Georgia Senate to vote on Medicaid expansion

Dems push Medicaid expansion for left-behind rural Georgia

AUSTIN, Ga. — The Democratic majority on the Georgia Senate is moving one step closer to voting to expand Medicaid for thousands of poor people in rural counties in this mostly rural state.

The Senate is now expected to take up a special procedure bill that would allow for the expansion of the Medicaid program by lifting a three-time-a-decade cap on the number of poor people who receive benefits.

About 30,000 Georgians in rural counties, some with a population of 50 to 100 people, are eligible for subsidies under Medicaid, a government insurance program for the poor and disabled. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that covers about 70 percent of the cost of health care for low-income adults, children, pregnant women, the old, the disabled and some people with some chronic health conditions.

But because of an arbitrary federal law from 1976, the number of these people who could receive care under Medicaid — 20,000 in Georgia — is set to expire by 2010. Since there are about 10,000 poor, uninsured people in Georgia, this means that the vast majority of Georgians will no longer be eligible for the program.

And that means those people will have to leave the state — whether they live in poor and rural areas or not.

“What this means is the government is going to take a cut of the cost of the care by leaving these people not eligible for Medicaid,” said Karen Dillard, the executive director of Georgia Health Advocates, a group working on the Medicaid issues.

“The choice is really simple,” she said. “I want to stay in the state of Georgia, where I can get the care I need and pay for it, but in order to do that my family will probably have to move out of the state and I’ll have to find the means to pay for the cost of care.”

Gov. Sonny Perdue, a Republican, has made it his top legislative

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