Political Notes – Trying to find a winning argument for Medicaid expansion

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A coalition of nearly 60 healthcare organizations, “Cover Georgia,” tried to cover the capitol on Tuesday in their attempt to achieve what may be an impossible task: convincing the state’s elected leaders to expand Medicaid coverage as part of Obamacare.

They have some persuasive numbers with which to make their argument: Georgia could pull in federal dollars in the range of $33.7 billion to $40.5 billion over the next 10 years if Medicaid coverage is expanded. That would provide health insurance for 500,000 to 600,000 low-income residents and help create an estimated 70,000 jobs, according to economic studies.

But Gov. Nathan Deal, whose last action as a member of the U.S. House was to vote against final passage of the Affordable Care Act, has not budged one millimeter from his implacable opposition to Medicaid expansion and all other aspects of Obamacare.

Given that opposition from Deal and a conservative Legislature, the healthcare advocates were asked what realistic hope there was for Medicaid expansion.

“Many of us do believe that in the long term, we do have a chance of doing this,” said Cindy Zeldin of Georgians for a Healthy Future. “We want to make the long term as short as possible.”

Zeldin contended that Deal’s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion, even though some of his Republican colleagues in other states have already done so, will ultimately harm Georgia’s economic development prospects.

“Georgia does not exist in isolation,” she said. “If other states in the region do move forward with this, we’ll be at a competitive disadvantage if we don’t do this.”

There has been speculation around the capitol that if Deal can make it through the Republican primary next year without significant opposition in his try for a second term, he may change his position enough to accept Medicaid expansion.

That move, if it happens, would still cost the state several billion dollars in federal funds because so much time will have been lost, according to Tim Sweeney, a healthcare analyst with the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.

“If we wait until 2015 or 2016 (to start participating in Medicaid expansion), we’ve left one or two years of federal funding on the table,” Sweeney said.

Guns off campus

Current state law prohibits the carrying of firearms on the state’s campuses by college students, and University System officials want to leave that law unchanged.

During a hearing held by the House Public Safety Committee chaired by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), this joint statement was read on behalf of University System Chancellor Hank Huckaby and Technical College Commissioner Ron Jackson:

Commissioner Ron Jackson and Chancellor Hank Huckaby are the executive heads of the state’s systems of public higher education, which together serve 485,000 students.

Both are united in stating that the best course of action is to continue to follow current Georgia law as it relates to guns on campus. The current law is working and is the best and most effective way to protect and ensure the safety of students, faculty and staff.

In addition to ensuring safety related to the academic missions, the current law also best protects those members of the public who, alongside our students, annually attend the hundreds of community and athletic events held on campuses.

Emotions can run high – particularly at athletic events – and the current law ensures such emotions have the most appropriate means of expression. This position is supported by the experience of campus presidents and the campus public safety departments and their chief officers, who are closest to the day-to-day realities and operations of the state’s public colleges and universities.

Executive appointments

Gov. Nathan Deal has made the following appointments to state boards and commissions –

Georgia Southern University’s Herty Center Advisory Board: Phil Jones of Woodstock, director of New Ventures and Disruptive Technologies for Imerys; G. Scott McCoy of Sandersville, a retired grain merchandising specialist for White Commercial Corp.; Trip Tollison of Savannah, acting president and chief executive officer of the Savannah Economic Development Authority and World Trade Center Savannah.

State Commission on Family Violence: Joseph R. Johnson Jr. of Waycross, the Ware County State Court solicitor general; Juanita P. Stedman of Marietta, a Cobb County Juvenile Court judge; Superior Court Judge Amanda H. Mercier of Blue Ridge; Superior Court Judge Philip T. Raymond III of Macon; Superior Court Judge Denise Marshall of Albany.

Board of Natural Resources: Alfred W. “Bill” Jones of St. Simons Island, chairman emeritus and senior adviser of Sea Island Acquisitions. Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council: Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin J. Cochran. Georgia Composite Medical Board: B.K. Mohan of Jonesboro, the founding partner of Southern Heart Specialists, a cardiology practice.

© 2013 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Alan Powell , Cindy Zeldin , Cover Georgia , guns on campus , Hank Huckaby , Medicaid expansion , Nathan Deal , Obamacare , Ron Jackson