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Rural areas, already short on health resources, face enrollment hitches

Virginia Anderson, Kaiser Health News on

Published in Health & Fitness

And while the need for insurance is high in the state, Georgia lawmakers have been resistant to the federal health law. Georgia, like 18 other Republican-leaning states, refused to expand Medicaid, as the law allowed. The Legislature also prohibited the state from employing navigators to help enroll consumers.

Ammons, who is from rural Georgia, said he lies awake at night wondering how to reach people who need health insurance.

"I don't know what I can do to help these uninsured people," he said, adding that "for a brief moment, I thought 'We can't even do this.' "

That was the night he learned, in an email, that Insure Georgia's funding had been cut from $2.3 million to $328,000.

Ammons said he realized that he would have to lay off full-time employees. He said he also figured out that he would have to cut back on navigators that Insure Georgia typically hired short term for open enrollment.

Next, he cut every non-personnel line item he could, which meant terminating leases and closing offices. The group found donated space in Vidalia, in central Georgia, and in Brunswick, a port city near Savannah. But that leaves the southwestern portion of the state, an especially poor area of Georgia, without a nearby office.

Ammons said that other nonprofit groups have donated money that will allow Insure Georgia representatives to travel to 500 community enrollment events across the state. While Insure Georgia held more than 1,500 community events last year in all of Georgia's 159 counties, his goal is more modest this year.

"We want to at least be in every county with a Walmart," he said.

Jeri Trawick said she is worried for herself and for thousands of other Georgians.

To help with enrollment efforts, the Trawicks on Nov. 6 will be serving something else along with their homemade food at Ms. Stella's in Eatonton.

"We're going to have an open enrollment event, with a navigator here, from 10 until 6," she said. "And I'll be the first one in line."

(Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.)

(c)2017 Kaiser Health News

Visit Kaiser Health News at www.khn.org

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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