Stabilize the rural health system and get more Georgians insured. Now is the time for Georgia lawmakers to support struggling rural hospitals, address the opioid crisis and close the health care coverage gap for 240,000 Georgians through Medicaid expansion. The state can't afford another year of turning down billions of federal dollars that can be used to stabilize rural health systems, create thousands of jobs and provide health coverage to working Georgians. Georgia's cost to give health care access to 240,000 people who make too little for marketplace coverage and too much for Medicaid will average an estimated $136 million per year over the next four years. A straight expansion of Medicaid income eligibility is more cost-efficient. But if state lawmakers settle on a plan to secure a waiver to allow more customization, that still gives rural hospitals a financial boost and improves the quality of life in rural communities.
Give adult students better access to HOPE. Forty-four percent of Georgia's technical college associate's degree students are older than 25 and one-third of the state's technical colleges serve a rural community. Expanding the HOPE program's age eligibility so it doesn't expire seven years after high school graduation will give older students a better chance to improve themselves and contribute to the local economy. Adult students often take time after high school to work and care for their families. When they age beyond the seven-year time limit they are left to apply for federal grants, loans, or pay out of their own pocket. Removing the HOPE time limit will help about 7,000 more technical college students afford classes for a state investment of about $8.7 million.