The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently reported (AJC Politics, 6/6/19) that the state’s Department of Community Health is terminating Medicaid assistance for about 17,000 poor elderly or disabled Georgians. This decision is not only morally wrong, it’s bad fiscal policy.
That’s because thanks to Medicaid, 470,000 Georgia residents have access to health care services like check-ups, vaccines, prescription drugs, and therapy. Research and common sense alike demonstrate that a preventive and support services-focused health care system improves care and reduces costs.
Georgia residents are knowledgeable about the benefits of preventive and support services and want to take advantage of them. Take the Allen family: The Allens are working parents with three young children, the youngest of whom has been diagnosed with autism. Thanks to Medicaid, “KJ” has access to a team of health care professionals who provide him with needed therapeutic services such as speech, applied behavior analysis, and occupational therapy. Because “KJ” is eligible for Medicaid, he is able to live the full life of a 6-year old. Without Medicaid, the Allens would be hard-pressed to cover the costs of food, shelter, and transportation, while meeting the medical needs of their youngest child.
The Allens are not alone. At the Southwest Georgia Project, we’ve seen firsthand how Medicaid can improve the lives of our state’s most vulnerable. (And it’s not just for adults. In Georgia, 2 in 5 children depend on Medicaid for their health care.)
Unfortunately, not enough Georgia residents are able to access basic health care. There are parents struggling to get by who have to choose between paying for food for their children or medicine for themselves because combined they make slightly more than the current Medicaid income limit. There are young adults who desperately need the health care support Medicaid provides who don’t quality because Medicaid doesn’t cover people without children.
Our state’s Medicaid system should make preventive health services available for more people, not less. Let’s work together to ensure that all Georgians can access the quality, affordable health care they and their families need to get and stay healthy.
Jennifer L. Williams, Ph.D.
Program Director for Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education, Inc.