MM Curator summary
GA Senator says Biden’s dismissal of their approved waiver to expand Medicaid coverage for those that work is unfair, and that the argument to suspend the work requirements due to COVID does not make sense for GA, where unemployment is low.
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The following is an excerpt from a recent “The Commute” podcast interview with Georgia State Sen. Ben Watson. “The Commute” is presented by the National Office Systems. Full episodes are available at SavannahNow.com/podcasts or through mobile device podcast apps by searching “The Commute with @SavannahOpinion.”
Question: The Biden Administration has rescinded the approval for one of Georgia’s Medicaid waivers meant to provide health care coverage for the lowest-income Georgians. The feds are now reviewing that waiver. Is this a deal breaker? Or something where the details can be worked out?
Ben Watson: “That’s still to be determined. The state of Georgia applied for two waivers, and the one at issue now is the one that covered people from 100% of poverty level down to zero. The other waiver covered those from 100% of poverty level up to 138%. Both were approved last fall by the previous administration, and we were moving forward. What is fundamentally different about the waiver in question and those in every other state is we were proactive in requiring those on the waiver to do 80 hours of service a month. They could volunteer or work part-time or go to technical school or college, so long as they could account for 80 hours a month or 20 hours a week they would be eligible for Medicaid. That was what our thought process was. I still think it’s a good process.”
Question: That work requirement, or service hour requirement, seems to be the sticking point for the Biden Administration. What was your reaction when you heard approval had been pulled and the waiver was in review?
BW: “I was disappointed. We have 30 days to respond and we’ll continue to look at all avenues. From there, the new administration will make a determination. I just hope it is not political, because I think we have a good thing. The governor and his team and the Legislature worked together on this. I think it’s a good system and a good solution, and I think states should be allowed to determine what’s best for their own situations.”
Question: Critics will say the COVID-19 pandemic has made the work requirement untenable because either there aren’t enough jobs or there are people who are apprehensive about working or volunteering or going to school because of the virus. How legitimate is that argument?
BW: “That’s just an excuse. Georgia’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the nation right. We’re among the top-five economies in the nation. We’re recovering, and we’ve done better than expected. The cynic in me says, ‘Well, if I’m looking at this program and living in Washington, D.C. or New York City or someplace like that then that might be a realistic discussion.’ But that’s not the case here in Georgia. It doesn’t hold muster. As for the service hours requirement, if people cannot meet that, there are other safety nets for them, such as applying for disability.
“If you believe the government can do better with Medicaid than Georgia can do with these minimum requirements here, I will disagree with you on that one.”