Ga. should aim big around Medicaid waiver

It appears that we are back to start on Georgia’s expansion of the ACA (Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare). We have a new governor; thankfully one that’s at least a bit more pragmatic regarding coverage. But we still have a confused President who as usual has no idea at all what national healthcare reform should look like and no plan to achieve any measurable goals.

President Trump stated time and again that we would all have “great” healthcare, and at a reduced cost. But he just hasn’t figured out what kind of a miracle obtaining that would take for common folks, like Georgians who aren’t NYC billionaires who have had everything delivered to them on a silver platter.

Meanwhile, Trump has forced the Justice Department to refuse to defend the entire ACA, something even conservative Attorney General William Barr appears to be resisting. Of course, if Obamacare departs, say hello to getting booted off policies due to pre-existing conditions. Tell your 23-year-old kid who just got out of college with a sociology degree and severe asthma who happens to be on your insurance to ASAP quit his job as a waiter and find something, anything, that provides health insurance coverage. Hard-hats and lower-middle-class white-collar workers, forget those large subsidies that are now making your premiums affordable.

Just trust that Trump will take care of the problem in 2020 after you elect him. He has publicly promised it to you. That’s right, just like he did in 2015 to implement his secret healthcare nirvana after the 2016 election.(As a bonus, Mexico will be building and paying for the wall in 2020 as well.)

The problems with the ACA are obvious. Before it was ever implemented, I identified and commented on those problems in this newspaper, as well as The Washington Post, USA Today, The New York Times and elsewhere. But, until we are willing to go to a Canadian or European model (like Medicare for All), we have got to live with both Obamacare’s strengths and weaknesses.

I understand why taxpayers are frustrated. As I wrote in the NYT, “Americans are generally fed up with what they see as government incompetence and lying.” However, the clear, undisputed-by-experts facts show that the ACA is a world better for the working poor and medically needy than what we had before. That’s why over half of Americans now support it. And, it is very doubtful that even this far-right U.S. Supreme Court will find it unconstitutional, given Justice John Roberts’ prior views.

Which brings us to Kemp and Georgia. Kemp ran as a Trumper. However, the question still remains as to does he want to help the state’s citizens, or just help himself politically? The jury is out, but the ACA waiver will be a key test.

The central question before us is will the Medicaid waiver the Governor applied for make it easier for more medically needy Georgians to get healthcare insurance? Will there be excessive premiums and co-pays? Will the waiver be designed to help people to sign up or hinder them via excessive paperwork?

In short, will the number of uninsured here (currently ranked No. 4 in the U.S.) go down significantly? If so, the governor can chalk up a gold star and count on bipartisan votes in the next election.

The ACA is supported by the majority of Americans and expansion (90% paid for by federal dollars) has been approved in 36 states, many red. Why are we continuing to send our federal tax money to California and New York when we have unserved Georgians at home?

What can Georgians do to encourage Gov. Kemp to expand Medicaid as widely as possible here? Respond to the state of Georgia’s requests for comments. Ask that the state take a reasonable, bipartisan approach. Email and call the governor’s office, as well as your state representative and senator, expressing support for expansion.

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Jack Bernard, the first director of health planning for Georgia, has been an executive with several national health care firms. A Republican, he’s a former chairman of the Jasper County Commission.