Sunday, April 24, 2016
Do Our Legislators Have Grits for Brains?
Georgia rural hospitals are in imminent danger of extinction! That includes our very own Monroe County Hospital. Four hospitals have closed in the past two years and fifteen more are on the brink of financial ruin by 2017. This problem is not unique to Georgia but the states in this same situation happen to be Republican controlled state legislatures with Republican Governors who stubbornly refused to expand Medicaid. Those states that expanded Medicaid have robust revenues.
The expansion of Medicaid was included in the Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) for people who make too much money to qualify for existing State Medicaid programs but too little to qualify for ACA’s insurance subsidies. Nearly 500,000 Georgians fall in this coverage gap. The Supreme Court ruled that the States could decide if they wanted to accept the federal funds (actually our tax dollars) to expand Medicaid.
I am reminded of the statement made in 2014 by Georgia’s Republican Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens about Obama Care. He said, “We will do everything in our power to be obstructionist!” Following that, Governor Deal refused to accept the $39 billion in Medicaid expansion funds. Then Governor Deal took himself off the hot seat by turning all future Medicaid expansion decisions to the State Legislature.
This is a crisis that could have been avoided and did not have to happen. This is a crisis created by officers of our government who made the conscious decision to deprive healthcare to the working poor of Georgia. Instead, they put their personal politics ahead of the good of the people. Our healthcare crisis is not much different from the Flint Water Crisis caused by Michigan’s Governor and elected officials. Both were a result of their disdain for the poorer population who tend not to be part of the conservative base that you hear so much about.
During the 2016 Legislative Session that just ended, our lawmakers had ample opportunity to submit and pass a bill to expand Medicaid. Numerous panels and commissions have been formed in Georgia to study the problem of the financial woes of our rural healthcare system. Waste of time and money! We all know the answer is to expand Medicaid. I just don’t understand how elected officials could hate a President so much they would continue to allow 10 Georgians a day to die due to lack of healthcare. Disgraceful!
In fairness to the Legislature, I will point out that during this year’s session, they at least recognized the problem. However, instead of passing a bill to expand Medicaid, they passed a bill to give tax credits to corporations and individuals who donate to rural hospitals. Well whoop-tee-do! I liked the offer made by ACA better. That was going to be $9 million a day for three years, free, and in subsequent years Georgia would pay an increasing percentage, not to exceed 10%. I also point out that Governor Deal has yet to sign this brilliant bill into law.
According to economists at Georgia State University, not only would Medicaid expansion bring $3 billion to healthcare providers, but would also create 56,000 new jobs and $6.5 billion in economic activity. Sometimes I wonder if our legislators have grits for brains.
I introduced proof to you last week in my column that if the members of the legislature want a bill to pass bad enough, they can conjure up a way to do it, like they did with Kirby’s Law. Since the Legislature won’t act on healthcare, I have a plan. Let’s all contact UGA’s Coach Kirby Smart and ask HIM to request the Legislators pass a bill to expand Medicaid! I bet they’d work their magic for him again.
Trivia for the week: Did you know there are approximately 15,000 registered voters in Monroe County and more than 20,000 Elect Bittick Sheriff signs?