Gov. Brian Kemp at the state Capitol this March with leaders of the Legislature following the passage of Senate Bill 106, laying the groundwork for his health care “waivers.” Dec. 3 is the final day for members of the public to comment on the plans. PHOTO by Bob Andres / bandres@ajc.com

Public comment period nearly over for major health care proposals for Georgia

Gov. Brian Kemp’s health care plans are within weeks of going to the Trump administration for federal review. Opponents have already scheduled a press conference for Tuesday at the Georgia Capitol to voice their scorn. Supporters have posted praise on social media. Analysts across the country have weighed in with published opinions.

And for one more day, ordinary Georgians can comment, too.

Below are details laying out how.

Tuesday, Dec. 3, is the deadline for public comment on what may be the state’s most consequential change to public benefits in a decade. Kemp has proposed changes to Georgia health coverage that could mean Medicaid coverage for thousands of Georgians who are very poor and other changes that will benefit higher-income earners.

Kemp’s office has not released the public comments yet, but they’ve come from both sides. A spokesman, Cody Hall, said Monday that they’ve been “constructive and informative.”

The big case for all the changes is that they will help thousands of Georgians of different incomes who didn’t have help before. The big case against them is that they would spend hundreds of millions of Georgia dollars and still leave the majority of the uninsured poor uninsured.

Kemp hopes he can get support across the battle lines.

“We have to work together today to ensure that we have a healthier tomorrow for generations to come for hardworking Georgians,” Kemp said in announcing his plans.

They’re called waivers because Kemp is asking the federal government to waive its standard rules in order to let the state tailor programs to its own desires. The waivers are expected to go to the federal government for review by Dec. 31.

Before then, the state must give the public an opportunity to comment on the ideas, and officials must address the comments. Here we’re laying out first some background information on the waivers, and then the ways to comment.

FOR YOUR INFORMATION

The first of the two waivers would affect poor people who don’t qualify for Medicaid. It’s called a 1115 waiver, and the Kemp administration is calling it “Georgia Pathways.”

Kemp’s aides have estimated that a fraction of the 408,000 adult Georgians who are not covered by Medicaid even though they make less than the federal poverty level — about 50,000 people — would be able to our would choose to enroll under the waiver plan. To obtain that coverage, they would have to meet requirements for work, schooling or specific types of community service. Disabled people could not qualify unless they obtain the federal disability designation. Addicts would not qualify unless they first meet the community service engagement

The second waiver would help higher-income people who buy individual health insurance plans and make too much income to qualify for a good subsidy. It’s called a 1332 waiver, and Kemp’s team named it “Georgia Access.” It would also eliminate Georgians’ access to the federal healthcare.gov website. It would instead suggest people use the websites of private brokers, such as healthsherpa.com.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a front-page story on the 1115 waiver Nov. 5. Here’s a link: Kemp’s Medicaid plan would cover thousands, but not most, of Georgia’s poor

The AJC published a front-page story on the 1332 waiver Nov. 1. The link: Kemp unveils proposals to overhaul Georgia individual health plans.

The state’s webpage on both waivers, which includes links to the actual waivers as well as a link to the comment page, can be found at https://medicaid.georgia.gov/patientsfirst.

Many analysts and advocates have posted their own opinions or research online. They include the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.

HAVE YOUR SAY

By mail:

Send a letter, postmarked by Dec. 3, to these addresses:

  • To comment on the 1115 waiver, about Medicaid expansion:

Lavinia Luca

c/o Board of Community Health

P.O. Box 1966

Atlanta, GA 30301-1966

  • To comment on the 1332 waiver, about the private insurance market:

Ryan Loke

c/o The Office of the Governor

206 Washington St.

Suite 115, State Capitol

Atlanta, GA 30334

Online:

Go to the state’s website for the waivers, and there’s an online form to input your comment. The website address is https://medicaid.georgia.gov/patients-first-act-public-comment.

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