Atlanta News First

ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Two U.S. lawmakers want answers on why thousands of Georgia children lost healthcare coverage in 2023.

In a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff and U.S. House of Representatives Congresswoman Lucy McBath said they have “grave concerns” after they say over 149,000 children lost their healthcare coverage from March to September last year. The two lawmakers also said hundreds of thousands of Georgians were disenrolled from Medicaid and haven’t been able to reenroll “due to the state’s mismanagement of Medicaid redetermination.”

“This catastrophic outcome results from the state’s decision to disenroll entire Georgia households from Medicaid, in violation of federal requirements that children and other eligible Georgians be auto-enrolled at the individual level,” the letter states. “In August 2023, Georgia reported that the state had failed to follow federal requirements and ‘household members with different eligibility statuses’ were affected.”

Georgia’s Department of Human Services, Ossoff and McBath claim in the letter, is failing to efficiently reenroll healthcare coverage for those affected. The two lawmakers said this is leaving a large number of Georgians without health coverage.

“The State of Georgia has a responsibility to manage programs correctly to serve the people of Georgia and is currently failing to do so,” the letter states. “Your administration must take immediate corrective action.”

In response to the letter, Garrison Douglas, a spokesperson with Kemp’s office, said it is “extremely disheartening that Ossoff and McBath “would offer nothing but misinformation and criticism of a process that they voted to initiate.”

“Contrary to their claim, Medicaid recipients are not waiting without health coverage until the redetermination process is complete. Furthermore, according to data provided by DHHS, Georgia does not place in even the top 10 states with the highest percentage of child Medicaid coverage losses, but 80% of those states who did, fully expanded Medicaid. Our state has taken considerable steps, including allocating $54 million in surge staff funding, to efficiently and effectively carry out the review process within the confines of federal guidance, and provide innovative alternatives through Georgia Pathways and Georgia Access for those who are no longer eligible for traditional Medicaid coverage,” Douglas said.

Kemp’s office said the state has taken and “continues to take steps to inform as many potentially impacted children and families as possible that they need to turn in their paperwork.” This was done through multiple mail, email and text attempts, TV and radio ads, social media outreach, among other methods, according to Kemp’s office.

Kemp’s office also said information is being shared the following:

  • Ongoing digital advertising and a social media outreach campaign which have reached 111 million impressions so far
  • Forging community partnerships and hosting community briefings to share information with and hear concerns from local service organizations and community leaders
  • A media outreach campaign that has resulted in more than 200 placements in outlets that reach millions of people per month
  • Outdoor advertising, including high-visibility billboards and bus stop signage
  • Direct mail sent to more than 130,000 difficult-to-reach Medicaid members across the state
  • Department of Human Services participation in baby fairs, public school gatherings and community events
  • Outreach to health care providers and clinics around the state to provide key information and resources to share with patients

There is also a special emphasis on reaching children through back-to-school events and communication with principals and educators, according to Kemp’s office.