Columnist: “Bad Deal for Georgia” • Celia Murray
Gov. Nathan Deal announced last week that he will not accept the expansion of Medicaid provided by the Affordable Care Act. At least six other Republican governors, including Florida’s Rick Scott, have made the opposite
decision for their states.
Medicaid provides healthcare coverage for some, but not nearly all, of the poor. Currently, poor children and pregnant women are covered, but most adults don’t qualify. One group of adults that does benefit is the elderly poor; a large percentage of nursing home care is provided through Medicaid.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), all Americans, regardless of age and parental status, will qualify for coverage if they are poor (making less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line) and if their states opt in to the program. The federal government would cover 100 percent of the costs of the Medicaid expansion for the first three years and at least 90 percent of the costs thereafter (currently, the states pay 50-75 percent of Medicaid costs).
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 22 percent of Georgians currently have no health insurance – the seventh highest rate in the nation. Medicaid expansion under the ACA would provide coverage for 620,000 of those Georgians.
The consequences of Gov. Deal’s decision are enormous and not just for the uninsured. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Georgia hospitals lose an estimated $1.5 billion every year caring for the poor and uninsured. The rest of us pay for that care – an estimated $1,000 per year more in premiums to make up for hospital losses.
Jack Bernard, former chairman on the Jasper County Republican Party and a retired healthcare executive, is in favor of the expansion. Bernard points out that without the Medicaid expansion, “more local tax money will be required to fund public hospitals that serve the indigent population. When Obamacare (ACA) was first passed, it was known that governmental (Medicare) hospital reimbursements would go down as part of the law. However, hospitals were told that these decreases were to be offset by having Medicaid cover patients who were currently being served but not paid for by private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.”
Additional federal money means rural hospitals that might otherwise be forced to close their doors would remain open. Those hospitals provide jobs and help to attract outside industry.
Georgia State University economist Bill Custer finds the Medicaid expansion would bring $40 billion into the Georgia economy in the first 10 years, which would have the effect of boosting the state’s economic output by an average of $8.2 billion per year. It would also, Custer estimates, create more than 70,000 new jobs. With Georgia’s ninth-highest unemployment rate, we need those jobs and the additional $267 million a year in state and local taxes they’ll generate.
With the Governor’s decision, billions of tax dollars will be flowing out of Georgia to support healthcare in other states – none of it will be flowing back in. That’s a bad deal for Georgia.
Celia Murray is a member of the Morgan County Democratic Committee.
Printed in the March 7, 2013 edition