You may remember back in May 2015 when the Department of Community Health began to study a plan developed by Grady Hospital that would be able to provide health care to more of the poor without expanding Medicaid. This Medicaid waiver program would have used Medicaid dollars to set up locations that would provide care to the uninsured. That investigation lasted three months, until August, when DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese pulled the plug, saying that he didn’t believe the federal government would approve the proposal without a commitment to full Medicaid expansion down the road, and because of the money it would cost the state.
Fast forward to this past summer. In June, Senate Health and Human Services chairman Renee Unterman signaled that she would be open to a discussion of Medicaid expansion. The Savannah Morning News editorialized about the need for expansion. And by the end of August, the Georgia Chamber released the results of a study on the possibility of expanding Medicaid.
Medicaid expansion possibilities haven’t been warmly received under the Gold Dome. The legislature took the expansion decision out of the governor’s hands back in 2014, just in case someone more favorable to the idea than Governor Deal should win the right to occupy the mansion on East Paces Ferry. Many conservative members of the Georgia House pushed back against the 2015 study, and Rep. Jason Spencer of Woodbine was scathing in his opposition to the Georgia Chamber plan.
And that brings us up to yesterday’s news, that DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese has been named by Governor Deal to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Reese spearheaded the 2015 study, and has the knowledge and experience to contribute to a discussion of expansion that could well take place in the 2017 legislative session. As a judge, however, he will probably not want to weigh in. So far, there’s been no indication of who might replace Reese, but the opinion of whomever the Governor selects to run the Department of Community Health will carry a lot of weight in any legislative debate on the Medicaid expansion question.