WASHINGTON — Today, United States Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux (GA-07) joined Senators Warnock, Baldwin, Ossoff, and Warren, and House Majority Whip Clyburn to advocate for expanding Medicaid in Georgia and 11 other states. This failure to act has left over four million low-income Americans without health insurance coverage, including 646,000 Georgians.
Congresswoman Bourdeaux introduced the Medicaid Saves Lives Act in the House alongside Senator Reverend Warnock. Closing the coverage gap in the United States improves health outcomes by providing recipients with access to primary and preventative care, boosting economic mobility, and reducing uncompensated care costs.
Congresswoman Bourdeaux’s full remarks can be found below:
“I want to start by thanking Senator Warnock for inviting me to speak this morning, and for leading the charge on this important issue in the Senate. Additionally, thank you to Majority Whip Clyburn and Senators Ossoff, Baldwin, and Warren for being champions of such an important cause.
“One of my top priorities in Congress has been ensuring that Americans of all backgrounds have access to quality, affordable health care, which is why I introduced the Medicaid Saves Lives Act in the House.
“In Georgia’s 7th district, across the state, and around the entire country, too many people are unable to access the medical care they need due to the Medicaid coverage gap.
“Despite significant financial incentives provided by the Affordable Care Act and the American Rescue Plan, Georgia and the 11 other non-expansion states still have refused to act.
“Expanding Medicaid has the potential to provide health care coverage to over four million Americans, including 646,000 Georgians. We must change the notion that the state you live in can dictate your access to affordable health coverage.
“The choice by Georgia to not expand Medicaid has a very real and human cost.
“I always remember the story of a man in my district who showed up at an outpatient clinic in such excruciating pain that he couldn’t hold a pen. He was a day laborer at a warehouse which means he had a very low income, and of course in Georgia this means that he didn’t have health insurance because he was too poor to receive a subsidy to purchase health insurance on the exchange. Georgia didn’t expand Medicaid so he fell into the coverage gap.
“So he came in desperation to the doctors who had to tell him, we are so sorry, you have advanced stage rheumatoid arthritis. If you had come to see us a few years earlier, we could have given you anti-inflammatory drugs that would have protected your joints and you would still be working today. But now the disease has destroyed your joints and there is nothing we can do but give you painkillers to relieve your suffering.
“This was a man who wanted to work – he actually went station to station in the doctor’s office asking if there was some work he might be able to pick up.
“The irony of this story is now he is eligible for disability and now he is eligible for Medicaid.
“As you may know, my background is in budgeting and public finance – this is fiscally irresponsible because it’s a lot more expensive to pay for disability than it would have been to pay for the anti-inflammatory drugs up front.
“It’s also fiscally irresponsible because each and every one of us in Georgia who has health insurance pays for uncompensated health care in our own rising health insurance premiums.
“But fundamentally, it is morally wrong that we hang our working people out to dry in this way.
“And I have story after story like this: women showing up with tumors that you can see through their breasts; men having strokes because they couldn’t afford the doctor’s visit to get hypertension medication; parents of grown children with mental illness who cycle through prison because that is the only place in Georgia they can get health care.
“The decade-long failure to expand Medicaid in Georgia has cost us dearly – in expense and in lives and potential squandered.
“This is also a social justice issue. Nearly 60% of the people in the Medicaid coverage gap both in Georgia and across the country are people of color.
“Over the past decade, I have written OpEds, memos, protested, posted on social media – in no small part, I ran for Congress because of my frustration with Georgia’s failure to expand Medicaid and the devastating consequences it has had on people’s lives. Since being elected, I have worked with my friends in the Senate and a coalition in the House to provide incentives to get Georgia and other non-expansion states to expand. All to no avail.
“I am done with begging these states to do what is so clearly in their self-interest. I’m tired of the arguing and protesting, it’s time to finish the job of ensuring that everyone has affordable health care; it’s time to close the coverage gap in Georgia; it’s time to expand Medicaid.
“Thank you again to my colleagues for having me this morning.”
Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux lives with her family in Suwanee, Georgia, and represents Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the 117th Congress. Carolyn is a strong advocate for affordable health care, and economic recovery that puts workers and small businesses first, and investing in her district’s world-class public education system and transportation infrastructure.
Georgia’s fast-changing 7th Congressional District includes portions of the northeast Atlanta metropolitan area, including portions of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties and cities Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Sugar Hill, Norcross, Cumming, Lawrenceville, Duluth, Snellville, Lilburn, Suwanee, Grayson, and Buford.