The health care crisis is debilitating for those in poverty
A look at the correlation between health care insurance coverage and poverty in Georgia reveals some sobering facts:
- 41 percent of uninsured Georgians have annual incomes at or below $35,535.
- Lack of insurance coverage is one of the prime reasons why life expectancy for those in poor neighborhoods is fully 10 years shorter than in the richest areas.
- Premiums in the individual health insurance market have more than doubled since passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010.
- For low-income families and those stuck at or below the poverty threshold, healthcare is one of the top expenses and plays heavily into the welfare cliff, which keeps folks mired in poverty.
- Despite generous government tax credits, premiums for low-income families on the ACA health care exchanges are still unaffordable.
“The health care crisis is a poverty crisis.“
Clearly, America’s failing healthcare system disproportionately impacts the poor. And despite multiple federal and state programs aimed at creating a safety net, the poor still aren’t getting adequate health care. The bottom line is that our health care crisis is a poverty crisis.
A complicated, fragmented system
Imagine going to the doctor and not knowing whether your visit will be covered or what you should expect to pay. That’s the exact scenario that plays out for millions of low-income Americans every week. That’s partly because of rather than receiving health care coverage through one unified plan, low-income families in Georgia frequently cobble together fragmented plans.
For Georgians under the age of 18 living in a family at 138 percent of the poverty level or less, 60 percent have different coverage from their mother and 70 percent have different coverage from their father.
And depending on individual circumstances, health insurance can come through a job, individual markets, ACA exchanges, and government programs such as Medicaid, PeachCare, Medicare, TriCare, VA services, and the Indian Health Service—all with different rules for eligibility.
The time is ripe for meaningful reforms in Georgia
Instead of simply expanding Medicaid and trapping more people in the welfare system, we must explore options that help pull people out of poverty.
The solution is a consumer-directed market system coupled with a reform safety net program that achieves universal coverage for all Georgians by:
- Untethering health care from its close association with employment so that people won’t lose their insurance because they lose or change a job.
- Making shopping for health insurance just like buying any other insurance product so that consumers can identify coverage and price options—and compare apples to apples.
- Providing subsidies from the government—run by the Georgia Gateway—to allow low-income individuals and families to purchase insurance on the private market. This system would be means-tested by an eligibility engine that eliminates welfare cliffs and marriage penalties.
A Hope For Georgians
The good news is that the President’s Administration is encouraging states to come up with their own solutions to the health care crisis through federal waiver applications. This means Georgia has a unique opportunity to enact meaningful health-insurance reform that not only addresses the health care crisis, but also helps pull families out of poverty.