Georgians need health care fixes. Thus, Gov. Deal’s decision to do nothing toward that goal in hopes Obama’s law will be repealed is bad medicine. Read what the AJC Editorial Board, Dr. John P. Maupin, and other leaders have to say. Then comment below.
By the AJC Editorial Board
The longer Georgia waits, the more we could lose.
That’s a very real possible outcome of our leaders’ stubbornly steadfast pattern of delaying implementation of health care reform.
If the state continues to whistle and wait in the hopes that relief from Obamacare will somehow, some way, appear, the risks are real and the downside is significant if the reforms survive future challenges. Standing still may play well politically, but it does nothing to help Georgia’s businesses and consumers pragmatically plan their future health care decisions.
In sticking with inaction as a strategy, Georgia lost a major, first-round decision Thursday when the U.S. Supreme Court largely let stand the landmark health care law.
With that judicial hope dashed to derail Obamacare, state officials should now move to begin implementing two key parts of the controversial law.
One calls for states to set up health insurance “exchanges” that would offer coverage options to uninsured Georgians.
The other major plank of the law that state officials would like to see disappear in its entirety calls for expanding state Medicaid plans, a move expected to add about 650,000 Georgians to the program. The high court did perhaps bolster Georgia’s hopes on Medicaid by ruling that the feds cannot withhold money from states that refuse to enlarge Medicaid programs.
On the day the court’s opinion was announced last week, Gov. Nathan Deal told reporters, “Obviously, the elections in November will determine a lot of these decisions that will have to be made by the state at some point in time.”
“We are probably just going to be in a holding pattern until such time as we see what the events of November bring us,” Deal said.
Any airline executive can attest that keeping jets in a holding pattern doesn’t move them from Point A to B, but it does burn lots of expensive fuel. The contentious issue of health care reform is similar in that respect — solutions won’t get any cheaper or easier even after several more pages are ripped from Georgia’s monthly calendar.
In fact, matters may well deteriorate if our inaction continues. Time spent waiting on the outcome of November’s elections would be better spent engineering the details of what Georgia’s insurance exchange would look like. That would give us the best chance of crafting a brokerage that works best for the state, its budget and consumers. Georgia should take the initiative, within federal guidelines, to design the electronic marketplace offering insurance options, public and private, to state residents.
If we don’t step up soon, then we could face two unpleasant options. The worst one would see the federal government stepping in to establish and run Georgia’s exchange. We strongly doubt a D.C.-designed operation would be an optimal solution for this state. Georgia can do better by setting up its own exchange.
The other suboptimal scenario sees Georgia scrambling at the 11th-hour to set up an exchange if President Barack Obama’s law survives the congressional sausage grinder and the implementation countdown keeps ticking. Hurriedly hammering together a solution would leave us both vulnerable to poor decision-making and unlikely to negotiate the best deals with insurers for coverage and rates.
Even if today’s health care reform is dumped at some point in the future, it’s still prudent to make plans to implement what’s now the law of the land.
Proactive initiative is better than inaction, we believe. That’s especially true, given that both the unpopularity of Obamacare and the growing weight of health care costs make the status quo an endangered species under most any scenario.
The dual challenges of controlling health care expenses and providing reasonable health system access to more Georgians will be with us long after whatever changes may be set in effect by the outcome of the November elections.
It will be the case even if Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens get their wish and the next Congress quickly moves to “repeal and replace” the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
An estimated 30 million Americans lack health insurance. Georgians account for nearly 2 million of that total, numbering 19 percent of the state’s population.
That must change, one way or another. The American way of health care needs a major overhaul. On that much, we nearly all agree regardless of political leanings.
Our challenge in Georgia, and nationally, is to find a better way than the present path of paying more for less when it comes to health care. The faster we set about and complete that work, the healthier our wallets and bodies will be.
Andre Jackson, for the Editorial Board
Lessening the burdens of the underserved
By John P. Maupin
On Thursday, the Supreme Court of the United States largely upheld the Affordable Care Act.
After months of debates and harrowing statistics tossed back and forth, the question remains, what does this mean for Georgians?
For the working poor and 1.83 million impoverished Georgians who strive to keep their families healthy, it means access to quality care.
For 43,500 uninsured young adults in Georgia, it means an opportunity to remain covered.
For the 1 million kids in Georgia suffering from obesity, it means a move toward prevention and wellness programs that prevent this chronic disease.
This landmark decision is a step in the right direction as we aim to close health disparities for all.
Currently, about 19 percent of Georgians are uninsured — one of the highest percentages in the nation.
Georgia ranks fifth highest in the number of residents who died prematurely because they didn’t have health insurance, according to a study by Families USA.
When the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented, this figure drops to 6 percent — a major win for our state and its people.
Our state boasts very diverse communities and needs.
The sweeping changes within the Affordable Care Act grant us the opportunity to provide quality care to those who have been historically underserved.
During the past five years, Morehouse School of Medicine has had the highest percentage of graduates entering primary care.
Often we are at the frontline of care in the communities that are medically underserved and we recognize the shortage that exists, particularly in rural areas.
A reformed health care system allows us to increase the number of primary care physicians and provide them with the experiences and skill set needed to treat diverse populations.
Georgia’s medical schools will be able to continue to implement community-based strategies that address the needs of low-income and minority families.
It is critical to also note that by eliminating health disparities, we will ultimately help save lives.
The estimates range from 20,000 to 45,000 people who die each year in our country because they lack insurance.
Isn’t one life one too many?
For Georgia, the answer is yes.
Dr. John P. Maupin is president of the Morehouse School of Medicine.
ON THE RECORD
Following are responses from conservative leaders issued after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the health care reform law.
Gov. Nathan Deal: “My battle with Obamacare didn’t start when I was elected as governor of Georgia. I wear with pride my bruises and scars from the fight against its passage in the U.S. House. Today, the highest court in the country let the American people down.
“While we recognize this is a huge setback for fiscal sanity and personal liberty, we are not giving up. Georgians and the American people deserve high-quality, sustainable health care. Congress must now work steadfastly on repealing this law and replacing it with reforms that help taxpayers instead of hurt them.”
Kelly McCutchen, president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation: “The Founding Fathers would be mortified to see the body blow to their hard-won concept of America’s limited government. Congress now has the power to do whatever it wants.”
“This flawed decision highlights the urgent need for state action to protect taxpayers and health care consumers from the harmful effects of this law. The solution to this nation’s health care problems certainly are not in Washington, D.C., and this ruling reinforces our commitment to work harder than ever to restore the proper balance of individual rights and government power in Georgia and in Washington.”
Ronald E. Bachman, a senior fellow of The Georgia Public Policy Foundation: “Anyone who believes the Supreme Court’s ruling has ended the debate on the law is sorely mistaken. The economy will be the leading issue in the November 2012 election, but health care is 17 percent of the economy. The costs and mandates associated with the federal health law have impacted and will continue to affect jobs and job growth in the economy.
In the end, as [Chief Justice John] Roberts stated, ‘We do not consider whether the Act embodies sound policies. That judgment is entrusted to the Nation’s elected leaders.’ In November, voters will decide its fate. There is indeed a court higher than the U.S. Supreme Court: the court of public opinion.”
U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, R-Coweta County: “In March 2010, President Obama and congressional Democrats had their say. On the last Thursday in June, the Supreme Court had its say. And on November 6th of this year, the American people will have their say. To quote President Lincoln, our nation is one of the people, by the people, and for the people. And a majority of the people … want this law repealed.”