The Savannah Morning News has published a lengthy and provocative editorial, spurred by State Senator Renee Untermann’s recent statements, calling for lawmakers to reconsider Georgia’s rejection of the Medicaid expansion under the ACA.
From the generally conservative editorial team:
Locally, Memorial Health University Medical Center is losing millions of dollars annually, in large part because of its commitment to treating uninsured patients. That loss has helped fuel the hospital’s ongoing effort to find a third party to be a financial partner with the hospital, resulting in a major political controversy that continues to boil.
“Times have changed,” Unterman said. “How many years in a row can we pump in hundreds of millions of dollars to hospitals that are closing, to physicians that are going out of business?” […]
For the state to sign on now, it would take an act of the legislature as well as the governor’s signature. Democrats, a minority in both chambers, have pushed for Medicaid expansion, but Republican opposition remains strong. We urge Chatham County’s delegation to join Unterman and encourage the legislature and Gov. Deal to reconsider their past objections to Medicaid expansion in this state.
I’ve written about Memorial’s financial woes in a previous post, and the wrangling over the hospital’s future continues.
But even under the worst case scenarios, it’s hard to imagine Memorial ever closing, which is what happened to do another rural hospital in the state earlier this month. North Georgia Medical Center in Ellijay closed because of widening funding gaps.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you should take a few minutes and watch this excellent March 2016 segment from the PBS Newshour, which details some of the declining health outcomes and negative economic ripple effects of hospital closures in more sparsely populated areas of Georgia.
Yes, many Georgians are still betting on the end of the ACA, but that looks unlikely. In any case, we should have a pretty clear sense of the ACA’s fate in November. As we all know, numerous states have found various ways of implementing the Medicaid expansion, so maybe as financial woes mount, we’ll talk about how rather than if.
No, simply tapping into the Medicaid money won’t solve all the financial problems ahead and will eventually add some strain to the state budget, but we know what will happen if we do nothing: more hospitals will close and more will cut back on services.