Health policy splits Georgia gov candidates after repeal's fail

Gov. Nathan Deal and the state Legislature will likely have the first word on sweeping Medicaid changes the state could pursue after the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare failed. But the race to succeed the governor seems certain to spice up the debate.

Not surprisingly, the six leading candidates to succeed the governor are split over how Georgia should proceed now that the Affordable Care Act seems destined to remain the law of the land. Democrats advocate a full expansion of the Medicaid program, while most of the Republicans are receptive to waivers that would grant Georgia more flexibility in spending federal dollars.

Read more on MyAJC: After Obamacare repeal fails, Georgia leaders turn to Medicaid waivers

Here's a closer look at where they stand:

State Rep. Stacey Abrams, Democrat: Supports Medicaid expansion

"Georgia must acknowledge the imperative of providing healthcare coverage to our rural communities and working poor and accept full expansion, particularly given that Medicaid expansion states have recognized economic benefits by extending access."

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, Republican: Wants states to get block grant funding for Medicaid, supports plan to restrict "able-bodied, childless" adults from some Medicaid benefits

“If Congress can’t pass a repeal and replace as they’ve promised, they should empower the states to fix the problem. Georgia should get its equitable share of federal money – it’s not right now and that’s not fair – and allow us to devise a plan that fits our budget, our population and our principles. Under my leadership, Georgia would devise a Medicaid plan that continues to focus on our most vulnerable citizens and that is financially sustainable, but that does not expand to include able-bodied, childless adults. I would seek to balance a helping hand for our most vulnerable citizens with the need to respect that every tax dollar comes from a hard-working Georgian trying to provide for their family.”

State Rep. Stacey Evans, Democrat: Supports Medicaid expansion, wants some workers re-classified

"I, along with thousands of Georgians, breathed a sigh of relief when Trumpcare failed last week. Georgia needs a Governor that will use the power of that office to put Washington's petty politics aside and expand Medicaid. But we can’t stop there. There are thousands of Georgia workers that are misclassified as independent contractors so that their employers can wrongfully deny them the benefits that they deserve, including healthcare. By expanding Medicaid and classifying workers appropriately, insurance will be available to hundreds of thousands more Georgians. And as governor, that's exactly what I'll do."

State Sen. Hunter Hill, Republican: Is open to Medicaid waivers

"The lack of decisive action on healthcare this past week has summed up the frustration many voters have with Washington. While we still aren't clear what the final result will be, Senator Hill is committed to working with Secretary Price to allow Georgia the greatest degree of flexibility possible as it pertains to federal Medicaid dollars. Expanding a broken system is not the answer."

Secretary of State Brian Kemp, Republican: Is open to an alternative solution from the state

"We can't trust career politicians in Washington who promise to repeal Obamacare, then when they have the power they fail to deliver; but we can trust Governor Deal and Secretary Price to develop conservative solutions that release the death grip Obamacare has on Georgia families, small businesses, and our economy."

Insider's note: Republican state Sen. Michael Williams' campaign didn't return emails seeking comment.

Read more on MyAJC: After Obamacare repeal fails, Georgia leaders turn to Medicaid waivers

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.