HomeGeorgia NewsGeorgia Republicans are open to healthcare expansion. Want to avoid the state-run...

Georgia Republicans are open to healthcare expansion. Want to avoid the state-run Medicaid program at all costs.

Georgia – The Gold Dome was buzzing in its first week with talks about Georgia Republicans possibly deciding to fully expand Medicaid this year.

A top Republican made the issue more noticeable by mentioning “Medicaid expansion” in a big speech to Georgia’s business leaders on Wednesday. House Speaker Jon Burns mentioned that House members are looking into a “private option” to grow Medicaid.

Georgia Republican lawmakers are considering expanding healthcare to more residents, but want to implement their own solution

Some GOP lawmakers are showing interest in a method like Arkansas’s, which means using private insurance for people instead of putting more people on Medicaid, which is managed by the state.

On Friday, Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones seemed interested in this idea. Jones has been pushing for changes in how Georgia regulates businesses in healthcare. The discussion about expanding Medicaid is happening at the same time as debates on how Georgia should change its rules for healthcare businesses.

“I have never wavered on my position that expanding access to health care, especially in rural parts of the state, should be a priority for all Georgians,” Jones said. “The legislative process allows for different options to be presented on a variety of issues. I look forward to addressing this critical issue this upcoming session to help make access to quality health care a reality, regardless of someone’s zip code.”

It seems like Georgia is starting to change its long-standing opposition to expanding Medicaid, a key part of former President Barack Obama’s work. But it’s unclear if this change in attitude reaches the governor’s office.

The governor’s program, Georgia Pathways to Coverage, started in July and has signed up about 2,300 people. It’s thought that around 345,000 could join the Medicaid program, based on what the state thinks.

On Wednesday, the governor’s spokesperson, Garrison Douglas, said that the governor still supports Pathways and Georgia Access, a state-run exchange opening later this year.

In his State of the State speech on Thursday, the governor didn’t talk about Pathways even though he discussed other parts of his health care plan, like a program that lowers insurance premiums.

Pathways is in the spotlight because it’s the only state Medicaid program that requires work for those who just joined.

With only a few people joining Pathways, there’s more pressure on Georgia Republicans to think again.

Georgia, having one of the highest rates of uninsured people in the U.S., is now one of the last 10 states not to have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. This is notable as neighboring North Carolina recently did expand this health insurance for low-income people.

“This isn’t just a policy oversight, it is a moral failing,” state Sen. Nabilah Islam Parkes, a Lawrenceville Democrat, said at a press conference Thursday. “Hundreds of thousands of our people are left without adequate health care.”

However, some Democrats and longtime health care advocates are feeling hopeful about the recent discussions, even though they’re not exactly about traditional Medicaid expansion.

Rep. Michelle Au, a Democrat and anesthesiologist, is glad that there’s finally some talk about expanding Medicaid in Georgia. She said this is a big improvement from what the state has seen in the past ten years.

Au organized a hearing about Medicaid expansion with the Democratic caucus. The event was so popular that it filled a room and people even stood in the hallways to listen to health care experts, hospital representatives, and others discuss how expanding Medicaid could affect Georgia’s economy and the health of its people.

Au, a key Democratic figure in Georgia’s health care discussions, has often hosted educational events on Medicaid expansion. But this year’s event stood out as different.

“There’s a feeling in the air: something has changed, and it’s like, we’re really talking about this. This might happen,” Au said. “And many of our holdout-state neighbors have recently changed – states that we have a lot in common with. So, it’s not unreasonable to go down this path to think that there is a chance this could happen.”

Aurelia Whitlock



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