderly, according to Georgia's current guidelines. 

Gov. Brian Kemp in December submitted a waiver request that would allow an adult that doesn't fall under the program's population base to qualify with an income up 100 percent of the federal poverty level or a little more than $12,000 annually.

Under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), residents also can apply for plans through an online marketplace that meets federal mandates for affordability and coverage.

House Democrats also plan to ask Attorney General Chris Carr to withdraw Georgia from a lawsuit that seeks to overturn ACA.

The lawsuit – initiated by Texas and later joined by the President Donald Trump administration and other Republican-led states – challenges the law's constitutionality after Congress, in 2017, reduced the tax penalty to zero for violating ACA's health insurance mandate, which required Americans to pay to carry health insurance. 

Beverly said ACA will play a major role in the battle against COVID-19.

"The Affordable Care Act is providing necessary protections for Georgians and all Americans, particularly in this time of COVID-19, as people lose their employment and lose coverage that they have," he said.

The legislative session is scheduled to reconvene June 11.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.