A Bottom-Up Approach to Healthcare
Healthcare in this state is lacking - in 2021, over 14% of our state population was uninsured. Additionally, despite popular belief, less than 50% of the state actually receives insurance from their employer. Sixty percent of people who would be covered by Medicaid expansion are working but often not offered health benefits through their job or do not get paid enough to afford their employer plan. (Only 41 percent of Georgia employers offer employer-sponsored health insurance.)
In rural Georgia, we need more options to access healthcare. Especially in rural areas like ours, accesses to quality healthcare can mean the difference of an area growing in population, wealth, health and education. Health in the earliest years; beginning with a mother’s well-being before she becomes pregnant, strengthens development in early childhood that enable children to thrive and grow up to be healthy adults. Positive early experiences provide children with a foundation for healthy brain development, which fosters lifelong skills and learning in our children. This all starts with education, and lowering the cost of healthcare. Instead of a tertiary response to healthcare (treating illnesses after they are present) we need to be focusing on why these health issues arise.
Social Scientists and Public Health researchers have put together decades of research showing children affected by a high burden of adverse experiences may adopt high-risk behaviors that can further hurt their physical and mental health. Therefore, it is crucial that we not only look at healthcare from an adult consumers perspective, but also from the lens of a child, who is arguably more in need of high quality healthcare and health education starting at an early age.
Medicaid is a health insurance program funded by both the state and federal government that covers about 1 in 5 Georgians. Mostly children, people with disabilities and older adults who have low to moderate incomes. In Georgia, many adults do not qualify for Medicaid. Starting in 2014, states had the option to increase the income threshold for Medicaid to include more adults who make below or near the poverty line. However, Georgia has not expanded Medicaid to these levels, so adults between ages 19 and 64 without dependent children cannot get Medicaid coverage, and adults with dependents need to make below about $7,000 a year for a family of three. At the same time, Georgians with incomes below the poverty line (less than $12,769 a year for an individual or $21,720 a year for a family of three) and fall into the coverage gap often find themselves with no affordable health insurance options.