Stover concerned about funding

Deal on ACA: 'I am prepared to fight'

by Sarah Fay Campbell

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Stover, Deal

Gov. Nathan Deal took a strong stand against Obamacare and the associated expansion of Medicaid during his State of the State address.

'The Affordable Care Act is anything but affordable and is costing our state $327 million dollars this year,' Deal said in his speech this week.

And that's without moving forward with the expansion of Medicaid to serve more Georgians. Currently, Medicaid and PeachCare, a low-cost insurance program for children, cost each Georgian roughly $1,000 in federal and state taxes every year, Deal said.

'Expansion would add 620,000 people to our taxpayer funded health plan, costing us even more,' Deal said. 'Now, the executive branch in Washington is trying to do what the courts deemed unconstitutional for Congress to do, but we will not allow ourselves to be coerced into expansion,' he said.

'Be assured, I am prepared to fight any intrusion into our rights as a state.'

On Thursday, a legislative panel of two Democratic House members and a Republican Senator discussed the Affordable Care Act and other issues at a breakfast sponsored by Georgians for a Healthy Future. State Rep. Pat Gardner, D-Atlanta, estimated that expanding Medicaid would bring in $40 billion in federal dollars over the next 10 years, and would only cost the state $2 billion. 

'It's simple mathematics,' Gardner said, according to Georgia Health News. An estimated 400,000 lowincome Georgians fall into a coverage gap, according to Georgia Health News. They are uninsured and earn incomes below the federal poverty level, but are not poor enough for Medicaid and are not eligible for the subsidies included in the ACA's insurance exchange.

The expansion might pull down a lot of federal money, but the state doesn't have $2 billion to put in, according to State Representative David Stover, R-Palmetto.

'That is a $200 million budget gap that we have to fill every year,' Stover said. 'This year, we were lucky that we were able to add over $500 million back into education.' Teachers have been furloughed for five days a year, and haven't had raises in five years.

'I'm open to suggestions,' Stover said. 'If people can find where we can find $200 million in the state budget, where we can pull from, tell me.'

'It's not there right now,' he said. The economy has improved, but the state's budget still isn't back to pre-recession levels.

Stover is also concerned that, once states do expand Medicaid, the federal government might begin cutting back its contribution.

'We know this from past experience - that they make promises but they don't keep them,' Stover said.

At Thursday's panel, State Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome, said he has long been opposed to the ACA.

However, 'by doing nothing [on expansion], Georgia is getting less money from the federal government,'' he said. And Hufstetler noted that the feds, by approving variations on Medicaid expansion in states such as Arkansas, are showing more flexibility, according to Georgia Health News.

But Hufstetler, an anesthetist, also pointed out that in Oregon, where a Medicaid expansion program has been closely studied, it was followed by an increase in Medicaid enrollees' visits to hospital emergency rooms, the most expensive way to get medical care.

Stover is one of several sponsors of a bill that would prohibit state and local agencies from implementing provisions of the ACA. House Bill 707 forbids any employees, agents, or contractors of the state, including the University System of Georgia and any local government authority, from assisting in implementing the ACA or any subsequent federal amendment to the act.

Hufstetler said at the panel that he is concerned there would be unintended consequences to HB 707 and that he doesn't expect it to pass.



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