The Abysmal State of Georgia Health Care Under Brian Kemp

July 9, 2021

As Brian Kemp officially launches his re-election bid this weekend, he has a lot to answer for when it comes to the state of health care in the Peach State – from Georgia’s maternal mortality rate, which is the second highest in the nation, to Georgia’s crumbling rural health care due to Kemp’s failure to expand Medicaid.

“Georgians’ access to quality, affordable care care has never been worse than under Brian Kemp,” said Rebecca Galanti, spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “With some of the poorest health outcomes and highest uninsured rates in the nation, it’s clear that Brian Kemp’s health care policies are hurting Georgians – especially people of color, rural Georgians, and low-income Georgians. From refusing to expand Medicaid to underfunding our public health budget, Brian Kemp has spent his tenure as governor playing partisan political games with Georgians’ health care. Kemp’s callous disregard for his constituents’ lives is disqualifying, and Georgians are fed up with it.”

A reminder of how Brian Kemp has failed Georgians on health care:

“Unacceptably” poor health outcomes for mothers, seniors, and Georgians at large

  • Under Brian Kemp, the maternal mortality rate in Georgia is more than twice the national rate. Georgia has the second-highest mortality rate in the country, and at least 79 of Georgia’s 159 counties do not have an OB-GYN.
  • Georgia’s abysmal maternal health disproportionately affects women of color – Black mothers are almost twice as likely to die than white mothers in Georgia.
  • Georgia ranks second worst in the nation for elederly health care, with Georgia seniors facing higher costs, lower access, and worse quality in their care.
  • In addition to what local health policy experts call “unacceptably high” rates of infant mortality and maternal mortality, Georgia has high levels and “some of the worst health outcomes” when it comes to medical issues like diabetes, strokes, and heart disease.

Refusal to expand Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands of uninsured Georgians

  • Brian Kemp’s refusal to expand Medicaid has prevented 450,000 low-income Georgians from gaining health insurance, with analyses showing that the Georgians who fall into the “Medicaid gap” are disproportionately Black.
  • Georgia has some of the nation’s worst uninsured rates under Brian Kemp – 1.4 million Georgians do not have health insurance, and Georgia’s uninsured rate of 13.7 percent is third highest in the country.
  • The state’s decision not to expand Medicaid cost the lives of 1,336 Georgians aged 55-64 from 2014 to 2017 alone, meaning Kemp’s continued inaction is costing lives.
  • If Georgia were to expand Medicaid now, the federal government would cover the full cost – making Brian Kemp’s refusal to expand Medicaid not only morally wrong, but fiscally indefensible.

Rural health care systems crumbling

  • Under Kemp, 26 percent of Georgia adults living in rural areas are uninsured, compared to 19 percent living in non-rural areas.
  • In Georgia, nine rural hospitals have closed since 2010 (when Medicaid expansion became available), including two since Brian Kemp came into office. An additional 26 are at high risk of closing – making Georgia the third worst in the nation for rural hospital stability. 
  • Studies show that rural areas in states that expanded Medicaid have lower uninsured rates, better health outcomes, and fewer hospital closures than rural areas in the twelve states that have yet to expand Medicaid, like Georgia.

Public health budget remains underfunded

  • Georgia’s Republican leaders, including Brian Kemp, “underfunded public health for at least a decade,” leaving Georgia ill-prepared to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Medical experts say Georgia’s public health infrastructure was “under-resourced” even before the pandemic.
  • Georgia’s “static public health spending” has left our state unable to tackle some of our biggest non-pandemic public health challenges, such as maternal mortality, substance abuse, and HIV infection.
  • Experts warn that the negative effects of Georgia’s “flat public health budget” were further exacerbated by the pandemic, which took resources away from other issue areas. 

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