Warnock pushes for Medicaid expansion amid tough reelection battle

Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Georgia) is making a last-ditch effort to add a provision that would expand Medicaid in Republican-led holdout states to the sweeping Democrats’ voting package in the coming days.

Warnock is making the push as he faces a tough re-election race in November and seeks to highlight an issue that could give him a foot in the race against Republican Herschel Walker, a former NFL player.

The Georgia senator says he plans to introduce an amendment to Democrats’ massive health, climate and tax package, which went to vote as soon as this weekend, to expand Medicaid into 12 states that still refuse to do so, including Georgia.

The effort faces long odds given that Democrats have already reached agreement on the package, and Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.), a key vote, has raised concerns about the topic in the past.

But even if the amendment does not pass, the fight for it could give Democrats a political boost and contrast with Republicans.

“It’s a winning cause,” said Charles Bullock, a professor of political science at the University of Georgia, noting that polls show a majority of Georgians support the policy.

University of Georgia last year’s poll 64.5 percent of Georgians found the state should expand Medicaid, compared with 19.7 percent who opposed it and 15.8 percent who said they didn’t know.

Bullock said the “challenge” for Democrats is to get voters to focus on popular issues like Medicaid expansion and not on economic headwinds or the price of gasoline.

Walker’s position on Medicaid expansion is unclear, although most Republican lawmakers oppose the policy, which was created under the Affordable Care Act, a long-running source of Republican contempt. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

there Approximately 2.2 million people are falling through the cracks and unable to access health coverage through Medicaid, the state health insurance program for the poor, in 12 Republican-led states that have refused to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. That number includes 269,000 people in Georgia alone, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The Warnock amendment would make these people eligible for health coverage by allowing them to access financial assistance to purchase insurance in the Affordable Care Act markets for three years, at a cost of nearly $50 billion.

Warnock, who has advocated expanding Medicaid for years, said Thursday that the people in the so-called “coverage gap” are “the working poor and deserve care.”

“I will continue to fight for us to close the coverage gap,” he said. “And if I have to present it as a modification in the hall, I am willing to do so.”

A Warnock spokesperson said he “may” call for a vote on his amendment, although that is not consistent. The vote would force Republicans to sign up against the policy, but could also highlight Democratic divisions if Manchin were to vote No.

A Manchin spokesman did not respond to a request for comment, but it is widely seen as an obstacle among Democrats to inclusion in the policy. he has express his concerns In the past it has been about unwillingness to provide more federal assistance to the holdout states than the already expanded states received.

“I don’t know exactly how the amendment process will go,” said Jim Manley, a former aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Neff). “There are still some decisions to be made. But as a strategist for the Democratic Party, I certainly hope Republicans will try to pull this off, because it would make a great campaign advert. [Warnock] and for others. ”

at Warnock slight driving More than Walker in polls, according to FiveThirtyEight average. Walker also faced a series of controversies, Including reports About his three additional children he had never discussed publicly before.

But in a republican country like Georgia, with President Biden facing lagging approval rates and inflation challenges, highlighting issues like health care could help give Democrats a boost. Running against Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act helped enable Democrats to score midterm victories in 2018.

Warnock is also touting other elements of the Democrats’ package, including measures included in the bill to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices and cap the cost of insulin at $35 a month.

The drug pricing provisions that passed would be big wins for Democrats, who have been lobbying for years to allow Medicare to negotiate prices.

But the absence of expanding Medicaid to all 50 states will still leave a gap in the Affordable Care Act.

“In the near term, we’re pushing hard to see this win in the Senate,” said Frederic Essai, executive director of Families USA Healthcare Consumer Advocacy Group. “If it doesn’t, it will immediately become one of the major issues in the midterm elections.”

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