Carter Center Statement on Proposed Georgia Health Care Waivers

Two Health Waivers (1115 and 1332) Proposed by Governor Kemp Will Significantly Restrict Access to Health Care

The Carter Center Mental Health program is concerned that the announced plans to submit two waivers regarding public and private health insurance in Georgia will:

  1. Drastically limit the number of uninsured citizens who will have access to Medicaid coverage, and
  2. Significantly reduce Georgia residents’ ability to obtain qualified health insurance plans covering the ten essential health benefits, and
  3. Eliminate required coverage of mental health and substance misuse treatment and supports

Because Georgia has one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the country, it is ranked as one of the worst states for many health indicators. We are concerned that the state is opting to insure approximately 80,000 people over two years, when the state could spend approximately the same amount of money and insure closer to 500,000 people. Sound health policy in Georgia would require pursuing more cost-effective ways of providing coverage for a greater number of uninsured citizens.

Many people who are uninsured in Georgia suffer from mental illness and addiction, and these people may be unable to meet the work requirements outlined in the 1115 plan. Therefore, they will not be able to access Medicaid coverage. These Georgians need access to health insurance first, so that they can stabilize their conditions and become capable of holding a steady job to support themselves in the long term.

We are in the midst of a mental health and substance use crisis – overdose and suicide rates are devastating our Georgia families and communities. Mental health and substance misuse treatment and supports should be covered on par with other health issues. Waiving insurance companies’ responsibility to cover mental health and substance misuse as an essential health benefit, as proposed in the 1332 waiver plan, will impact citizens’ ability to obtain critical mental health and substance misuse treatment and services. They will either purchase plans that do not have the coverage they need, or they will end up paying significantly more for that coverage.

Mental illness and addictive disorders are illnesses of the brain that must be covered on par with physical illnesses. The 1332 waiver plan proposes to decrease access to mental health and substance services that will be paid for on par with other health issues by insurance companies. Many people in Georgia already have to pay more out of pocket for mental health and substance abuse care than for other physical illnesses, and our state needs to make strides toward ensuring parity for mental health coverage. The current waiver is taking the state a step in the opposite direction.

The current proposed waivers will decrease Georgia residents’ ability to acquire health insurance, decrease their ability to choose a quality health insurance policy that covers mental and behavioral health treatment, and decrease access to mental health and substance services paid for on par with other health issues by their insurance. This will negatively impact the overall health of Georgia’s population, contribute to our mental and behavioral health crisis, and result in less productive employees and the health of families.

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