A national battle over whether to extend public health insurance to low-income adults is at the center of a tightly contested gubernatorial race in Georgia, where hospitals and drug stores are closing across the Republican-controlled state's rural southern and western counties.
Georgia is one of eight states that opted not to expand Medicaid and will choose a new governor this year. Brian Kemp, the two-term GOP secretary of state, and Stacey Abrams, a former Democratic leader in the legislature, are competing in a race that mirrors the polarizing nature of health care in the country. Kemp opposes broadening the scope of Medicaid, while Abrams is for it. Medicaid expansion is a key feature of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
In Georgia, low-income residents have experienced high unemployment, a shortage of health care providers and long commutes to get proper care in a state opposed to Medicaid expansion. But an obstacle for Abrams is persuading rural voters, who associate Medicaid expansion with Obamacare, which they perceive negatively.
It's a potential hurdle for Democrats nationwide this fall. Democratic candidates stumping on health care have a solid chance of picking up seats in a number of legislatures. But in statewide elections where more conservative, white voters are a significant portion of the electorate, the party could face an uphill battle.