Between the attack ads and charges of voter suppression, it may be hard to remember there are big issues that have been discussed in the race for Georgia Governor.
One of the biggest is healthcare and Democrat Stacey Abrams and her Republican opponent, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp certainly have different approaches to getting more people insured and for helping the low income.
Since she began campaigning, Abrams has made expanding Medicaid one of the cornerstones of her health care plan. She says Georgia’s Republican leaders have left billions on the table that could have been funneled back to the state of Georgia, She says Medicaid expansion could help save rural hospitals.
“Georgia has more rural hospitals on the brink of closure than almost any other state,” said Abrams in a recent debate. “With the expansion of Medicaid, we can save rural hospitals, cover more than half a million Georgians and invest in all these communities to the tune of $3 Billion.”
Medicaid is a state and federal partnership to provide insurance for low-income people who can’t afford it. The expansion was part of the Affordable Care Act which Republicans took to calling Obamacare and it became controversial pretty quickly.
“I don’t support expanding a failed broken government system,” said Kemp last week at a campaign stop in Long County. “That’s no way to fix the problem.”
Four years ago when many states expanded Medicaid, Georgia Republican leaders said ultimately the state could not afford to put more people on Medicaid even though the expansion at the time was all federal money. They argued that at some point the state would have to pay more.
Abrams says the cost is still being paid by the federal government and that Medicaid expansion would mean more than just covering thousands of additional people and economic development. She says it would create medical jobs. “It will create 56 thousand jobs, 60 percent are outside the metro Atlanta area,” said Abrams in last week’s debate.
Kemp countered that evening that Abrams wants higher taxes, bigger government, a single-payer radical takeover of healthcare.”
“What we need is my health care plan that makes premiums more affordable, lowers prescription drug costs and will help some of our rural hospitals and despite what my opponent says, my plan will cover pre-existing conditions,” said Kemp.
Kemp’s plan includes increasing the Rural Hospital Tax Credit Program to $100 Million dollars to benefit financially strapped rural institutions. The program works by allowing taxpayers to make contributions to hospitals and then take a state tax deduction.
The Georgia Department of Community Health lists 49 rural hospitals that are in need of financial stimulus.
Abrams has made a point of saying a number of Red States (including Indiana when Mike Pence was governor) have expanded Medicaid and that she is only supporting a program that’s “proven to be bi-partisan.”
Kemp says there are solutions, but Medicaid expansion is not one of them.