Gov. Kemp’s Medicaid plan ‘falls far short’ on HIV, critics say

Gov. Brian Kemp’s plan to revamp healthcare in Georgia is fiscally irresponsible and puts people with HIV at risk, according to LGBTQ members of a committee tasked with ending the epidemic.

Kemp (photo) unveiled the plan earlier this month as an alternative to expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. His office estimated that only 50,000 people would be enrolled for benefits over a five-year period under Kemp’s Medicaid waiver plan. That’s out of 408,000 Georgians in poverty who do not currently qualify for Medicaid but would be eligible for those benefits under the waiver, according to the AJC.

Kemp is playing politics with people’s healthcare, according to Georgia Equality Executive Director Jeff Graham. He serves on the Fulton County HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care & Policy Committee, which met Wednesday in Midtown.

“They plan on investing $215 million a year into this program,” Graham said at the meeting. “If they actually invested only $213 million a year, but expanded Medicaid as called for under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, they could actually cover half a million people. It would actually cost them less to cover more, and it is a political decision.”

“It is not a fiscally-conservative program,” added Melanie Thompson, a Fulton HIV committee member and principal investigator for the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta. 

There’s also a work requirement under the Medicaid waiver that could cause people with HIV to be kicked off the plan, according to Graham. People would have to work a minimum of 80 hours per month to remain eligible for benefits.

“I am extremely concerned that these issues will have a disproportionate impact on people with chronic medical conditions such as HIV that may prevent holding steady employment 12 months out of the year,” he told Project Q Atlanta.

Graham was also concerned that a private insurance waiver plan proposed by Kemp would introduce poor healthcare plans into the marketplace.

“They will allow sub-standard plans to be put out onto the market and encourage people to go to insurance brokers instead of navigators that are helping people get insurance that they need," he said at Wednesday's meeting. "They would send people to brokers that have an incentive to send people to specific companies."

“This could allow companies to restrict access to medications such as those offered for PrEP,” he told Project Q.

Graham asked people to review Kemp’s healthcare plans and submit comments to the state about them through coverga.org. The state is accepting comments through Dec. 3. It will then submit the healthcare plans for approval to the Georgia Department of Community Health. Then the plans will go on to the federal government for final approval, according to Graham. Another comment period will open up after the first of the year.

Kemp signed two bills into law this year that address the state’s HIV epidemic. One establishes hypodermic syringe and needle exchange programs to reduce HIV. The other creates a pilot program to provide PrEP to people at high risk of contracting HIV.