It’s frustrating to hear the cost-effectiveness of Georgia’s existing Medicaid program bashed as opponents of eligibility expansion stretch for reasons to justify legislation rushing through the General Assembly this year.
Georgia gets a great value from its investment in Medicaid and PeachCare. The two programs will combine to provide health coverage to more than 1.9 million Georgians in the coming year, more than 60 percent of them children. The two programs will also bring more than $6 billion in federal funding back to Georgia, money that finds its way to doctors, nurses, hospitals and other areas of the health care system. Georgia is already home to one of the largest numbers of people without health coverage. Without Medicaid and PeachCare, many more Georgians would go without health coverage. This would put even greater strain on the state’s safety net hospitals and could feed the trend of rural hospital closures.
While the importance of Medicaid and PeachCare to Georgia’s people and its health care system is undeniable, Georgia’s investment in Medicaid and PeachCare is hardly breaking the bank. On a per-enrollee basis, Georgia’s 2010 Medicaid investment ranked second lowest in the nation.
Georgia’s annual investment in Medicaid accounts for about 13 cents of each $1 Georgia spends from its general fund.
Growth in Medicaid spending was modest in recent years, despite the deep recession that began in 2008. Georgia’s general fund investment in Medicaid and PeachCare will have increased by about $343 million by 2015, or about 17 percent more than 2008. While this growth is more than many state agencies received in the past seven years, new Medicaid spending is almost completely attributable to an increase in Georgians who qualify for Medicaid and PeachCare since the start of the Great Recession.
Medicaid and PeachCare now cover at least 20 percent more Georgians than before the recession. The number of Georgians without coverage grew by about 15 percent during that time.
Rather than take potshots at the Medicaid and PeachCare programs they oversee, state leaders should applaud the programs that allow so many of their constituents or their children to see a doctor and access health care even after they lost jobs or had their hours cut.
No question, Georgia should explore ways to improve the efficiency of its Medicaid and PeachCare programs. At the same time, an honest evaluation would acknowledge the critical importance of Medicaid and PeachCare to ensure access to health care services for some of Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens.
Any honest accounting of Georgia’s programs for the uninsured as they stand today will make a persuasive case that state leaders should change course and adopt Medicaid expansion rather than attempt to thwart it.