Health care will make news in the Georgia Legislature’s budget hearings this week. For people who want to be on Medicaid and people with a stake in the Georgia’s individual health insurance market, state leaders have decisions to make. Here are some things to know.
What’s happening this week
Lawmakers from the Senate and House who decide Georgia’s annual budget are meeting together to hear from the Kemp administration. Tuesday morning, Gov. Brian Kemp will address the committee first, with a presentation on his budget priorities. He’ll be followed by his director of health strategy and several of his commissioners who oversee health or insurance departments. All will talk about state funding they’re requesting from the lawmakers that affects Georgians’ health and health insurance.
Officials from several offices will talk about “waivers.” Waivers are state-designed programs where the federal government has waived parts of the law so that the state can tailor policy to better fit local circumstances. Kemp has been trying to implement two health care waivers, one for Medicaid and one for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace exchange. He’s had roadblocks, but may take a big step this year.
Medicaid expansion “Georgia Pathways” waiver
This year, the Kemp administration hopes to go live with its Medicaid waiver, a partial expansion of Medicaid to some poor adults. Georgia has the nation’s third-highest rate of people without insurance, and one big reason is Georgia GOP leaders have resisted expanding Medicaid to all poor adults, perhaps 400,000 of whom would qualify. Instead, Kemp hopes to expand Medicaid to a smaller number of adults, those who meet certain work or engagement requirements, perhaps 50,000 people. Kemp won backing for it in court and the Biden administration didn’t appeal.
“Unwinding” swollen pandemic Medicaid rolls
Regular Medicaid will lose patients, but it will cost money to make it happen.
ACA Marketplace and “Georgia Access” waiver
In addition, Kemp is spending more than $90 million annually paying insurance companies to lower premium costs.
University System of Georgia
The University System of Georgia controls the Medical College of Georgia and Augusta University Health, a cluster of Augusta-region hospitals. Cobb County-based Wellstar Health System is negotiating to possibly take over the hospitals. In the meantime, the university system’s budget includes $105 million of state money to pay for a new electronic records system for the Medical College of Georgia.
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