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Warnock tells story of late Newton resident in push to expand Medicaid
Lorie Davis
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., speaks in the Senate Chamber in Washington Thursday next to a photo of the late Lorie Davis of Newton County. (Special | U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock)

WASHINGTON — A late Newton County resident was in the spotlight on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday.

Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., continued a “Medicaid Saves Lives” series of floor speeches with one featuring Lorie Davis, a Newton County resident who died in September. 

It was part of Warnock's effort to convince the Senate to expand Medicaid in an upcoming economic package. 

Warnock said in a speech Thursday, Aug. 5, that Davis worked as a trauma nurse at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta before being diagnosed with pelvic adhesive disease — which pushed her to leave her nursing job, Warnock said. 

“The chronic pain associated with this condition eventually pushed her to leave the nursing profession. After that, while also working to manage her own chronic condition, Lorie struggled to maintain steady employment in the restaurant industry," Warnock said.

“Health care professional. No longer able to serve in her profession as trauma nurse, working as hard as she could in the restaurant industry. She believed in working. She understood the dignity of work." 

During this time Davis, who lived in Covington with her husband, Bob, could not afford health insurance but made too much to qualify for Medicaid, Warnock said. 

“She made too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other insurance plans," he said.

“While in this limbo, Lorie had to wait many years for her Social Security disability claim to be adjudicated, and she finally qualified for benefits in 2017.

“But even then, she was unable to qualify for Medicaid because of her and Bob’s combined marital income. And this left Lorie in the coverage gap. Unable to purchase coverage because it was financially out of reach.

“Lorie went without health insurance for years, relying on her own medical training, and free health care clinics, to treat her chronic condition.

“Then, in August 2020, Lorie began feeling ill. Her condition got noticeably worse. Fearful of costs, she delayed seeking health care.

“Unable to follow the advice that she no doubt had provided to other patients: seek healthcare early — many things are preventable if you can get there earlier rather than later. She was not able to follow her own advice."

He said in the next month — September 2020 — she was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.

“While there, she learned, sadly, that she had lung cancer — a treatable condition had she received an earlier diagnosis.

“Put together, it was too much. On Sept. 17, 2020, Lorie passed away," he said. “This is the human face of our public policy. These are the tragic casualties of the games that politicians play."

“As a pastor, I am praying for Lorie’s family as they mourn her unspeakable and perhaps unnecessary loss and the legacy she left behind.

“As a senator who believes that health care is a human right, a sacred obligation, I refuse to stop fighting until Georgians like Lorie Davis have access to the care that they need — when they need it."

Warnock also urged the Senate to pass his new legislation, the Medicaid Saves Lives Act, as part of the forthcoming economic package the Senate is working on.

The legislation would provide the same full benefits of Medicaid and cover the nearly 500,000 uninsured Georgians and 4.4 million uninsured Americans in non-expansion states, he said. 

Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that, together with the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), provides health coverage to more than 72.5 million Americans. It is the single largest source of health coverage in the U.S.    

To participate in Medicaid, federal law requires states to cover certain groups of individuals. Low-income families, qualified pregnant women and children, and individuals receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI) are examples of mandatory eligibility groups.

The Affordable Care Act of 2010 allowed states to expand Medicaid to cover nearly all low-income Americans under age 65. Eligibility for children was extended to at least 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL) in every state and states were given the option to extend eligibility to adults with income at or below 133% of the FPL. 

Warnock encouraged his colleagues to pass his “life-saving” legislation, and to consider the faces of people— like Lorie Davis — behind the Senate’s policy making.

In his remarks, Warnock said Davis' story is just one of the many examples of under- or uninsured low-income Americans being denied affordable health care because they live in Georgia or one of the 11 other states that had not expanded Medicaid.

“As members of this body, we should be ashamed that in the richest nation in the world, a country with all of our resources, all of our medical technology that some citizens would choose not to seek treatment – even when they know better – because they fear they cannot afford the price tag of life-saving care.”