The debate over whether to expand Medicaid coverage in Georgia has been going on for as long as the option, available as part of the Affordable Care Act, has been available. For the most part, the reaction by GOP lawmakers at the Gold Dome has been negative, from Governor Deal, who said adding the option would inflate the state budget, to legislators, who took the decision about expansion out of the governor’s hands. However, recent statements in support of expanding the program by Senate Health and Human Services chair Renee Unterman has brought the issue back to the front burner.
As outlined by Andy Miller in a Georgia Health News story, many states have been able to save money by expanding the program. They have done it by transferring taking patients cared for under state programs and transferring them to Medicaid. That model could be used here in Georgia:
In Georgia, much of the savings would come from adult mental health and substance abuse funding, experts say.
That’s now dominated by state dollars. The state budget for adult mental health services is more than $350 million for this fiscal year.
Many of those patients are have low incomes and are currently uninsured, and would qualify for the new coverage, experts say.
Different think tanks have different opinions. Tim Sweeney, who is the former director of health policy for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute thinks there could be at least $100 million in annual savings. Kelly McCutchen of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation points that the expanded Medicaid program still pays less than the cost of providing services.
No formal study has been conducted in Georgia to determine how Medicaid expansion would affect the state’s budget. Such a study could inform lawmakers trying to decide how to deal with the many issues surrounding the provision of healthcare in both urban and rural areas of the state.
Meanwhile, Peach State taxpayers continue to fund the program’s expansion in other states.