Have Georgia’s conservative lawmakers finally seen the light on Medicaid expansion?
Maybe. Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) (the lawmaker who made national headlines for blocking a bill to test rape kits) has been speaking publicly about moving in the direction of Medicaid expansion. This is an issue that we’ve already dissected in-depth on this blog in an excellent post by Crystal Muñoz and it’s an issue progressives and businesses have championed for years.
But Sen. Unterman’s pivot toward progress is important.
GOP lawmakers are already lining up behind Unterman’s call for some form of expansion:
— Allen Peake (@AllenPeake) June 13, 2016
It’s something that badly needs to happen, and Georgia will be better off when it does. But let’s never forget that it’s already too late for thousands of people.
When Gov. Deal first refused to provide health coverage for over half a million Georgians, those Georgians needed voices, not only from the left but from the right, demanding decisive action to save lives.
Where was Renee Unterman’s voice then?
Where was Rep. Gerald Greene’s voice as two hospitals closed in his district because of Gov. Deal’s failure to act?
And where were the voices of Speaker David Ralston, Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle, and the rest of the GOP leadership as hundreds of thousands of Georgians went without the basic medical coverage needed to live happy, healthy lives?
I’ll tell you where their voices were: on the wrong side of history and deeply entrenched in raw politics.
O’Hayer: “…you’re not drawing down the federal dollars that you would have had, had you expanded Medicaid.”
Unterman: “Right. The federal infrastructure has changed, but the state has not changed with it.”
O’Hayer: “In hindsight, was that a mistake?”
Unterman: “I don’t think so. We’re a very conservative state. I think it was the right thing to do, to look at the direction.”
Call me crazy, but it sure sounds like Sen Unterman admits that Republicans refused to expand Medicaid, and provide badly-needed coverage to hundreds of thousands of people, because they were worried about their re-election chances as conservatives. Unterman and her GOP colleagues put donors and their voter base above the needs of everyday Georgians, and no amount of backtracking can ever forgive that.
And she can bet we won’t forget it.