Health Care Here in Georgia

How will this special election directly affect the health of our state?

Anyone watching the news for the past ten years knows that Democrats and Republicans don’t agree on healthcare, and it’s no different for our Senate runoff candidates. If you want to jump down to learn more about the candidates’ positions, click here. If you first want to learn a little bit more about why getting it right on healthcare is so important, and why the stakes in our special election are so high, read on!

Winter Has Come, and It’s Georgia vs. the Pandemic

When it comes to healthcare in Georgia, the winter of 2020 is about two opposing forces, and we are not talking about Republicans and Democrats. It is all of us against the coronavirus pandemic. Georgia has done pretty well so far due to the efforts of individual Georgians, from Chatham County on the coast all the way across to Muscogee County and up to Floyd. While Albany was in a tough spot early on and the Atlanta metro area has been hit pretty hard, we are hanging in there. But we all know that our healthcare system is stretched real thin, especially in rural areas. You all likely know someone who works in the healthcare industry (maybe it’s you, in which case thank you), and it doesn’t take much to see the strain. While there are a lot of smart, brave folks in Georgia’s healthcare system working hard for all of us, the fact is that Georgia has not invested enough in our healthcare system over the years, something folks on both sides of the aisle recognize. When we look at the numbers it really isn’t pretty:

Where Do We Rank Nationally, in Quality of Healthcare?

45th
Out of 51 including DC, for overall quality of healthcare

45th
Infant survival rate

51st
Child immunizations

Those numbers just aren’t acceptable, and shouldn’t be to any Georgian. We care for each other more than those numbers show. That isn’t Georgia, or at least it shouldn’t be. We all know folks – likely in our own families – who need medical care, whether it is the coronavirus, a serious chronic condition, or getting smart preventative care to save costs. The problem is: our insurance numbers aren’t so good either.


Number and Percentage of Georgians Who Have No Health Insurance

1,875,000 
(18.8%)
2013, the year before the ACA went into full effect

1,329,000 
(12.9%)
2016, the final year of the Obama administration

1,436,000  
(13.7%)
2020, the final year of the Trump administration

Georgians’ access to health care declined under the Trump administration and Republican control of the U.S. Senate. According to the 2020 America’s Health Rankings Report from the United Health Foundation, 17.8% of Georgians avoided getting medical care in 2020 because of costs. That might be related to the fact that 13.4% of Georgians don’t have health insurance, according to the same report. (All of these numbers come from the US Census and the Center for Disease Control.)

Georgians’ health and Georgia’s economy are bound together. We know that, and we are feeling that every day, especially in this pandemic. If health care is something that we have got to do better on, how is this runoff election on January 5, 2021 going to be part of that effort? We have four candidates, and unsurprisingly a big difference in approach to health care. This website, like the one for the national election that it grew out of, is focused on facts, not emotion. We will give you as even-handed a take as we can on where each of the candidates stands on health care.


The Candidates

First, let’s look at the incumbents and then see what the challengers think.

Both Republican Senators support “market-based” health care policy and have supported rolling back the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The problem is that they haven’t presented any viable alternative to replace it. A Republican-controlled, Mitch McConnell-led Senate will stand directly in the way of President-Elect Biden’s ability to strengthen the ACA and resume the rapid improvements in health care coverage nationally and in Georgia that were happening under Obama.

The Republican candidates’ positions on health care:

Perdue:

After serving an entire term in the Senate, Perdue has the best-defined record to look at, and – well, it ain’t pretty. Perdue voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2015, and he backed the Senate’s failed effort to repeal the ACA – and replace it with an un-defined (meaning, non-existent) alternative – in 2017. 

Perdue further states that his policy is that “health insurance should always cover preexisting conditions. For anyone. Period.” That protection is of course one of the central pillars of the ACA, which Perdue has been trying to take down. While the PROTECT Act that he co-sponsored in 2018 would have covered pre-existing conditions, what he fails to mention is that it would have allowed insurance companies to charge folks whatever they wanted. Does that sound right? The non-partisan organization Politifact has rated his claim that he supports protections for pre-existing conditions False.

Finally, his choices to not participate in debates or answer questions about his policies reveal pretty clearly that he knows how weak he is on these issues. We don’t know if you saw his debate with Ossoff before the November 3 election, but he really got hammered on healthcare, so while he may have some answers, it didn’t give us much confidence. Makes some sense that he wouldn’t want a rematch.

Loeffler:

Loeffler has stated that she supports expanding healthcare coverage through a market-based approach. If we know anything at all, it’s that a market-based approach will not work for people all across Georgia, especially for folks in rural farming communities! As with David Perdue and the Republican Party in general, the choices she makes in her plan indicate that she is working around the edges and is essentially for maintaining the status quo – meaning, back before the Affordable Care Act, when nearly one of five Georgians had no health care coverage at all.

The Democratic candidates’ positions on healthcare:

Ossoff:

Ossoff arguably has released the most comprehensive set of health care plans. His wife is a physician and this is an issue he has focused on. You might take a look at his Health Care Plan for Affordable, Accessible Health Care for All Georgians.  He supports strengthening the protections of the Affordable Care Act for those with private health insurance, and also providing a broader public option that would ensure affordable insurance coverage is available to all.  (So: no Bernie Sanders-style “Medicare for All” plan from him – he is for Georgians to have choices.) His plan also calls for providing protections for drug pricing, investing in new clinics and hospitals, especially in rural areas, and protecting and enhancing women’s health programs. 

Warnock:

Warnock is the newest candidate of the four and hasn’t focused as much on health care as other issues. However, he has released a pretty strong policy statement on The Right to Access Affordable, Quality Care. Overall, it looks like Warnock supports strengthening the ACA, providing coverage to all Americans – including Georgians – lowering prescription drug costs and insurance, and expanding Medicaid.  Healthcare, he has said, is a human right.

The Bottom Line:

If either Perdue or Loeffler is elected, Mitch McConnell is going to control the U.S. Senate for the next two years.  If you are hoping that a McConnell-led Senate is going to lift a finger to substantially improve health care for Georgians, all you have to do is look at how McConnell has stood in the way of getting some financial relief to hard-working Georgia families during this tough holiday season. Our health and well-being may be the very last thing on Mitch McConnell’s mind.

So on health care, such a critical issue for us, we think the facts show that is a moment for Georgia voters to rise up and say: “Hey, US Senate… Quit bein’ ugly when WE are paying the price!”

Remember, it only has to be for two years. Fix some troubles and then look at it all again. The Democrats won’t make us a Socialist state – no matter how many times Loeffler and Purdue say they will. It’s not what they want, and even if it were, it’s going to be conservative Democrat Senators like Joe Manchin in West Virginia and moderate Republicans like Susan Collins in Maine who would hold the power in the Senate, if Ossoff and Warnock are elected.

That sounds a lot more reasonable to us than two more years of a McConnell Senate that literally could not care less for average Georgians. Our state government has already started taking some good steps on healthcare, and we need supporting action from the federal government on health care, the coronavirus, and jobs creation. Electing Warnock and Ossoff represents our best shot at making it happen.