Could Georgia get a public option for health care?

A bill introduced in the Georgia state senate could mean a public option for health care in the state. The bill’s sponsor says it would essentially create a public option for PeachCare.

Today, Senator Sally Harrell, a Democrat who represents Atlanta, filed Senate Bill 83, a bill that aims to increase Georgian’s access to quality, affordable health care by allowing anyone, regardless of income, age, or insurance status, to purchase Medicaid Managed Care, the same system used for Georgia’s PeachCare for Kids program.

The PeachCare Public Option would cost consumers no more or less than what it will cost the government to provide the service. 

“We’ve bought into a myth that private insurance is the best and only option for consumers. But too many Georgians are struggling to afford private plans, or worse, having to fight with their insurance companies to cover a needed service after they’ve already paid thousands of dollars for their plan,” said Harrell. “A Medicaid public option would offer all 10 Affordable Care Act essential benefits and could cost significantly less than an equivalent private plan.” 

The bill would direct the Georgia Department of Community Health to design a new program called “PeachCare Public Option,” that would allow healthcare consumers to purchase a Medicaid Managed Care plan at cost. The bill would require the community health department to maximize affordability for participants and allow those that are eligible for tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies under the Affordable Care Act to use those benefits to help cover the cost of this new option.

If passed, the PeachCare Public Option would be offered on the insurance marketplace alongside private plans.

Why it Matters: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 13.7% of Georgians did not have health insurance as of 2018. As of 2019, health care in Georgia was ranked 42nd in the nation by The Commonwealth Fund.

“The Governor’s Medicaid waivers are sure to drive thousands of Georgia consumers into cheaper plans with fewer benefits,” Harrell said. “That’s good for insurance company profits, but not for the people of Georgia. Georgians deserve a comprehensive, affordable healthcare option that actually covers the services they need when they need it.”

Washington State passed a public health care option for their citizens in 2019 and 19 other states are currently looking into public option plans as well.

You can read the bill for yourself here: https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59272

NEXT STEPS:

The bill must now wade its way through the committee process before going to the senate floor for a vote. Since the bill was introduced by a Democrat, it is unlikely to gain traction in Georgia’s Republican-controlled senate.

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