Senate Approves Bill to Control Medicaid Expansion, Opponents Re - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Senate Approves Bill to Control Medicaid Expansion, Opponents React

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An attempt by activists (including a pastor who grew up in Savannah) to appeal to state lawmakers to expand Medicaid was to no avail Tuesday. Reverend Raphael Warnock, a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church which is the church of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was among 41 people arrested at the Georgia Statehouse Tuesday. Members of the group Moral Monday were ejected from the Senate Chamber as they asked for a Medicaid expansion.

Warnock held a sign saying "Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane."

Reached in Atlanta, Rev. Wornock told me he still has strong ties to Savannah, that both parents were ministers and his mother and sister are still ministers at Savannah churches. He likened the Medicaid struggle to one for equal rights saying it makes no sense that the federal government has opened doors to provide low income with health care but that the governor and republican lawmakers will not allow those who need help the most - to walk through those doors.

Supporters of the Medicaid expansion have been asking for Governor Nathan Deal to reconsider his decision not to enlarge the program. Expanding Medicaid is one of the parts of the Affordable Care Act. Low income residents who under the current system make slightly too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to buy subsidized insurance - would be brought into the Medicaid program. Current estimates suggest at least 400,000 to as many as 600,000 people in Georgia would qualify for the Medicaid expansion. The federal government has indicated it would pay 100 percent of the costs of the expansion for three years and 90 percent after that. Opponents say the state cannot afford to pay for the expansion. But supporters say the state is losing out on billions of dollars in federal aid.

But Tuesday, state lawmakers finalized a vote that most agree will make it much harder to ever expand the program in Georgia. On a vote of 39 to 15, the Senate approved a bill that will put the power into the hands of state lawmakers, not the governor.

Associated Press reports that the Republican dominated legislature is "unlikely they will buy into a signature policy from Democratic President Barack Obama."

The bill now heads to Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who previously said he supports it. Wornock says he and others hope to keep on the pressure and ask Governor Deal not to sign the legislation. He says it seems far more politically motivated than anything else. "In an election year, the governor is giving himself an out," he said.

Governor Deal has told News 3 in the past that he does not "trust" that the federal government can continue paying for the Medicaid expansion. His office has indicated the governor would support the use of block grant monies from the federal government to help uninsured Georgians but has offered us no details on how that would work.

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