Governor Deal said Monday that Georgia will start exploring health care changes. Deal, who did not support the Republican alternative to Obamacare, appears to be interested in making changes specifically to Medicaid.
Deal said there are limits to what Georgia can request, “as long as mandates under the basic Obamacare legislation stand in place.” But he said the state would review options including changes to “mandated minimum coverage.”
“Those are areas that some would like for us to explore, and I think we have the possibility of doing that within the context of our Medicaid program,” he said.
“We will be looking at those possibilities,” Deal added. “We have not formulated any proposal at this time, but the waivers will be primarily restricted to our Medicaid program.”
According to US News, “Trump’s administration has signaled a willingness to let states experiment with Medicaid funds using waivers.” In 2015, Deal tried to get a waiver to use Medicaid funds to help rural hospitals, but without expanding Medicaid. Given Deal’s historical interest in “experimenting” with Medicaid funds through waivers, this could be a key change he attempts in the future.
In other words, Deal could ask for a waiver to be allowed to decrease who is served by Medicaid, and use the federal money allocated to cover those people in another way, of his choice. Any decrease to Medicaid would have debilitating effects on Georgia’s already weak health system, but this could be especially bad.
But, because of a 2014 law passed in the Republican-controlled General Assembly, any changes to related to expanding eligibility for Medicaid have to be first approved by the General Assembly. With only a few days left in the 2017 session, it’s unlikely anything will change this year.
We have to stay vigilant. Deal has been an opponent of Obamacare and Medicaid from the very start and has been looking for ways to continue to decrease the coverage Georgians get.