The Senate health care bill just released Thursday does not bode well for many Georgians. Our rural communities will be some of the most impacted by the proposed cuts to Medicaid, higher premiums and reduced consumer protections.
So many rural communities are already facing the devastating impacts of hospital closures or cuts to services. Pregnant people are particularly vulnerable, and pregnancy complications can become life threatening when the nearest labor-and-delivery ward is forty miles away or more.
In a state with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the nation, as well as one of the highest rates of preterm births, Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue need to seriously consider the impact this bill will have on the health of pregnant people in our families and communities.
The Senate health care bill — which they are dubbing the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BRCA) — promotes the same troubling health care policy changes seen in the House’s version. But it doesn’t matter if it’s called the BRCA, the AHCA or Trumpcare, taking away consumer protections and making deep cuts to Medicaid will only exacerbate the health care challenges faced in Georgia’s rural communities.
Many rural communities are reeling from hospitals shutting down or shuttering their maternal care wards and do not have enough OB/GYNs (and other primary care providers) to provide care to pregnant people and deliver babies. Without adequate access to health care, many people in rural communities are contending with unmanaged chronic health conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure or depression, which may only worsen with pregnancy.
Atlanta Magazine recently highlighted the work of rural obstetrician Dr. Joy Baker, who serves an eight county region from a local hospital based in Thomaston, Ga., located about an hour west of Macon. At times she sees over 40 patients a day, in an area where at least a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line.
Baker has been at the hospital since 7:30 a.m., and by lunchtime she will have also performed a laparoscopic surgery, delivered a baby via C-section, induced labor for a pregnant patient who was past her due date, and checked in on a mom who delivered the day before.
Baker admits she sometimes struggles, wishing for more resources. “I can certainly understand why someone would say: ‘I just can’t do it. It’s too much,’” she says, of working in a small place like Thomaston. “You have to be a very tenacious person to survive out here. You can’t take no for an answer. Because these women are phenomenal, and they deserve a voice. They deserve the same level of care as anybody else.”
Dr. Baker’s patients rely on her to provide quality care through pregnancy complications and help ensure a healthy delivery — for both the mom and the baby. When pregnant people in rural parts of our state are already struggling to get adequate care — before, during and after a pregnancy — then our policymakers need to be working towards solutions that protect critical access to healthcare, instead of stripping it away.
As the article notes, as many as, “80 percent of patients in south Georgia are insured through Medicaid, compared to just 10 percent in north metro Atlanta.” Rural communities already have a dire healthcare situation, cuts to Medicaid will only exacerbate these problems.
Protect Our Care Georgia has launched this easy to use tool to contact your Senators and tell them why they need to oppose a health care plan that cuts Medicaid funding, raises premiums and reduces consumer protections. Our rural healthcare is already in crisis and this bill will only make it worse.
In the words of Dr. Ben Spitalnick, president of the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Cuts now would cripple rural Georgia.”
Call Sen. Johnny Isakson at his DC office at (202) 224-3643 or his Atlanta-area office at (770) 661-0999.
Sen. David Perdue can be reached at his DC office at (202) 224-3521 or at his Atlanta office (404) 865-0087.