Public Health- Dayton and Montgomery County will hold a conference in February to focus on ways to recognize and remove barriers to quality healthcare and other services for local LGBT residents.
Photo: Staff Writer
Photo: Staff Writer

Opinion: A starting point on healthcare access

The filing of legislation aimed at finding ways to provide healthcare for more Georgians is a start toward fixing a harmful problem.

It’s a start.

That’s a good way to assess the nascent effort to move toward increasing healthcare access for Georgia’s poor.

And it’s an encouraging beginning toward figuring out ways to provide healthcare to a group that, depending on how you measure income, numbers north of 500,000 people here. Many of them are disabled, elderly or work at jobs that don’t offer affordable access to health insurance.

Georgia’s poor are not the only ones suffering under our health care status quo. Healthcare system weaknesses here put a strain on our state’s economy and dampen efforts to improve it, particularly in rural communities, many of which have too few doctors or hospitals — or none at all, in some cases.

With the Affordable Care Act remaining the law of the land despite multiple efforts to scuttle it, Georgia is now embarking on a path to seek Medicaid waivers that allow states to customize to some extent their approaches to expanding healthcare access.

Georgia’s late to that effort, as other states, including some as conservative in governance as we are, have sought and implemented waivers, and seen drops in their numbers of uninsured people.

Given that health care issues tend to be enormously complex, any solutions for Georgia won’t be a finger-snap fix. Patience and persistence will be needed to develop effective treatment for this state’s healthcare woes.

That won’t happen if the effort never begins. Thus, Gov. Brian Kemp’s first steps outlined in Senate Bill 106, filed last Wednesday, should be commended as the starting signal of what will probably be a marathon, not a sprint.

With a stronger Democratic caucus in the Georgia Legislature, there will likely be strong debate, and disagreements, over how best to proceed, given many Democrats support a full expansion of Medicaid as the best, most cost-effective solution for Georgia.

Again, the important thing at this point is bipartisan recognition that Georgia indeed has a big problem that’s harming both human health and our economic growth. Kemp’s SB 106 makes that across-the-aisle understanding official, we’d think.

And it gives Georgia a vehicle to begin finding the right policy medicine to help heal healthcare shortcomings.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board.