Today, the Democratic Party of Georgia (DPG) held a press conference call to highlight the impact of coronavirus on rural Georgians, and discuss the need for full Medicaid expansion in Georgia to help strained rural hospitals and get access to affordable health care for half a million Georgians.
DPG Chairwoman Nikema Williams said:
“In a time of global crisis, it becomes crystal clear where our systems have failed us — and the last decade of Republican refusal to fully expand Medicaid has failed rural Georgia. As we face a health care crisis like we haven’t seen in a century, it is a moral failure of our state’s leadership that Georgia has refused to take action while rural hospitals close and hundreds of thousands of Georgians go without care. Rural Georgians deserve quality, affordable health care, and rural hospitals deserve strong funding and support so they can serve their communities every day, not just when a crisis comes to town.”
Southwest Georgia has so far taken the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic in the state, as the Albany area has eclipsed countries around the world with one of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in comparison to population. Today, an AJC report revealed that three weeks after asking for help from the state, Albany’s hospital system still doesn’t have the units it needs to care for all patients in need.
Dr. Karen Kinsell, a practitioner in Clay County, Georgia, said:
“As the only physician in my county, I know very well the struggles facing rural Georgia when it comes to health care — and I know that because of our failure to fully expand Medicaid and make health care affordable, we have a hard future ahead. Rural Georgia is especially vulnerable to this crisis, because without Medicaid expansion, hospitals have closed and health care providers have left. Albany and our surrounding counties are already the canary in the coal mine for how vulnerable we are to this crisis — we need to take every possible step to protect rural Georgians before it’s too late.”
Since 2010, seven rural hospitals have closed and more than half of Georgia’s remaining hospitals are at risk of closing, threatening access to quality healthcare for rural Georgians. Failure to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act leaves the uninsured “with few options” for receiving care under the coronavirus pandemic, compounded by the loss of hospitals and health care providers for rural parts of the state.