Southerners Call on Senate and Biden Administration to Back Newly Unveiled U.S. House Coverage Gap Plan

September 10, 2021

Contact: Cindy Ji
(973) 229-8429

Southerners Call on Senate and Biden Administration to Back Newly Unveiled U.S. House Coverage Gap Plan

Yesterday the U.S. House unveiled a plan that would provide a comprehensive and permanent health coverage solution for Americans in the “coverage gap” in the states that have not expanded Medicaid. Advocates across the South commend this step forward and now urge Senate leaders and the White House to embrace this proposal in the final version of the Build Back Better reconciliation package.

“For far too long, low-income Black, Latino, and Asian Americans have been denied basic, life-saving health care,” says Kinika Young, Senior Director of Health Policy and Advocacy at Tennessee Justice Center. “This is a momentous first step to right a wrong that has locked 2.2 million Americans out of our health care system. More than 70 percent are from working families, and more than half are people of color.”

These Americans are trapped in the Medicaid coverage gap: they don’t qualify for Medicaid under their state’s rules and they make too little to receive financial help to purchase coverage on the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.

“Among Congress’ key health care priorities, this is the only policy that benefits Americans who are all living below the poverty line, who are 60% Black, Latino, or Asian American, and have no realistic path to health care coverage,” says Sadaf Knight, CEO of Florida Policy Institute. “Failure is not an option.”

“Southern states’ inaction on Medicaid expansion has exacerbated health inequities in our communities for a decade,” says Laura Colbert, Executive Director of Georgians for a Healthy Future. “The House’s proposal to close the coverage gap says to millions of uninsured Southerners that someone cares about them and that they have not been forgotten. We are grateful for the House’s thoughtful work to put forward a permanent and comprehensive plan, and urge the Senate and the White House to follow with the same urgency and compassion." 

Despite a decade of advocacy, support from a majority of state residents, and overwhelming evidence that expanding Medicaid leads to significant improvements in coverage, health outcomes, and financial security, state leaders remain steadfast in their purely political opposition to expansion. Communities of color could suffer without health insurance for another decade or more unless Congress takes bold action, similar to other fights for racial justice both past and present.

The U.S. House’s proposal works in two phases: first, it connects Americans in the coverage gap from non-expansion states to subsidized health plans on the Marketplace from 2022 to 2024 while the Biden administration develops a Medicaid program just for this group. Beginning in 2025, these Americans would transition to the new Medicaid program.

The proposal follows calls to close America’s coverage gap from national civil rights groups, advocacy from the Congressional Black Caucus and Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and a joint letter to Congressional leadership endorsed by nearly 200 organizations across the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid.

“This is a necessary step to address maternal mortality, mental health, and the wealth gapissues that have disproportionately devastated communities of color,” says Laura Guerra-Cardus, Deputy Director of Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. “Leaving the South behind means leaving poor people of color behind. We commend the House’s leadership and now call on Senate leadership and the Biden administration to back this proposal. It is a test of their commitment to racial justice.”