Medicaid provider fee could be passed quickly, Ralston says

[private]One of the most pressing healthcare issues of the upcoming legislative session, the extension of the Medicaid provider fee, looks like it could be resolved quickly.

House Speaker David Ralston strongly suggested Thursday that the legislation could be one of the first measures adopted and sent to Gov. Nathan Deal for his signature.Ralston1jan52017

“Our goal is to take that up and move on rather quickly during the session,” Ralston said in a briefing to capitol reporters.

“I think it’s important that we pass it, and I hope that we can take that up fairly early in the session and get that behind us,” Ralston said. “It’s a real cornerstone of our healthcare system in Georgia.”

The Senate leadership has also indicated it expects to see quick action on extending the provider fee, which is alternatively known as the “hospital bed tax.”

“Inaction is not an option and would put our hospitals, especially those in rural areas, in financial trouble, jeopardizing access to care for Georgians,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said through a spokesman.

The provider fee is a state tax of 1.45 percent on a hospital’s net patient revenue and must be renewed every three years. The revenue raised through the tax is allocated to Medicaid and draws down additional federal money for the program: roughly $280 million from hospitals brings in another $600 million in federal funds.

The money raised from the provider fee is especially urgent for hospitals that treat large numbers of low-income patients. With the impending repeal of the Affordable Care Act, Georgia has lost its last opportunity to get federal funding for Medicaid expansion.

“I think Medicaid expansion came off the table the night of Nov. 8,” Ralston said, referring to the presidential election.

The last time lawmakers voted on an extension of the Medicaid provider fee was during the 2013 session.

That bill was introduced in the Senate on the first day of the session, approved in committee on the second day of the session, and adopted by the Senate on the fourth day of the session. The House of Representatives passed it on Feb. 1 and Deal signed it on Feb. 13.

For the General Assembly, that constitutes lightning speed.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: David Ralston , Medicaid provider fee