Now Deal expects us to trust his judgment on Medicaid expansion, a program that would cost Georgia taxpayers nothing in its first three years, and no more than 10 percent of the annual cost thereafter.
“I think it is probably unrealistic to expect that promise to be fulfilled in the long-term simply because of the financial status of the federal government,” said Deal, who knows full well Georgia can leave the program if federal reimbursements drop below 90 percent.
It’s as flimsy an excuse as the ones Deal made when, in Congress, he was caught pressuring Georgia officials to make sure a no-bid contract continued to funnel tax dollars to his personal business.
By letting states opt out of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion provision, the Supreme Court conservatives set the stage for Deal’s intransigence at the expense of nearly 700,000 low-income Georgians who would be added to the Medicaid rolls under the plan.
Even hard cases like Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott now accept that Medicaid expansion is a no brainer; as he put it, “a compassionate, common sense step forward.”
Scott is among seven other governors who agreed to the plan after saying they wouldn’t. Unlike Deal, these governors now recognize the benefits of expanding Medicaid, not to mention the political price they’d pay in their respective states if they behaved like Georgia’s chief executive.
Deal claims expansion would cost the state $4.5 billion over 10 years — twice other estimates — while ignoring a study done by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation. It concluded expansion would create 70,000 good-paying healthcare jobs in Georgia. In addition, it would increase state and local tax revenues by $275 million every year and produce a statewide economic impact of $8 billion annually.
“For the average taxpayer, the Medicaid expansion is actually a good deal,” said the study’s author, Dr. Bill Custer, one of Georgia’s leading health care economists.
Some 23 percent of employed Georgians lack health insurance, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, with working families making up nearly half of the uninsured. Custer notes Georgia taxpayers already pay for the healthcare of the uninsured because local governments hand over tens of millions to hospitals for indigent services.
But Georgia could receive more than $31 billion over the next 10 years by kicking in about $2.1 billion, says Georgians for a Healthy Future.
“Congress and the president made a policy choice to invest in providing basic access to health care for our nation’s low-income, uninsured citizens and to provide resources to health care providers to deliver that care,” says Cindy Zeldin, executive director of GHF. “That commitment has been made and the funding has been set aside for states to implement it.”
It appears Deal has no stomach for the attacks he’d have to endure from tea party types if he opted in. Yet the Medicaid reimbursements that would come to Georgia are the same tax dollars we’re already sending to Washington.
Now, thanks to Deal, our money will take a one-way trip to fund Medicaid expansion in Illinois, New York and California, while Georgia’s uninsured go without and the rest of us continue to pay for the most expensive health care there is.
“The bottom line is crystal clear,” wrote former Jasper County Republican Party chairman Jack Bernard, a retired healthcare executive, “The financial positives of expanding Medicaid in Georgia far exceed the negatives.”
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.