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Report: GA's Working Families Would Benefit from Closing Coverage Gap

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A majority of the Georgia parents who fall in the coverage gap are working in industries such as food service, retail and even child care. Credit: Georgetown Center for Children and Families
A majority of the Georgia parents who fall in the coverage gap are working in industries such as food service, retail and even child care. Credit: Georgetown Center for Children and Families
ATLANTA – Georgia's working families are among those that would benefit from an expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and almost two-thirds of them are employed, according to a report released by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

Currently, 300,000 Georgians fall into the coverage gap that could be eliminated if the state accepted federal funds to close the gap.

Cindy Zeldin, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future, says the reluctance to accept federal money is impacting the state across the board.

"It's really holding us back in a number of ways,” she maintains. “First, it's putting a strain on our health system, and second, it's preventing people from getting access to care that they need."

As it stands, if a Georgia parent in a family of three earns more than $7,800 annually, but less than $20,000, he or she earns too much to qualify for Medicaid and too little to qualify for assistance through the Health Marketplace.

Georgia's children and parents have one of the highest uninsured rates in the country, with 26 percent of parents without insurance and 10 percent of children in the same situation.

Adam Searing, senior research fellow at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, says the center’s research indicates that when parents have health insurance, their children are more likely to have coverage and parents with proper medical care is better able to fulfill their responsibilities.

"Anyone who is a parent knows that you have to be pretty healthy to take care of kids, and if you're sick and not able to get better, it makes it a lot harder to effectively care for your children," Searing says.

Of the uninsured parents currently in Georgia's coverage gap, 18 percent work in retail, 16 percent of them are in food services and 11 percent work in professional services.

The remainder of the parents work in other service industries, the medical field, education, child care and transportation.

Searing says until the state accepts the federal dollars, Georgians are paying for their care.

"If people coming into the emergency room don't have health insurance, they're still going to get care but that care is going to get paid some way, and the way that care gets paid for is in higher taxes and cost shifting to people who have health insurance," he explains.

According to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Georgia's economy would get almost $25 in return for each dollar invested by the state, in the form of hospital revenue, salaries for health care workers, and increased economic activity.