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Monday, December 9, 2013

Protesters outside Grady pressure Deal to expand Medicaid

Nearly 100 people rallied in front of Grady Memorial Hospital last Friday afternoon to demand that Gov. Nathan Deal change his stance toward Medicaid Expansion.

The demonstration took place days after a major study from the Commonwealth Fund, a private foundation that studies the healthcare system, found that Georgia could lose up to $4.9 billion in 2022 alone if it doesn't expand the program for people living on low incomes, which was a key portion of the Affordable Care Act. Deal's decision is also estimated to cause a $45 million shortfall at Grady.

Tamieka Atkins, a protest organizer and director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance's Atlanta chapter, said that Medicaid expansion in Georgia would provide health care to thousands of uninsured Georgians, prevent thousands of yearly deaths, and create more than 75,000 new jobs.

"Over 600,000 Georgians would qualify for Medicaid if expanded, giving them access to affordable [health care]," Atkins said at the rally. "How does our governor say no to saving the lives of Georgia residents?" A study published in 2012 by Harvard researchers compared three states that expanded Medicaid with four neighboring states that that did not. The study found that expansion of Medicaid led to a decrease in mortality rates of 6.1%. The decrease mortality rates were mostly "older adults, nonwhites, and residents of poorer counties."

The U.S. Supreme Court in June 2012 upheld the Affordable Care Act, but it also left the decision to expand Medicaid to the states. Deal and other governors rejecting the Medicaid expansion have argued that their states couldn't afford to pay for the program once the federal government's contribution scales back in later years.

Georgia Democratic candidate for United States Senate Dr. Branko Radulovacki (Dr. Rad) spoke at the rally,
  • Joeff Davis
  • Georgia Democratic candidate for United States Senate Dr. Branko Radulovacki (Dr. Rad) spoke at the rally, "I support Medicaid expansion," he said.
Supporters of Medicaid expansion in Georgia, a state where nearly one in five residents is uninsured, claim that the new study pokes holes in that argument. By refusing federal cash, they say Georgia could suffer huge economic losses without providing greater healthcare access to the poor.

Other speakers including Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Branko "Dr. Rad" Radulovacki; state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta; and Moral Monday representative Denechia Powell called out the governor outside Grady's front entrance. Fort called Deal's decision "a crime before God."

The study also found that residents in states refusing Medicaid expansion are still paying for the its overall costs without receiving the full benefits.

"I have insurance, but 650,000 Georgians don't and it's crazy that Gov. Deal won't take the expansion funds. [The uninsured] just end up in emergency rooms and its even more expensive," said Laura Bordeaux at the rally.

Tamieka Atkins, Atlanta Chapter Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance speaking at the rally.
  • Joeff Davis
  • Tamieka Atkins, Atlanta Chapter Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance speaking at the rally."How does our governor say no to saving the lives of Georgia residents," she asked.

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