The 2016 Legislative Session
The legislative session was a period of firsts for me. One first was being able to be a part of and also witness the myriad of activities that takes place within such a short time span. Various groups and various agendas are in play and everyone wants to take action so that things may happen in their favor. This is a crucial time in Georgia’s healthcare future because of the Medicaid Expansion discussion and the if, when, and how it may be executed. As a part of Healthy Students Taking Action Together, we are on the side of expansion and filling the Medicaid “Gap” in order to increase healthcare coverage for all Georgians.
I helped predominantly with advocacy and looking into what it takes to get someone in a position of influence to listen to you. I learned it takes a combination of things such as planning, finesse, and even research. Getting someone to invest their time and effort and hopefully their passion and belief into a cause is very difficult, but not impossible. I also learned, that things take time and persistence to happen. I came into this experience thinking that everything is a straightforward process and there will be issues addressed, then planned for, and then finally resolved. This unfortunately is not how things happen in session and especially not in the case of the Medicaid expansion issue, which is predicted to be an ongoing struggle for some years to come.
I was able to be apart of the H-STAT’s approach through compiling statistical information about the Medicaid gap and what expansion could and should mean for Georgians who are in need of coverage. I was able to use this information for the Candlelight Vigil in which we heard passionate stories from medical professionals. I was able to use during the advocacy training provided by H-STAT in which future medical professionals are trained on what issues they will be facing in the near future and what they can do to better help the people they will be serving.
I was able to visit the capitol building various times during the session. The capitol is a multi-level building of controlled chaos on every floor. During the session, I was inside of the Golden dome building more than I had ever been before. From ground level to top floor it was full of people and activity, everyone talking to someone and moving in and out of offices and great rooms. It seemed as if every person in there was taking part in a crucial conversation about something very important that would go on to shape the future. While there, I was able to talk with my district representative, Senator Michael Rhett, and share with him who I was and what I thought was important. Surprisingly enough, I found out he is the first African-American resident to be elected to the state senate from Cobb county and he would go on to propose an alternative Medicaid Exapansion plan that ended up getting time on the discussion floor.
I took part in a conversation that was held with Senator Marty Harbin on H-STAT’s Medicaid expansion concerns. This was also a rewarding experience because I got to see first hand what it is like to attempt to lobby a certain position on an issue and what type of information is need in order for a message of what is wanted to come across clearly.
Lastly, I was tasked with keeping with other legislative session issues that were healthcare related and proposed to the state senate. This was in order to keep H-STAT up to date on current issues and how they might relate to H-STAT’s overall mission of keeping all Georgians healthy and informed.
This past legislative session I learned a lot about working together with people, working for a just cause, and pushing for results. The legislative session is a busy time but a productive time in which people are working for the betterment of people. Words are exchanged, allegiances are formed, documents are drafted and signed, and changes are implemented. Not only did I witness all these things as they happened, but I was a part of them.