To better provide healthcare to Georgia's surging population and as a way to balance the state's budget, conservative lawmakers are renewing temporary Medicaid payment increases and looking at expanding the program, a Republican state Senate leader said.
Sen. Renee Unterman, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, said that while she's been critical of Medicaid expansion, she has seen hospitals close and people waiting to see providers. Unterman said there is enough Senate support for a conservative expansion model, similar to the one in place in Arkansas. Under that state's model, residents with incomes between 100% and 138% pay up to 2% of their income in monthly premiums.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce is expected to present expansion ideas to the General Assembly when it reconvenes in January, she said.
State Rep. Sharon Cooper, the Republican chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, said she and her colleagues will consider the proposals, but added that she doesn't think it will solve the access problem. “The problem with expansion is, who is going to treat these people?” she said. “We don't have the physicians, nurse practitioners or physician assistants to care for them in rural areas of the state.” Access to care is scarce in rural parts of Georgia, where five hospitals have closed since 2012, according to state data.
As many as 400,000 people would be eligible for Medicaid expansion.