U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra visited Georgia on Monday amid a battle between state officials and federal Democrats over expanding Medicaid.
Becerra was joined by high-profile Democratic politicians including Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and U.S. Reps. Carolyn Bourdeaux, Lucy McBath and Nikema Williams.
During his trip, Becerra hosted roundtables with community leaders to hear firsthand the health care issues plaguing Georgians. From Atlanta to Norcross, advocates described racial disparities in medical services, told stories of poor maternal health and voiced support of expanding Medicaid to cover more people.
But Medicaid expansion in Georgia is unlikely, as Republican state officials and lawmakers have refused to take the option to expand insurance for poor adults under the Affordable Care Act.
Gov. Brian Kemp has instead offered his own partial expansion plan to the federal government, which is under review by Becerra’s agency. But the Biden administration has already rejected aspects of the proposal, suggesting that the plan will not get federal approval.
Georgia had the third highest uninsured population prior to the pandemic. The Peach State is one of 12 states that have chosen not to expand the federal health care program.
While at a meeting in Atlanta, Becerra said he is open to working with the state on its proposal but didn’t offer optimism about the outcome.