What's At Stake This November: Issues That Affect Us All

"Vote" Photographer: Theresa Thompson License

"Vote" Photographer: Theresa Thompson License

 Perhaps the single most crucial issue facing uninsured citizens and voters in Georgia this November is Medicaid Expansion.  This issue has significant implications for the individuals and families who come to the Lokey Center at Emmaus House every day for help with medical bills, prescriptions, and co-pays.  

Medicaid expansion in Georgia would qualify our state for a 100% federal match of funding for three years, and a 90% federal match thereafter.  This translates to $40 billion our state could receive in the span of just ten years, with a staggering 650,000 currently uninsured Georgians obtaining medical coverage.

Not insuring those who cannot afford the high costs of healthcare ultimately affects everyone.  Neglecting any one portion of the community affects the health of the whole through unseen and unintended repercussions.  Emory and Morehouse medical schools estimate that 10 Georgians are dying preventable deaths each day due to lack of access to healthcare.  With the expansion of Medicaid, we could save up to 3,600 lives per year!

Medicaid expansion not only alleviates suffering and saves lives.  It also provides health outcomes that create personal economic independence.  Healthy individuals are able to remain gainfully employed rather than slip into chronic illness, unemployment, and poverty.  Chronically ill populations create an enormous burden on local and state government health, support, and administrative services that must be garnered from local and state taxes.  On the other hand, healthy populations contribute to the economic health of a region.

In addition, expanding Medicaid would contribute to job creation of an estimated 56,000 jobs in Georgia, which increases the tax base.  An expanded tax base funds improvements such as education, employment, urban redevelopment, and public transit that benefit everyone.  An expanded tax base also contributes to finding solutions to other social justice issues such as crime (yes, it is a social justice issue), nutrition, housing and homelessness.  If not addressed, these issues combine and reverberate throughout the social order to compound as negative effects that contribute to ever-increasing poverty and crime within and upon the larger communities of city and state.  Denying health care for a few, by rejecting Medicaid expansion being offered through the Affordable Care Act, reduces quality of life and increases overall total economic costs thereby reducing quality of life for everyone in the region.  The myriad sector services that are required to respond to the combined effects of illness, poverty, and crime will far outstrip the costs of providing healthcare to those who would qualify under Medicaid Expansion in our state.

The AJC reports that 57% of Georgians support the expansion of Medicaid.  That leaves a significant percentage of folks who do not.  As individuals, we can suffer from tunnel vision that blinds us to the big picture.  We tend to respond to things that only directly affect us.  However, when we expand our thinking beyond our own daily lives, we see that the welfare of others is, in reality, our own.  Each of us is a part of the larger whole.  No one lives in isolation.  We all affect each other's welfare.  Will you keep this perspective in mind as you enter the ballot box on Tuesday?  Be wise, and vote!