ATLANTA – Georgia health-care advocates are expressing disappointment in the low enrollment numbers being reported for the limited Medicaid expansion program the state launched in July.

The state Department of Community Health predicted the Georgia Pathways to Coverage program would eventually serve up to 345,000 Georgians, including an estimated 100,000 during its first year. However, the agency reported this week that only about 1,300 have signed up for coverage.

“Georgia has already invested about $20 million in state funds to launch the Pathways to Coverage program and earmarked another $118 million for the current fiscal year,” said Leah Chan, director of health justice for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. “These low initial enrollment numbers do not match the large-scale investment made thus far.”

“Medicaid expansion would be a more effective way to meaningfully cover state residents and connect them to care,” added Laura Colbert, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future.

Under Georgia Pathways, Georgia residents between the ages of 19 and 64 with household incomes up to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level are eligible for Medicaid coverage. The federal Medicaid program covers Americans with household incomes up to 138% of the poverty level, which is $30,000 a year for a family of four.

Recipients of Georgia Pathways coverage also must participate in at least 80 hours per month of “qualifying” activities, including work but also education, job training, or community service.

Health-care organizations and Democrats in the General Assembly have long advocated for a full Medicaid expansion. Many Republican-led states have taken that step, most recently North Carolina. The Tar Heel State, which has a Democratic governor but a Republican-controlled legislature, has announced plans to adopt the federal Medicaid program starting Dec. 1.

Kemp opposes Medicaid expansion for Georgia, arguing it would be too expensive. A spokesman for the governor said last summer there also are concerns that the federal government won’t be able to sustain indefinitely the 90-cents-on-the-dollar match it currently provides states that fully expand Medicaid.