New Georgia House Speaker: No Medicaid expansion to all poor for now

Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns speaks at a public event earlier this year. (PHOTO by Arvin Temkar /



Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns speaks at a public event earlier this year. (PHOTO by Arvin Temkar /

Newly elected Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns will not take up the issue of full Medicaid expansion for all the state’s poor adults anytime soon, he told reporters in a press event Thursday.

In Georgia, Medicaid covers poor children as well as some older and disabled adults. Unlike most states, Georgia does not cover all poor adults. Partly as a result, Georgia ranks third worst in the nation for its rate of people without health insurance.

Gov. Brian Kemp has an alternative plan that Burns said deserves a chance.

“And that’s what we need to do first and foremost,” said Burns, R-Newington. Asked if that meant no Medicaid expansion for the state for now, Burns said, “That would be correct.”

Kemp’s proposal would narrowly expand Medicaid under a “waiver” program that will take the place of a full expansion.

State officials tentatively hope to get Kemp’s proposal started up this summer.

It would allow poor adults to enroll in Georgia Medicaid if they meet certain requirements. That could mean working 80 hours a month at a job or engaging in other specific activities. Not every activity would qualify; for example, working full-time caring for a relative with dementia would not qualify.

The state estimated that the waiver program would insure about 50,000 people after a couple years of ramping up. It estimated that full expansion would insure more than 400,000.

The federal government would pay 90% of the cost of full expansion, bringing billions of dollars into the state to pay health care bills. The federal government will pay about two-thirds of the costs of Georgia’s more limited expansion.

In his sit-down with reporters, Burns emphasized his focus on health care in the House, starting with his creation of a new special committee to oversee the other House committees that deal with health care. He said among the issues the new oversight committee will tackle are mental health and the state’s supply of health care workers.