Georgia Republicans decided not to expand Medicaid under the pretense that Georgia couldn’t afford it. However, with the increase in federal funding for states adopting the next round of expanded Medicaid, Georgia can’t afford not to adopt it.
The Macon Telegraph editorialized, “When Gov. Nathan Deal first declared the state wouldn’t participate in the ACA in 2012, it didn’t seem to make much sense. The federal government paid 100 percent of the cost of the newly eligible through this year. By 2020 payments would drop to 90 percent and go no lower. Even before the ACA, Georgia received $2.02 for every Medicaid dollar spent, and between 2017 and 2026 the state’s bill for uncompensated care would drop an estimated $1.9 billion to $2.4 billion.”
A recent study from Georgia State University estimates that Medicaid expansion would increase annual tax revenues and create thousands of jobs in Georgia. Another study from the Urban Institute shows that expanding Medicaid would return up to $9.42 for every dollar spent in Georgia. With these studies in mind, Deal’s excuse that Medicaid is “something our state cannot afford” falls flat.
Although over 540,000 Georgians acquired health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (by February 2015), 600,000 Georgians are still estimated to be uninsured. Hospital and clinic visits for the uninsured are expensive and rarely repaid.
So why should Georgia allow the money that taxpayers have already paid into the Medicaid system to come back to our state instead of being sent to California, D.C. and the 30 other U.S. states that have chosen expansion? As a state that’s poorer and much less healthy than the national average, we can’t afford not to.