Georgia State Sen. Renee Unterman is beginning to acknowledge that Medicaid expansion is a must if we’re going to get improved access to healthcare in Georgia. She says Georgia has few other options. “Well if you’re not going to expand Medicaid what are you going to do?” she rhetorically asked WABE.
In the past, Unterman has opposed many progressive legislative goals such as the legalization of medical marijuana and a large number of women’s health issues. She even went so far as to block the rape kit bill, which would allow the processing of untested rape kits. But even Unterman can see expanding Medicaid is Georgia’s only option to provide care for the uninsured and keep more rural hospitals from closing.
It seems that even she has realized that there is no alternative. As the Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services she is acutely aware that many rural hospitals in Georgia are struggling just to keep their doors open.
Since 2010, Georgia hospitals have seen some $700 million in Medicare cuts due to legislative or regulatory action, according to the Georgia Hospital Association (GHA). Georgia also has one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation — about 16 percent.
In rural areas, about 70 percent of the money coming into the hospitals comes from Medicaid and Medicare. So as the funding for Medicaid and Medicare has been cut, rural hospitals have been forced to foot the bill that would otherwise be paid by Medicaid, a bill so expensive, six hospitals have closed on Gov. Deal’s watch and dozens more are on the brink of closure. If Georgia were to expand Medicaid then many of these patients would gain access to health coverage and the hospitals that treat them could remain open.
It would seem that the expansion of Medicaid is becoming a bipartisan issue. Hopefully, more conservatives will follow Unterman’s lead and acknowledge that the human cost of doing nothing is simply too great to ignore.