Warnock pushes Medicaid expansion as equity issue amid Democrats’ health care battle

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.)
Greg Nash

Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) implored his colleagues to include legislation expanding Medicaid as his party works quickly to craft its sweeping social benefit and climate spending plan, branding the measure as a means to advance equity in the nation’s health care system.

“In my home state of Georgia, there are 275,000 Georgians in the coverage gap — this is an equity issue — 47 percent of whom are Black, 9 percent of are Latino, and 63 percent are working families,” Warnock said in remarks before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday. 

“We need to remember the faces of those who are affected by the policies we choose to create and not create,” he said. “The human costs of the policy work we do here in the Senate. There are real consequences for real people when we fail to do what we were sent here to do.”

His comments come as Democrats have been hard at work trying to finish a massive spending package that they seek to use to unlock funding for paid family leave, universal pre-kindergarten, climate effort, expansions to Medicare and Medicaid, as well as affordable housing. 

However, as moderates have voiced concerns about the plan’s size, leadership has been working in recent weeks to trim down proposed spending levels for the partisan bill, which will likely need the support of almost every Democratic House member and all of the Democratic senators in order to pass Congress.

Among some of the divisions that remain among lawmakers includes disagreements over legislation that would expand Medicaid coverage to the dozen Republican-led states that have rejected it. The proposal has also had competition with another measure that would expand Medicare coverage to include hearing, vision and dental benefits.

“As we debate whether and how to expand health care coverage here in the Senate, lives are literally caught in the cross hairs,” said Warnock, whose state is one of the 12 states that have turned away the Medicaid coverage.

More than 2 million people are estimated to be in the coverage gap in those states, including thousands in Georgia.

In his testimony on Wednesday, Warnock said he’s not “asking for additional benefits for Georgia or better coverage for those in Georgia or those in the 11 other non-expansion states.”

“I am asking for basic fairness and equity. I am asking especially that we give the working poor – because largely that’s who we are talking about in the coverage gap – give the working poor a chance,” he said.

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