We expect that there will be a lot of talk about health care and education during Georgia’s 2017 Legislative Session. But what will these debates look like in a world where Donald Trump is the incoming president, in a state where Gov. Deal’s school takeover push has been roundly rejected by voters?
State Senator, and Chairwoman of the Senate’s health committee, Renee Unterman was one of the Republicans considering working toward a Medicaid solution. However, she no longer believes it’s possible right now. “We don’t have a choice,” Unterman said. “We know the system’s going to change.”
Other Georgia Republicans, including Deal and House Speaker David Ralston, are hoping Trump will consider making Medicaid a block-grant program. Making Medicaid a block-grant program was brought up by Republicans prior to the Affordable Care Act, as a solution to the rise in the cost of Medicaid. But it was never thoroughly considered due to the millions of poor and elderly people it would block from receiving healthcare.
In Georgia, where conservatives like Gov. Deal are blocking common-sense Medicaid expansion, a block-grant program would be a huge step backward. “It’s a time of uncertainty,” said the director of advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, Cindy Zeldin. “We can’t go back. It would be devastating to consumers, to our economy and to our health system.”
The school takeover was Deal’s number one legislative priority in 2016 and he is vowing to keep fighting for it, despite almost 60 percent of Georgians voting against it. Although he hasn’t been specific about his next steps, he has continued to pledge, “We’re not going to give up. If there’s a better answer, we will certainly be willing to embrace it. But the opposition in this proposition has had no other answers.”
Although we should continue to celebrate the November 8 victory over Deal’s school takeover, we can’t relax too much. Georgians need to keep their eyes on Nathan Deal and be aware that he’s going to be working with other, maybe more powerful than ever, state Republicans to make some form of public school takeover a reality.