Dear Senators Isakson and Perdue,
Thank you for your service to our great state and to the millions of citizens who call Georgia home. As faith leaders, we are on the front lines for the thousands of families we collectively serve who are facing health and financial troubles caused by illness and disease. Access to affordable insurance and quality care is a fundamental need for all of us. To that end, we wish to express our concerns about the current health care reform debate underway in Congress.
We recognize and appreciate the incredible responsibility assumed by you and your Senate colleagues to constructively guide national health care policy after the passage of the American Health Care Act. That legislation threatens the health of Georgians, especially the most vulnerable among us. We greatly appreciate your willingness to advocate for effective health care policy that will not shortchange Georgia or further undermine our state’s incredibly fragile health care system.
In the deliberations ahead, we ask you to also honor our shared moral obligation to our neighbors who are struggling and our friends who could lose everything if access to health care is weakened or stripped away. Specifically, we ask that you preserve the current structure and federal funding guarantee for Medicaid and safeguard coverage for people with pre-existing conditions.
As currently written, the American Health Care Act would cost Georgia’s treasury an estimated $4 billion in federal Medicaid funding over ten years. Such massive cuts would endanger the health of nearly 2 million Georgians who rely on Medicaid for access to health care. About 1.3 million of our state’s Medicaid enrollees are children; another 500,000 are seniors and people with disabilities. We must safeguard these vulnerable populations by preserving the underlying structure of Medicaid and resisting radical changes such as per capita caps and block grants. A structural change to Medicaid that assigns a fixed amount of money per enrollee would fail to account for the growth in health care costs. Further, it would constrain Georgia’s ability to be nimble and resilient in the face of another economic downtown, threatening our state’s capacity to maintain coverage for children, the elderly and the disabled. Rigid formula shifts would likely lead to cuts in program eligibility, benefits or health care provider payments.
In addition, we request that any health care reform proposal guarantee protection for Georgians with pre-existing conditions. We cannot cast out our friends and neighbors with pre-existing conditions by isolating them in underfunded, high-risk insurance pools. Segregating Georgians based on their current health status degrades human dignity and, as proposed in the House bill, would fall far short of meeting the actual health care need. The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that high-risk insurance pools would require at least $25 billion in federal funding each year, far more than allocated in the House bill. Everyone deserves access to affordable care that includes the essential benefits and services needed to be healthy.
We ask that you continue to advocate for Georgians’ access to quality, affordable health care by protecting the current structure of the Medicaid program and guaranteeing protections for people with pre-existing conditions. As leaders of the faith community, we have the responsibility to give voice to those who often seem voiceless. We hope that you will hear our collective call to preserve and strengthen access to health care for all Georgians.