Sunday, March 16, 2014

With More Poverty and Less HealthCare, Rural Georgia Would Benefit Most From Medicaid Expansion

Jennings Medical Clinic, Calhoun County
Unfortunately republicans don't see it that way!

Despite a majority of the state population residing in or around Metro Atlanta, Georgia is still a largely rural state. Georgia is a beautiful state and its many rural and isolated communities offer a vital and meaningful lifestyle. But Georgia's rustic landscape also makes assuring quality, affordable healthcare for rural residents a formidable challenge. Rural Georgians are less healthy and face greater obstacles to healthcare compared with its urban and suburban counterparts.

According to the County Health Rankings, Over in Emanuel County, 27% of residents under the age of 65 are uninsured. Other rural counties also have the same problem:

Tattnall County: 28%
Irwin County: 26%
Colquitt County: 27%
Tift County: 25%
Even Hall County, home of governor Nathan Deal & Lt. Governor Casey Cagle has 26% that are uninsured.

Because a good percentage of working Rural Georgians earns too little to afford private coverage, the ACA provide federal dollars for states like Georgia to expand medicaid programs to cover low-income working people. Expanding medicaid offers a way to cover low-income Georgians.

Regrettably, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) has been against  Medicaid expansion and now the republican state legislature have removed the powers of the governor to expand, who would have to get approval of the legislature. Given the high uninsurance rate in rural areas, is the governor's refusal to expand medicaid in the best interest of his constituents? NO!!

ACA politics are worsening the health care inequality between urban and rural Georgians. Hundreds of thousands of rural Georgians will fall into the coverage gap due to the denial of expanding medicaid. The media here in Georgia has given scant attention to the rural Georgians who have been denied healthcare coverage by their state leader(s).

Population has declined steadily in rural Georgia for decades. Rural counties have higher rates of poverty and fewer people in their prime working years to fuel the economy. The politicization of Medicaid expansion further denies rural residents and ensure the well-known disparities in health and life expectancy will continue. Beyond this, refusing to expand medicaid also penalizes already-threatened rural hospitals in which a number have already closed, thus forcing residents to drive, 30,40 miles to the nearest hospital for treatment.

Some of these hospitals have fewer than 25 beds and are at least 30, 40 miles from the next hospital. Critical access hospitals serve a poorer population that is more likely to be uninsured or older and eligible for medicare. They also usually are not able to offer the more lucrative services that drive revenue at a larger city hospital. Critical access hospitals can't turn away the uninsured, but treating these folks strain already unstable budgets. Faced with cuts in medicare reimbursements and no expansion of medicaid to cover its uninsured population, these critical access hospitals are either laying off, or facing closure, or they have already closed.

Rural areas of Georgia stand to benefit the most from medicaid expansion and will be penalized if the state's leaders continue to refuse federal funds. Georgia's rural counties already have the lowest incomes and highest rates of the insured. In an ideological battle over funding, who is representing rural Georgia's interest? It's certainly not the ruling GOP, nor the rural republican legislators who just sit there and say or do nothing to advocate for the rural cashiers at the local dollar general store, workers from the kaolin factory all because of trying to be "Politically Correct:!

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