Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is taking the lead on health care reforms, creating the Health Care Reform Task Force, which had its first public meeting last week.
Hundreds of thousands of Georgians stand to lose their health care or face higher costs to stay insured. Cagle has made it clear he plans to take “a free market approach,” which inevitably means tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy, and higher costs for everyone else.
At the task force’s first meeting, only two people were invited to give testimony, both from conservative, D.C.-based groups.
Let’s back up a minute.
Georgia is considering major changes to health care policy, both on a federal and state level.
But right now, leadership is diving in to try to determine how the state can best screw over poor and working class families instead of taking time to evaluate exactly what even is the scope and nature of the problem.
So here’s a different (albeit make-believe) approach to this task force:
Major changes to federal health care policy and, importantly, funding are on their way. Georgia leaders know they are going to need to adapt state policy if they want to prevent disruptions to people’s health coverage and effectively address Georgian’s health care needs.
The task force decides they are going to evaluate what’s working (and needs to be preserved) and what’s not (and needs to be changed) with Georgia’s existing health care policy BEFORE trying to evaluate possible policy solutions.
They first focus on learning about key areas and key populations, to make sure they ultimately develop solutions that best meet the needs of all Georgians. Community stakeholders are included who bring first person expertise. The task force covers areas like: rural health care, folks with disabilities who need long term care, women’s reproductive health care, and the special needs of marginalized communities (like the LGBT population and refugees).
The task force works collaboratively with leaders and stakeholders from around the state. AFTER learning about the scope of health care needs in this state, the task force will actually has the knowledge they need to evaluate the merits of different solutions.
But that’s not what the task force is doing. As a result, we aren’t going to get a thoughtful approach centered on the actual needs of Georgians.
The American Health Care Act (aka the AHCA, as opposed to “Obamacare” which is the ACA) is promising tax cuts for the wealthy and more funds directed towards insurance companies’ bottom line. The AHCA is proposing changes that will make health insurance (which is currently the first step to getting health care) much less affordable for many citizens. The AJC has a great interactive map of how health tax credits will change under the AHCA, and it does not look good for low income, rural or older Georgians.
Meanwhile, the AHCA is also likely going to result in a restructure of the Medicaid program, which provides care for many low-income Georgians. Policymakers and health care experts across the political spectrum are worried the these changes will leave states like Georgia scrambling to get enough money to fund the program.
Georgia notoriously ranks poorly on measures of health. We have shorter life spans than people in many other states, and Georgians are dying or facing life-threatening complications from completely preventable illnesses. And now, the Trump administration is backing a proposal that will make accessing health insurance (let alone health care) more expensive for low-income Georgians.
We shouldn’t have to make believe that lawmakers are invested in studying the health care needs of Georgians and developing policy based around making health care as accessible and affordable for anyone who needs it. But that’s our current reality.
We need policymakers who are invested in the health of Georgians and do more than trot out conservative talking points when it comes to health care reform.