GAINESVILLE - A small group of activists attended a congressional hearing on the new health care law which was held in Gainesville Monday in hopes of being able to testify about the need for Medicaid expansion in Georgia, key element of the law but something Gov. Nathan Deal has said would be too expensive for the state to implement.
"We believe by expanding Medicaid we would be able to help those people who fall in the gap," said DeLane Adams, communications director for the Georgia AFL-CIO. "When it comes to health care, it's a non-partisan issue."
Adams and the others weren't able to testify since the schedule was set in advance. A committee spokeswoman, Caitlin Carroll, said Democrats who sit on the committee could have attended and also selected witnesses to testify. The only congressional representatives at the hearing were Republicans.
Testimony at the hearing and comments by committee members were highly critical of the law and President Obama. (See separate story.)
In a statement issued ahead of Monday's hearing, Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, ranking member of the committee, said House Republicans have made it clear they have no interest in making improvements.
"Rather than engaging in a destructive political exercise with the ultimate goal of tearing down the Affordable Care Act, promoting misinformation, and eliminating health insurance for tens of millions of people, the committee should support constructive efforts to help educate and assist families who urgently need medical care and now have a chance to obtain it," Cummings said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says 94 percent of Georgia's uninsured and eligible population, or about 1.5 million residents, would qualify either for tax credits or Medicaid if the state expanded the program. The department also says 3,726 Georgia residents with pre-existing conditions have already gained coverage due to the law.