Georgia’s Uninsured and the Healthcare Safety-Net

This is the second entry in a series of posts highlighting GCO’s new report, Increasing Access to Quality Healthcare for Low-Income Uninsured Georgians. The first entry provided an overview of the report .

Unfortunately, 19 percent of Georgians lack health insurance, the sixth highest percentage in the country in 2012.[i] Of the nonelderly uninsured, 56 percent live in households that make less than 139 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL), which is $16,221 for an individual and $33,151 for a family of four.[ii]

While it can be difficult for uninsured individuals to find care – particularly those with low-incomes – some uninsured individuals access care through Georgia’s healthcare safety-net. These providers include community health centers, charity clinics, public hospitals, local health departments, and private office-based physicians who provide limited free care.[iii]

Community Health Centers

The state’s community health centers provide primary and preventive care to many uninsured individuals on a sliding fee scale based on patient or family income. In 2011, Georgia’s Federal Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) – local, non-profit, community-owned healthcare providers – served more than 317,000 patients at 152 delivery sites across the state. Of the FQHC patients, 51 percent were uninsured. The National Association of Community Health Centers estimates that 13 percent of Georgia’s low-income uninsured population was served by an FQHC in 2011.[iv]

Charity Clinics

Uninsured individuals in 90 of Georgia’s 159 counties have access to a charity clinic as another option to help meet their primary care needs. In 2012, the state’s 96 nonprofit, independent charity clinics served 183,625 unique patients, and 62 percent of these patients were below the poverty level.[v] Due to their volunteer nature, clinics are able to provide an average of $7 worth of services for every $1 invested, and the average cost per patient visit is $29.[vi]The total value of the services provided by Georgia’s charity clinics in 2012 was over $200 million.[vii]

Public Hospitals

In addition to community health centers and charity clinics, many uninsured patients seek care in hospital emergency rooms. Since many low-income uninsured individuals can only afford a small portion of the care they receive and hospitals are required to provide emergency healthcare to anyone needing it, providers are often uncompensated for the services they provide. In 2012, Georgia hospitals provided $1.6 billion in uncompensated care, including $936 million in free, indigent, and charity care and $671 million in care for which the patient did not pay his or her bill and was not qualified for the hospital’s indigent or charity care programs.[1],[viii]

[1] Uncompensated care is an overall measure of hospital care provided for which no payment was received from the patient or insurer. It is the sum of care for which the hospital never expected to be reimbursed and care for which it is unable to obtain reimbursement for the care provided, called “bad debt.” Uncompensated care excludes other unfunded costs of care, such as underpayment from Medicaid and Medicare.

[i] The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, “Health Insurance Coverage of the Total Population,” accessed March 12, 2014,

 [ii] The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, “Distribution of the Nonelderly Uninsured by Federal Poverty Level,” accessed March 12, 2014,

 [iii] Mark A. Hall, “Health Care Safety Net Resources by State,” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, February 2012,

 [iv] National Association of Community Health Centers, “Georgia Health Center Fact Sheet,”

 [vi] Georgia Charitable Care Network, “Georgia Charitable Care Network – Partners in Georgia’s Safety Net,” Handout provided by the Georgia Charitable Care Network.

 [vii] Ibid.

 [viii] Georgia Hospital Association, Hospitals 101: A Resource Guide for Elected Officials, Fourth Edition, February 2014, 3,; American Hospital Association, “American Hospital Association: Uncompensated Hospital Care Cost Fact Sheet,” January 2013,

New GCO report outlines solutions for Georgia’s individual low-income uninsured population

Nearly one in five Georgians lacks health insurance, the 6th highest rate in the country. Among those without insurance are an estimated 534,000 adults living at or below 100% of the federal poverty line.

Given the significant need for increased access to healthcare, Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and expansion’s long-term unsustainability, it is imperative that viable alternatives for providing healthcare to this portion of the population are identified and implemented.

Today, Georgia Center for Opportunity released a report that adds new ideas and solutions to many of the state’s healthcare challenges. The report, titled Increasing Access to Quality Healthcare for Low-Income Uninsured Georgians, outlines challenges to Georgia’s healthcare system and recommends several policies to start addressing the problems.

The report’s key recommendations include:

  • Providing state government support for Georgia’s charity clinics
  • Expanding telemedicine
  • Modernizing nurse practitioner laws and regulations
  • Reinstating the state sales tax exemption for charity clinics
  • Replacing lost federal funding for safety-net hospitals

Implementation of these policies offers a strong foundation for expanding care to individuals in need and will ensure that more Georgians have access to affordable healthcare, leading to better outcomes for individuals and reducing the cost of uncompensated care.

Over the next few weeks, we will post a series of blogs that highlight different sections of the report including an overview of the state’s uninsured population and healthcare safety-net, an analysis of many of the state’s healthcare challenges, and an in-depth look at the recommended policies.

View the full report here: Increasing Access to Quality Healthcare for Low-Income Uninsured Georgians,

Breakthrough Norcross Partners with Local Elementary School

Breakthrough Norcross, after nearly two years of working toward establishing a collective impact project to improve educational outcomes for Norcross students, partnered with Beaver Ridge Elementary to offer a Robotics camp for their rising fourth and fifth graders. Students who are interested in the subject of Robotics were able to sign up for a weeklong day camp over the summer, and, as a  part of my summer internship with Georgia Center for Opportunity, I had the opportunity to check out what was going on at the Robotics Camp ­– dubbed Beaver Bots – last Thursday.

Environmentally, the robotics room is a collection of the parts, programs, and challenges for the robots that would be the primary tool of the weeklong camp. Two teachers facilitate the camp for approximately 30 students, who all spend most of their time in the robotics room. The Mindstorms, as the machines are officially named, are designed by Lego with the capacity to carry out a series of complex tasks. Various challenge courses are then set up in order to test the robots and their human operator through a diverse array of task completion.beaver bots1

The teachers lead each of the kids through the tasks at a very basic level that eventually handed over full reign of the robots and their programming to the kids. In fact, the teachers made it their mission to equip and not baby their students, and the kids loved it. The kids would cheer each other on through their successes and encourage each other through their missteps. Both boys and girls were learning to wrestle with the complex tasks assigned to them, and this development of perseverance – or grit as some call it – served as the crux for success in future tasks for the club.beaver bots

One of the students was so excited about her experience there that she couldn’t help but exclaim how much she loved working with her friends and other students. She remarked that it wasn’t about winning or losing, although that was a component of the camp; but it was about trying your hardest and having fun with friends.

Of course, there were winners and losers, but the winners encouraged the losers, and the losers cheered on the winners; and everyone was having fun. Furthermore, and most significantly, the kids were not criticizing each other for their initial shortcomings on the challenge field. In fact, they outright refused to submit to failure, consistently returning to  the drawing board until they found success.beaver bots2

Kids are playing with robots, encouraging each other, and carving a pathway into higher learning. It sounds utopic and in some regards it really is. It’s the start of something great, albeit unfinished. It’s just one small part of a larger story that’s unfolding through Breakthrough Norcross, and I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.


This blog was written by Patrick DeMartino.  Patrick is pursuing a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Georgia.  This is his second summer interning with GCO working to support our Solution Delivery work.