Georgia can blaze own path to expand Medicaid coverage

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution  features Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s Director of Health Policy Timothy Sweeney’s op-ed on Medicaid expansion in Georgia.
Rather than continuing to flatly say “No” to more than half a million Georgians who could gain health insurance through expansion of Medicaid, Gov. Nathan Deal should look to his counterparts in other states who are trying creative ways to tailor the expansion to their needs.

A variety of models are finding a home in places as diverse as Arkansas, Oregon, California and Iowa, showing states are finding ways to customize Medicaid coverage under the expansion. Some of the details are still in the works, like the model developing in Arkansas that will allow the state to use Medicaid dollars to buy private insurance plans for 250,000 people. The trails blazed by other states suggest a path forward for Georgia.

The decision should be an easy one: Say “Yes” to billions in new federal funds that will extend health insurance to more than 500,000 uninsured adults in Georgia.

Doing nothing means Georgia will continue to have one of the biggest concentrations of people without health insurance in the country. The other choice would allow Georgia to move toward important health care goals.

Hospitals, doctors, nurses and other health care providers will be better able to care for patients if more of them have health insurance and can routinely get the medical care they need, rather than leaving conditions untreated or turning to expensive emergency care.

But expansion is not just good for Georgia’s health care system and its patients. It can deliver a needed jolt to the state economy. For every $1 we invest to cover newly-eligible Georgians, the state’s economy gets a $30 boost, thanks to new federal money that follows the state commitment. Fully implementing the expansion will help create more than 56,000 new jobs, according to an analysis by Georgia State University.

The governor often says a key reason not to join the growing number of states choosing to expand Medicaid coverage is the partial cost the state would have to assume starting in 2017. He says the state can’t afford the projected $2.5 billion expense spread over a decade, roughly a 1 percent increase in Georgia’s overall budget. In reality, much of the new costs will likely be canceled out by decreases in current state expenses, such as spending for mental health services that would instead be covered through Medicaid.

A new study from RAND Corp. estimates Georgia and 13 other states whose governors oppose expansion will collectively spend $1 billion more on uncompensated care in 2016 than they would if they expand Medicaid.

Expanding Medicaid is critical to everyone in Georgia. It will increase the supply of doctors and nurses throughout the state, giving hundreds of thousands of Georgians the opportunity to live healthier lives. And it is Georgia’s best option for getting a handle on health care spending for years to come.

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2 thoughts on “Georgia can blaze own path to expand Medicaid coverage”

  1. Deal can do what Jan Brewer did. Reinstated a Medicaid for All program that she didn’t start and tried to kill, then took the credit for implementing it as “Obamacare.”

    I have been writing the Georgia governor about this since 2008 and Deal and the one before him haven’t heard a word.

    They need to ask Jan Brewer how her state “got it done” at minimal expense because THEY WERE ALREADY DOING IT. She tried to cave under GOP pressure and tried to ditch instead of leading the way and showing everyone else how it’s done, and it finally occurred to her that she could go down in history as a trailblazer or a trailer.

    The way they do it in Arizona is nearly PERFECT! And they cut costs like nobody’s business when they implemented Medicaid for the whole state of persons who are uncovered for whatever reasons. People actually got mad at her because they got medical costs for the state under control with AHCCCS and she was about to tear it up for no reason.

    Georgia can look at the way Arizona handles it and they will do very well.

  2. sandra lindsay

    Please expand Medicaid, especially for people that are too young to get Medicare, after accidents or sickness and are unable to work.

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