Jeff’s Positions

End Benefits Cliffs

Strict income limits for government assistance are often called “benefit cliffs.” As soon as an individual’s or family’s income reaches a set limit, benefits are completely cut off. It is not uncommon for people who go from unemployment to work, or even those who get small raises, to lose benefits which far exceed their income increases. These benefit cliff’s trap people in poverty. 

Government policy should encourage people to work and advance. Benefit cliffs do the opposite. They actually discourage people from working and penalize advancement. They trap people in poverty by discouraging them from earning more money when earning more money would cost them benefits which exceed their increased pay. Many benefits programs from Women, Infant, and Children (WIC)nutritional benefits to PeachCare for Kids, have strict income cutoffs. These cutoffs could cause families to end up financially behind if they accept a promotion, work greater hours, or take a second job. This fear of losing benefits can turn programs from springboards to self-sufficiency into chains. By phasing out the amount of assistance as incomes rise – rather than having them suddenly end – we can make it easier for beneficiaries to work their way off benefit rolls. This is truly a win – win situation. It will save the taxpayers money while more effectively improving the lives of lower-income Georgians.

Automatic Legitimation

In the state of Georgia, if a child is born to parents who are not legally married, the father does not automatically get paternal rights, but must petition the courts for legitimation. This is true even if the father is listed on the birth certificate. This forces fathers who want to do the right thing to either petition a court for legitimation or go through an adoption procedure to adopt their own child. In addition to being discriminatory, this policy creates thousands of additional cases that congest our already overburdened court system and makes it harder for a father to legally be a father. While supporters argue that this system encourages marriage and stable families, this is simply inaccurate. This hurdle discourages fathers from accepting their roles as fathers. It can force parents into unstable marriages because they cannot afford the legal fees for legitimation. Allowing for legitimation at the time of birth and automatic recognition of paternal rights would lift a significant burden from the court system, allow fathers to be fathers without having to go through a legal process, and encourage fathers to take responsibility for their children.

State Re-Insurance Program to Lower Health Insurance Premiums for All Georgians

State-based reinsurance programs provide insurance for insurance companies to offset the costs of enrolling higher risk patients. These programs have been used in other states to significantly lower the cost of health insurance premiums with those who pay full price for insurance receiving the largest benefits. These programs lower costs by reducing risk for insurers (the greater the risk, the greater the premiums), attracting new insurers (who compete by lowering prices), and by limited volatility in the market (which also drives up prices). These systems allow for more competition and better prices without requiring additional large government programs and, without a long and difficult transition periods.

Expand Medicaid
There is no single program that would help more Georgians than expansion of Medicaid. The recent expansion of post-partum Medicaid is an amazing start, but we cannot stop there. We must keep going and fully expand Medicaid. This would tangibly improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of Georgians living in poverty providing them an easier pathway to attain a better life.

Georgia is among the worst hit states for rural hospital closures and this expansion would also be instrumental in saving Georgia’s rural hospitals (nine have closed since 2010). Put in its simplest form: Hospitals are closing because patients without insurance cannot pay for services, and rural areas often do not have enough insured patients who can pay.

There is a common misconception that taxpayers already pay for medical care for uninsured patients. Georgians without health insurance are often unable to afford routine healthcare and medication. They are much more likely to use the emergency room as a substitute for routine healthcare, so they have far more emergency room visits than those with insurance. Of course, since they do not have insurance, they generally are unable to pay for the emergency room services. Hospitals must either absorb those costs and lose money, or pass them on to other patients through higher costs of treatment.

Just as one example of a benefit from Medicaid expansion, when Kentucky expanded Medicaid, the treatment for substance abuse increased by 700%. Less drug abuse would mean more Georgians working and supporting their families, and less crime to support drug addiction.

Georgia misses out on $3 billion of Federal dollars each year due to its failure to expand Medicaid. This money could help stabilize our rural healthcare system, reduce insurance costs for insured Georgians, and improve and expand the availability of healthcare throughout the state. It would create 64,000 new good-paying jobs for Georgians.

Expansion of Medicaid then becomes not simply a moral issue of helping those among us with the least, but an economic issue that in the long run saves money and lives, and creates jobs.

Work with State Agriculture Commission and USDA to Allow Sale of Feral Hog Meat
Feral hogs are found in all 159 of Georgia’s counties and present a threat to people, the environment and agriculture. While there is currently no bag limit for these dangerous invasive animals, the regulations on the use of the meat that are wasteful and illogical. These regulations prevent the donation of feral hog meat in the same way that excess deer meat can be donated. This represents a waste of thousands of pounds of meat and creates disincentives to the hunting of this dangerous invasive species. By creating a system for the testing, processing, and donation of hogs we could make it easier for individuals to help correct the problem. This meat would be donated to foodbanks and shelters, and it could be used in culinary arts training programs around the state. This is a win-win for hunters and environmentalists, and it will enhance jobs skills training programs across Georgia.

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