Closing the health care coverage gap would boost Georgia’s economy

Nearly half a million Georgians – small business owners, farmers, veterans, and part-time, hourly, and gig workers – cannot afford private health insurance but earn just above the threshold to qualify for Medicaid.

Closing this coverage gap is not just good health care policy, it is also good economic policy. It helps not just those in need of coverage; it benefits all Georgians. Our state’s business leaders recognize that closing this gap is critical if we want a healthier, more productive workforce and want to ensure the long-term economic vitality of our state.

New research finds that closing the coverage gap would spur more than 51,000 new jobs. New jobs in outpatient and inpatient care, as you might expect, but even more new jobs outside of health care in fields such as construction, retail trade, administrative and support services, and restaurant services. Georgia households would see an average annual increase of nearly $900 in personal income when the coverage gap is closed – a statewide total increase of $3.6 billion in the pockets of Georgians. Georgia’s middle class would grow and strengthen.

The research by Regional Economic Models Inc., commissioned by the Georgia Health Initiative, projects that closing the coverage gap would stimulate significant new consumer spending and new investment in Georgia’s economy. As a result, the state’s economic output would increase by $9.4 billion and our gross domestic product by $5.5 billion in the first three years. And the benefits would extend to every part of our state. Rural Georgians are estimated to receive as much as one-sixth of the state’s total economic benefits – a projected gain of more than 5,600 new jobs and $477 million in additional personal income.

Closing the coverage gap is also critical for our ailing rural hospitals, which provide essential community services. Nine rural Georgia hospitals have closed since 2010, and as many as 18 more are now struggling and in danger of closing or dramatically reducing services. When a rural hospital shuts it doors, county residents are forced to travel hours to access care, and the community loses an important employer.

Closing the coverage gap will provide more reliable reimbursements for rural hospitals, so they can remain financially stable. It will also incentivize more primary care providers and specialty doctors to provide services in rural parts of our state, as many counties don’t have a single doctor who is a pediatrician or obstetrician.

When people lack access to preventative care and treatment for chronic conditions, their health suffers, leading to increased absenteeism and reduced productivity. Without insurance, Georgians delay seeking medical attention until their conditions escalate, resulting in more severe illnesses that require longer absences from work. This not only harms individuals and families but also strains our workplaces and drives up health costs for everyone.

Closing the coverage gap is fiscally responsible. It would bring home $3.6 billion of our federal tax dollars rather than sending them to other states. Washington would pay 90% of the cost of closing the coverage gap plus provide a $550 million bonus for each of two years. State savings in child welfare and law enforcement would also result.

Seventy-six percent of Georgians, including 63% of independents and a majority of Republicans, support closing the coverage gap. Still, at the end of its session in March, the Georgia General Assembly voted to create a commission for further study. We are pleased that the issue remains active but urge legislators to plan now for bold action in the next session, not another report that goes nowhere. The economy of our state demands no less.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email