ICYMI: Senator Reverend Warnock Brings North Georgia Nurse to State of the Union, Reiterates Call to Expand Medicaid for Over 600,000 Georgians

At last week’s State of the Union address, Senator Reverend Warnock invited Heather Payne, a Dalton, Georgia resident who fell into the Medicaid coverage gap while working as a traveling nurse

In the fall of 2022, Heather suffered a series of small strokes, which forced her to stop caring for others as an emergency room or labor and delivery nurse

In his speech, President Biden highlighted the life-saving impact of the Affordable Care Act and his intent to protect and expand the landmark legislation

Senator Reverend Warnock has long championed Medicaid expansion: He was arrested in 2014 protesting the Georgia’s refusal to expand Medicaid and introduced a federal fix to close the coverage gap

 Senator Reverend Warnock to Chattanooga News 9: “Call your state legislator and tell them to expand Medicaid. I’ve done the work here at the federal level, we need partners at the state level. Georgia is 1 of only 10 states, what does that tell you? There are blue states and red states that have expanded”

The Senator and Heather also spoke to Atlanta News First, The Dalton Daily Citizen and WTOC Savannah

View photos from Heather’s visit to the Capitol as Senator Warnock’s State of the Union guest HERE

Washington D.C. — Last week, U.S. Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock (D-GA) invited North Georgia resident and nurse Heather Payne as his guest to the State of the Union address to highlight the moral urgency of Medicaid expansion in Georgia. Heather, a Dalton, Georgia resident and traveling nurse, fell into the Medicaid coverage gap following a series of small strokes in 2022. Due to health complications that followed, she has been unable to continue working.

Senator Warnock and Heather spoke with Chattanooga News 9, highlighting Heather as one of the over 640,000 Georgians in the health care coverage gap as state leaders continue to refuse to expand Medicaid. Her story underscores the urgency to finally close the health care gap and expand Medicaid in Georgia.

During the State of the Union address, President Biden emphasized his intent to strengthen and expand the Affordable Care Act. The President also endorsed Senator Warnock’s push for a universal insulin cost cap; the Senator has a bipartisan bill with Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) that would cap out-of-pocket insulin costs at $35 a month for insured and uninsured patients. 

Read key excerpts from Senator Warnock and Heather Payne’s Chattanooga News 9 interview below:

Chattanooga News 9: Dalton nurse a guest of Georgia Sen. Warnock at State of the Union

  • Senator WarnockThe State of the Union is about the conditions of the country at large, but how are just ordinary people doing? I’m proud to have as my guest, Heather from Dalton, Georgia. She’s an emergency room nurse, a traveling nurse, who has spent her career providing health care to those most in need, and ironically, tragically, when she found she had a health condition herself, a series of strokes, she was without health care, and that is a story you could repeat many times in Georgia.”
  • Josh Roe, Chattanooga News 9 anchor: “Heather if you could, explain a little bit about your experience and struggles with health care coverage.”
  • Heather Payne: “I was an ER traveling nurse for over a decade, you are considered a contract employee, sometimes you have health care and other times, what you are offered may be too expensive.”
  • Heather Payne: “In 2022, at a period of time, when I didn’t have coverage, […] I started having some symptoms, headache, difficulty swallowing. […] and because I didn’t have coverage at that time, I saved up money to follow up with the Neurologist. […] Eventually I was diagnosed with having a series of small strokes. It left me unable to nurse.”   
  • Heather Payne: “I applied for benefits, but I fall into the coverage gap, it can take years to get covered by things. I think Senator Warnock realizes that there is a human cost to this. While people wait for coverage, wait to afford things, they are sickening and dying.”
  • Heather Payne: “What I want people to understand, I am not atypical, this could happen to you.”
  • Josh Roe, Chattanooga News 9 anchor: “Thank you for sharing that story. Senator what would the policy pitch be at this point?”
  • Senator WarnockCall your state legislator and tell them to expand Medicaid. I’ve done the work here at the federal level, we need partners at the state level. Georgia is 1 of only 10 states, what does that tell you? There are blue states and red states who have expanded because it makes sense.”
  • Senator WarnockIn the meantime, I am proud of the ways I continue to fight for ordinary Georgians. […] I now have a bipartisan piece of legislation that would cap insulin for everybody, people with insurance, people without insurance. Insulin should not be expensive.”

Read key excerpts from Senator Warnock and Heather Payne’s article in The Dalton Daily Citizen below:

Dalton Daily Citizen: Dalton woman at center of Warnock’s Medicaid expansion efforts

  • Heather Payne: “Sometimes I had healthcare, sometimes I did not. It was very easy to fall in the gap, sometimes, states that you’re working in don’t take your healthcare — typically, the options I had were between $550 to $1,200 a month, which was just too much for me.”
  • Senator Warnock: “We’ve had the Affordable Care Act on the books now for more than a decade, Georgia is one of only 10 states that’s refusing to expand Medicaid. This is not about politics, this is about people — here’s a woman who has spent her life and career providing healthcare for others, serving as an emergency nurse, and when it came time for her to get healthcare, she couldn’t afford it.”
  • Senator Warnock: “When I came to the Senate, I was able to convince my colleagues to put $1.2 billion of added incentives in a piece of legislation to further incentivize Georgia to expand Medicaid, and sadly, our legislature so far has left that $1.2 billion sitting on the table.”
  • Heather Payne: “I’ve seen this happen to my patients and it’s happened to me, I’ve provided care for people for over a decade and now I don’t have the care that I need.”

Read key excerpts from Senator Warnock and Heather Payne’s interview in WTOC Savannah below:

WTOC Savannah

  • WTOC Savannah anchor: “Senator Warnock’s guest to the State of the Union is Heather Payne, a travel nurse from Dalton, Georgia […] He is hoping to highlight her story to demonstrate the urgency to passing health care coverage extensions.”
  • Senator Warnock: “We’re looking at the urgency right now – Heather – this is what this is about. There are some 646,000 Georgian who are in the health care coverage gap. That means that Georgia has not taken advantage of the taxes that we’re already paying. We are literally subsidizing health care in other states, while Georgians like Heather, ironically a travel nurse, without health care.”