Democratic Candidate for Georgia Governor Stacey Abrams waves to supporters after speaking at an election-night watch party Tuesday, May 22, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate for Georgia governor Stacey Abrams talked to south Georgians about her healthcare plan on Friday in Savannah.

Abrams said she would challenge state lawmakers to approve Medicaid expansion if she becomes governor.

Abrams has been a staunch supporter of Medicaid expansion allowed for under the Affordable Healthcare Act as a central part of her plan to help Georgians overcome healthcare access issues.

Abrams will have to challenge state Republicans in both chambers to pass Medicaid expansion efforts and current laws that are already in place, such as the Georgia Healthcare Freedom Act passed into law in 2014 by Governor Nathan Deal, are in the way.

Under state Republican leadership, Georgia has not expanded Medicaid in part because of concerns about their ability to predict and afford their share of the costs. However, President Trump has increased flexibility for states to add elements in their expansion programs that will look to control costs going forward, such as patient cost-sharing and work requirements to obtain Medicaid expansion dollars from the federal government.

Parts of the Georgia Healthcare Freedom act could sour aspects of expanding Medicaid if Abrams were to be Governor with a majority Republican legislature. However, the Georgia Healthcare Freedom Act does not disallow Medicaid expansion, but the infrastructure to support Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act (ACA) insurance exchanges. A single-payer type system could have issues getting off the ground in Georgia, but Abrams would need to convince Republicans that expanding Medicaid is beneficial to the overall state’s budget based on research data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, a leading research group in Medicaid expansion. Some states, like Kentucky, still have a shortfall in Medicaid expansion as evidence not to expand the program any further.

Another aspect of Abrams’ plan is to  provide “Protection of the Affordable Care Act and creation of the Georgia Premium Stability Program to lower premiums for self-employed Georgians.”

Abrams, if elected, would have to gut or even repeal the Georgia Healthcare Freedom Act, which prohibits funding aspects of any infrastructure associated with the Affordable Health Care Act with state resources.

The provision in the Georgia Healthcare Freedom Act (HB 943) that could hinder Abrams’ plan is as follows:

(b) No department, agency, instrumentality, or political subdivision of this state shall: (1) Establish any program; promulgate any rule, policy, guideline, or plan; or change any program, rule, policy, or guideline to implement, establish, create, administer, or  otherwise operate an exchange; or  (2) Apply for, accept, or expend federal moneys related to the creation, implementation, or operation of an exchange.

Abrams’ plan does not include a cost analysis, but her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, has said in previous news reports, that her plan could cause tax hikes to pay for the program.

Abrams’ specifically states that her plan will use 1332 waiver system to create her stability premium program and further expand the state’s Medicaid system.  These waivers do not repeal the ACA. In fact, they are mandated to retain the basic protections of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.

Below is a summary of Abrams’ Healthcare Plan for Georgia from her campaign website:

  1. Expand Medicaid in Georgia
  2. Support and safeguard women’s health and a woman’s right to choose
  3. Leverage state and federal programs to incentivize more doctors and medical personnel to work in underserved areas
  4. Ensure our system provides robust supports for elderly Georgians
  5. Fund critical mental health services throughout Georgia so that individuals will have their needs addressed by the health care system rather than the criminal justice system

Abrams’ entire plan can be read here:

Abrams Health Care Platform 2018 (1)

 

 

 

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