About this series
A presidential election is a contest of competing ideas, values and personalities. The AJC is covering all those aspects, and will continue to do so right up to Nov. 6. But that is not the focus of this series.
In elections such as 2012, one candidate — but not the other — has a record of four years as president, a record voters can and should examine. The purpose of this series is to look at Barack Obama’s record as it affects Georgia.
There is no intention to slight Mitt Romney; the Republican nominee merely does not have a record as president for which he is accountable.
This series sticks closely to the facts of what Obama’s administration has done and, wherever possible, the measurable results. It does not examine whether the results are good or bad. It merely seeks to present the most pertinent information clearly and concisely, without opinions or spin from either side.
Monday: Health care
Tuesday: Education and social services
Wednesday: Transportation and communications
Thursday: Immigration and defense
Friday: Jobs and the economy
Saturday: Housing market and banks
The big picture
Much has changed in the world in the past four years, certainly in the area of health care. The most profound changes are products of complex forces, influenced but not controlled by any president. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama argue about how much credit or blame for these shifts should go to the president — a question each voter must ultimately decide. Those changes include:
1.86 million, or 19.2 percent, of people in Georgia lacked insurance in 2011. That’s down from more than 20 percent in 2009, but still above the 14.7 percent who were uninsured a decade ago.
Percentage of Georgians uninsured
Year Percent uninsured
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
Insured through work
53.2 percent of Georgians had employment-based insurance last year, down from nearly 64 percent in 2001.
Percentage of Georgians with insurance through work
Year Percent with employment-based insurance
Source: U.S. Census Bureau
$4,240 was the average employee contribution for a family health insurance plan last year — a 45 percent increase from 2006.
An aging population
10 percent of Georgians were of Medicare age, 65 and older, in 2010. That’s projected to rise to 16 percent by 2030.
Though most provisions of the president’s health care law have yet to kick in, tens of thousands of Georgians have already begun to feel its impact. Whether the changes are too much or not enough, worth the cost or not, is for voters to weigh. Here are some quantifiable impacts on Georgia to date:
123,000 young adults are able to stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26.
1.71 million Georgians with private insurance got access to free preventive services.
3.3 million people no longer face lifetime limits on how much care their insurers will pay for.
$20 million will be repaid to 244,000 residents by insurance companies that spent more premium dollars on administrative costs than the law allows.
Seniors on Medicare have saved $102 million on prescription drugs.
850,000 people with Medicare received free preventive services in 2011.
According to a projection from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Georgians’ share of federal deficits will be lower by $2.6 billion over the next 10 years if the law stays in place. (The CBO projects that the deficit would grow by roughly $109 billion over 10 years if the law were repealed. Georgia’s “share” was calculated by multiplying that figure by 2.4 percent — the percentage of federal tax revenue that comes from Georgia.)
$191 million has gone to Georgia businesses, educational institutions, state and local governments, unions and nonprofits to help them make coverage available to early retirees and their families. The top recipients are:
1. Georgia Department of Community Health, $57.9 million
2. Alcatel-Lucent USA Inc., $42.4 million
3. United Parcel Service of America Inc., $37.4 million
4. Delta Air Lines Inc., $27.3 million
5. Southern Company Services Inc., $7.1 million
The full impact the law will have on businesses across Georgia and the nation is still unclear, since many of its elements aren’t yet in play. Businesses leaders worry, however, that the law will end up increasing both costs and administrative burdens. National surveys show that employers’ health care costs have increased by 1 to 4 percent as a result of the few elements of the law that have gone into effect so far.
Companies will pay penalties of about $2,000 per worker, not including the first 30 employees or part-timers, if they don’t provide affordable coverage starting in 2014. Businesses with fewer than 50 workers are exempt.
Individuals who choose not to purchase health insurance will pay an initial penalty of $95 per adult or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater. By 2016, the penalty will rise to $695 per adult or 2.5 percent of family income, whichever is greater.
If Obama is re-elected and the law stands, state leaders will have some big decisions to make regarding the law’s implementation.
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has yet to decide whether the state will set up its own health insurance exchange — required under the law — or leave it up to the federal government. The exchanges are designed to make it easier for individuals and employers to compare the quality and affordability of private health insurance plans.
650,000 additional Georgians would become eligible, at an estimated cost to Georgia of $4 billion over 10 years, if the governor decides to participate in the expansion set out in the law.
90 percent or more of the added cost would be borne by the federal government, but Deal opposes the expansion as currently structured.
Medicaid spending in Georgia
2001 $3.9 billion
2002 $4.5 billion
2003 $4.9 billion
2004 $6 billion
2005 $6.3 billion
2006 $6.3 billion
2007 $6.2 billion
2008 $6.4 billion
2009 $6.7 billion
2010 $7 billion
2011 $7.5 billion
* Spending includes both state and federal dollars. It does not include PeachCare for Kids.
Source: Georgia Department of Community Health
The GOP candidate says he would:
• Repeal Obama’s health care law and let states devise their own solutions;
• Expand individual tax-advantaged medical savings accounts and let the savings be used for insurance premiums;
• Let insurance be sold across state lines to expand options and restrict malpractice awards;
• Gradually increase the Medicare eligibility age to 67;
• Introduce “generous” but undetermined subsidies to help future retirees buy private insurance or join a government plan modeled on traditional Medicare;
• Turn control of Medicaid over to the states.
From the candidates
Here is how PolitiFact’s “Truth-O-Meter” rated some of the candidates’ latest statements:
Obama: 50 million people would lose their health insurance if Obamacare is repealed. — Mostly False
Romney: “Pre-existing conditions are covered under my (health care) plan.” — Mostly False