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Gov. Kemp to announce Affordable Care Act waiver rollout Thursday

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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says he and other state officials will announce on Thursday details of a strategy to improve health care in the state. Kemp is expected to address an alternative to full Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The governor’s office said Wednesday that it will unveil “Georgia Access” as part of its plan to identify more health coverage solutions in the state. Georgia Access is a product of The Patients First Act, signed into law by Kemp in March.

“The Patients First Act is a step toward lowering insurance premiums, enhancing access to quality care and improving health outcomes in every part of our state,” Kemp said in a previous statement.

The Patients First Act allows the Georgia Department of Community Health to submit waivers to the federal government related to the Affordable Care Act. 

Signed into law by former President Barrack Obama in 2010, ACA raises the federal income eligibility requirements for Medicaid to include more residents. It also offers subsidies to households who surpass the income thresholds but fall under lower income guidelines for assistance.

Kemp’s announcement Thursday will be specific to the State Relief and Empowerment Waiver, which allows the state to find other ways to provide affordable health care access. The state employed the help of consulting firm Deloitte to process the waivers.

For the State Relief and Empowerment Waiver, Georgia officials must provide the federal government with viable reasons for the request including supporting data and projections. The plan must be able to meet the coverage requirements under the ACA without exceeding the federal load. The application for the waiver must include a 10-year budget plan that is “deficit neutral to the federal government,” and other detailed attachments that outline the plan over its timespan.

Georgia’s Patients First Act also calls for a waiver to extend the Medicaid income eligibility to up to a maximum of 100 percent of the federal poverty line, or about $12,000 annually. The legislation accounts for a partial expansion since ACA calls for an income limit of 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $17,000. 

In return, the federal government will finance 67 percent of the program versus the 90 percent coverage under the full expansion. 

About 2 million Georgians are currently covered by Medicaid, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services numbers.

Utah requested a partial expansion that was denied in late July.

Georgia officials said they plan to submit the applications for the waivers to the federal government by Dec. 31.