Georgia governor on health plan: ‘We want to be treated fairly’

Gov. Nathan Deal took a cautious stance on the embattled Senate health bill Thursday, urging lawmakers not to “punish” Georgia and other states that didn’t expand their Medicaid program while stopping short of opposing the measure.

Deal said in an interview that he was concerned about changes to the Medicaid program that could leave the states to pick up the tab. But he said he wanted to reserve final judgment until Senate GOP leaders, hobbled by a wave of defections, reveal a new draft of the measure.

The two-term Republican said he’s expressed to home-state U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue many of the same reservations he had about a version of the House health plan, which would have rewarded states with more generous Medicaid funding.

“From a state standpoint, our main concern is our Medicaid program. As I have said before, we want to make sure we are not punished because we did not expand our Medicaid population,” he said, adding: “We want to be treated fairly.”

The Congressional Budget Office projections that were released Monday concluded the Senate bill would cut $772 billion from Medicaid and lead to 15 million fewer people receiving coverage under the program by 2026.

Georgia decided not to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, saying that enlarging the state’s rolls would be too costly in the long run. Georgia lawmakers in 2014 approved a measure that gives the Legislature the final say over any expansion to the Medicaid program.

The governor said the Senate bill appears to treat non-expansion states such as Georgia more favorably than the House plan, but he stressed that it’s still early. And he applauded provisions in the Senate measure that preserve funding to hospitals that treat indigent patients that benefits Grady Memorial Hospital and other health systems.

The CBO analysis found that those payments to hospitals in Georgia and other non-expansion states would increase by $19 billion over 10 years.

“We’re a long way from knowing what the final product is going to look like,” Deal said. “But those are the areas that I’m looking at most intently.”

Republican governors opposed to the Senate health measure have pressed their senators to buck the legislation over concerns that changes to Medicaid will leave cash-strapped states to foot the bill.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval have been among the most outspoken critics, both rejecting the measure in forceful terms. The pressure Sandoval exerted on his state’s GOP senator, Dean Heller, swayed the lawmaker to oppose the bill and led to a cascading effect that postponed a vote until July.

The GOP critics express concerns that the measure would penalize the poor and mentally ill, leave more than 23 million people off the insurance rolls and give tax breaks to the wealthy.

Senate leaders are set to make significant changes to sway wavering lawmakers, including conservatives who say the measure doesn’t go far enough in nixing spending mandates and moderates worried it would penalize the poor and mentally ill and give tax incentives to the wealthy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he would seek help from Democrats to rework the existing law if the GOP can’t cobble together an agreement. Democrats won’t negotiate unless Republicans abandon their plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Deal, for his part, joined the chorus of Republicans who said sweeping changes were needed to fix the Affordable Care Act. He said a “death knell is being sounded” for the law as premiums increase and insurance providers pull out of health exchange programs.

“There is a sense of urgency to do something about it. And some states are in a more desperate state than we are,” he said. “It’s not a crisis that’s being created by the current administration or the current Congress. It’s an outgrowth of what happened when Obamacare was originally passed.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Georgia Politics

Move for freer political speech divides Georgia’s religious community
Move for freer political speech divides Georgia’s religious community

It’s a regular ritual on Sundays before big votes: Candidates fan out to churches across the state, take prominent perches near the pulpit and receive warm applause from parishioners. And preachers inevitably shower them with kind words, though they stop short of much more lest they cross an invisible line. That’s exactly what happened...
Group blames low EPD funding for Georgia’s water pollution problems
Group blames low EPD funding for Georgia’s water pollution problems

Members of a group of clean water advocates said the General Assembly’s failure to fully fund the Environmental Protection Division is a recurring theme of the organization’s annual list of problematic waterways and policies. Joe Moore, a member of the Georgia Water Coalition, said the Legislature harms the state’s waterways when...
Georgia’s craft brewers would win big in Senate tax bill
Georgia’s craft brewers would win big in Senate tax bill

The U.S. Senate’s new tax bill would give Georgia’s small craft breweries some holiday cheer months after a watershed state law provided a major economic boon to beer makers and liquor distillers. The would-be Christmas present comes in the form of a proposed tax decrease, which industry advocates say would put thousands of dollars into...
Governor to consider vast new changes to Georgia’s judiciary
Governor to consider vast new changes to Georgia’s judiciary

A panel created by Gov. Nathan Deal recommended a range of options to counter a landmark Georgia Supreme Court ruling that effectively bars residents from suing the state when trying to overturn a law they believe is unconstitutional. The findings submitted to Deal on Tuesday by the Court Reform Council also suggested the creation of a statewide...
Paper ballots pass Election Day test in Georgia
Paper ballots pass Election Day test in Georgia

The results are in from this month’s test run of a voting system that could bring paper ballots back to Georgia: It was easy to use and fast, but it would come with a high cost to taxpayers. The trial of the touch screen-plus-paper ballot voting system “came off without a hitch” when it was tried during the Nov. 7 election...
More Stories