Medicaid expansion: dollar waster or moral imperative?

Episcopal Bishop Rob Wright joined with approximately 75 protesters, including several Atlanta clergy members, in a Medicaid expansion rally outside the Governor's Mansion on W. Paces Ferry Road Monday, April 7, 2014. Protesters were calling on Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Medicaid services in the state. KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM
Episcopal Bishop Rob Wright joined with approximately 75 protesters, including several Atlanta clergy members, in a Medicaid expansion rally outside the Governor’s Mansion on W. Paces Ferry Road Monday, April 7, 2014. Protesters were calling on
Gov. Nathan Deal to expand Medicaid services in the state. Photo KENT D. JOHNSON / KDJOHNSON@AJC.COM

From The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
April 12, 2014
By Misty Williams

Billions of new dollars funneling into Georgia’s lagging economy. Tens of thousands of new jobs. Rural
hospitals staving off financial ruin. The benefits of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are many, well-documented and, experts say, would touch nearly every Georgian.

That is, if you believe two things: First, that the federal government will deliver on the more than $30 billion it promises to give Georgia over 10 years if it opts to expand. Second, that it’s good policy to make a big and expensive entitlement program for the poor even bigger and more expensive.

Many in Georgia passionately reject both those premises. And many passionately embrace them. Indeed,
supporters of expansion often view the issue as a question of morality. Gov. Nathan Deal has remained unflinching in his refusal to expand a program that he says is already broken and unsustainable. But the outcry of community leaders, consumer advocates and others demanding that Georgia expand has only grown louder.

Dozens of protesters have been arrested at the state Capitol in recent months, and about a hundred rallied in the rain outside the Governor’s Mansion last week. Left behind by Obamacare, and the state
Medicaid, Obamacare and Georgia “The plight of the uninsured is just a blight on the state,” said Dr. Thomas Bornemann, who heads the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program and supports expansion. “I think we are probably in an era of social Darwinism that is chilling. That sense of community and community fabric — it worries me that it’s unraveling.”

Deal has long opposed Obamcare, but the governor recently provided The Atlanta Journal-Constitution his most detailed comments yet on why he believes Medicaid expansion, a key component of the health law, is a gamble Georgia can’t afford to take. His first argument, however, is still cost. Deal says it would cost $2.5 billion over 10 years to extend Medicaid coverage to nearly 650,000 low-income Georgians who are currently uninsured. The governor says this price is too steep, arguing that expansion would drain away dollars desperately needed to restore school funding in the wake of the Great Recession.

[…]

“Our economy is still not thriving, and we’re turning down a massive amount of federal dollars,” said Sen. Nan Orrock, D-Atlanta, who supports expansion. “It puts Georgia’s state leadership in the category of backwards.”

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