Stacey Abrams is making health care a central issue of her campaign for Georgia governor.
The Democratic nominee this week issued a statement reiterating her call for the state to expand its Medicaid program.
Abrams also pointed to gains from the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, especially its protection for people with pre-existing conditions. Her statements come at a time when Georgia, through Attorney General Chris Carr, has joined a multistate lawsuit to declare the ACA unconstitutional.
Citing a GHN article, Abrams noted that the state’s number of uninsured children has declined under the ACA, but that Georgia still is among the top five states for the number of kids without coverage.
“Georgia children and their families deserve access to quality, affordable health care,’’ she said. “As [House] Democratic leader, I was proud to help Georgians access lifesaving health care that prevented insurance companies from discriminating against Georgians with pre-existing conditions.
“As governor, my first priority will be to expand Medicaid to keep our families healthy, keep our state’s rural hospitals open, and show the nation that Georgia is a great place to live, work, and do business.”
Many hospital leaders in the state say Medicaid expansion would help their bottom lines by giving coverage to hundreds of thousands of uninsured Georgians.
Abrams has proposed expansion during her tenure in the Georgia General Assembly. And the day after she won the Democratic primary, when asked the one thing she would change about Georgia, she told the New York Times: “I would expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion is transformative for our state. It will help every facet, every community, and I’m just I’m deeply saddened and ashamed that we haven’t done so already.’’
The Abrams stand on Medicaid expansion – a move that more than 30 states have pursued — puts her in sharp contrast to the two Republican candidates for governor, Brian Kemp and Casey Cagle, who are in a runoff for the GOP nomination.
Through spokesmen, Cagle and Kemp each told GHN on Wednesday that they oppose expansion. The leadership of the Georgia General Assembly and Gov. Nathan Deal have refused to pursue Medicaid expansion, citing the cost to the state.
Kemp, who’s Georgia’s secretary of state, said that “as governor, I will work with the Trump administration to implement a Georgia-focused, free-market solution that enhances health care coverage and reduces costs for hardworking Georgians. We will require able-bodied Medicaid recipients to work and move away from unsustainable, big government programs that cost too much and fail to deliver.”
Cagle, currently lieutenant governor, called Obamacare a “failed model.’’
“Virtually everyone agrees we must ensure patients with pre-existing conditions can access affordable care. But we should also have work requirements that lead families relying on Medicaid to stable jobs and employer-sponsored coverage,’’ Cagle said.
“As governor, I will work with the Trump administration to secure waivers that allow our state to reform our Medicaid program with market-based, patient-centered solutions — while always prioritizing the dignity of work and giving each individual the tools to become self-sufficient. I’ve repeatedly been on record against moving our state toward a single-payer, government-dominated system. Ultimately, our goal should be to make quality insurance as affordable and accessible as possible — statewide.”
Most Democratic politicians in Georgia support Medicaid expansion, while most Republicans oppose it, but up to now it has not been a major issue in political campaigns in the state.
Political scientist Robert Howard of Georgia State University said Abrams is following a national Democratic trend in focusing on health care. He noted that Virginia Democrat Ralph Northam pushed Medicaid expansion during his successful run for governor.
The popularity of the ACA increased during the congressional attempts to repeal it, Howard added.
But Howard said he’s uncertain how many votes Abrams’ advocacy of Medicaid expansion will produce.
“She’s still an underdog,’’ Howard said. “It think it’s a winning issue for her but I’m not sure it will put her over the top.’’
He said he expects that Cagle and Kemp will continue their tough stance against the ACA before the runoff vote July 24.
“It’s a pretty hardline Republican voter who tends to vote in a primary,’’ Howard said.