On Tuesday, more than 40 activists were arrested while protesting Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s refusal to accept the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion. Janel Davis and Chris Joyner write in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Dr. Raphael Warnock of Ebenezer Baptist Church, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor, was among those placed in handcuffs by Georgia State Patrol troopers. Warnock and a group of supporters staged a sit-in outside of Deal’s office Tuesday afternoon. They were arrested without incident and led away as the remaining crowd of protesters sang “We Shall Not Be Moved.”
“It is no exaggeration to say that we are here on a matter of life and death,” Warnock told a group of about 100 supporters.
The Affordable Care Act has two main avenue’s for correcting the US’s shameful rate of uninsurance: expanding Medicaid eligibility for those with incomes of up to 133% of the federal poverty level, and establishing health-insurance exchanges where people can purchase private plans and receive subsidies to help with premium costs if their income falls between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level. The Supreme Court’s decision on the ACA made the Medicaid expansion optional. Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia are implementing Medicaid expansions, with the federal government picking up 100% of the costs through 2016 and no less than 90% of costs for this population in all future years. Some of the states that have not yet accepted the expansion are still debating it; I was sorry to read this morning that Nebraska’s legislature just rejected a bill that would have combined Medicaid and private insurance to cover those with incomes up to 133% FPL.
In states that don’t expand Medicaid, residents with incomes below the federal poverty level — $11,670 for a single person, $23,850 for a four-person household in 2014 — still aren’t eligible for subsidies if they purchase health insurance on an exchange. If uninsured low-income adults don’t meet other avenues for Medicaid eligibility, such as being disabled or having very low income and dependent children, they are out of luck. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in October 2013 that nearly five million people fall into this “coverage gap.” In Georgia, that’s more than 400,000 uninsured poor, non-elderly adults who could get Medicaid coverage but, due to the state’s refusal to accept the expansion, won’t. In Texas, the figure is over one million.