Archive for the ‘Health care’ Category

Why Chip Rogers’ new GPB job fails the cronyism test

(Left to right) State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, hosts a July 2012  press conference -- along with Sen. John Albers, Rep. Sean Jerguson, and Rep. Ed Setzler – to voice opposition to TSPLOST. Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

(Left to right) State Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, hosts a July 2012 press conference — along with Sen. John Albers, Rep. Sean Jerguson, and Rep. Ed Setzler – to voice opposition to TSPLOST. Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com

Years ago at the state Capitol, if you truly wanted to do a friend a favor, you fired him.

Under a quirk in state law, laid-off workers received an immediate, life-time pension. Many well-connected state employees, some in their forties, waltzed into early retirement in this manner.

There are those who point to former state Senate majority leader Chip Rogers, now Georgia Public Broadcasting’s most famous employee, as yet another example of this kind of cronyism. But that is like mistaking a bream for a large-mouth bass.

Right genus — and still fishy — but wrong species.

In fact, the Rogers affair is the mirror image of the state’s old “involuntary separation” law. Instead of firing a friend, Gov. Nathan Deal has arranged …

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Senate Republicans look for Dem help in ‘bed tax’ debate

My AJC collegue Kristina Torres reports that Thursday’s Senate debate over Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed new Medicaid funding plan will likely be lively. And necessarily bipartisan.

From Torres:

The chamber’s Republican leaders, who fast-tracked the bill through their usual process in these early days of the legislative session, now need help from the chamber’s Democratic minority to waive their normal rules and allow Senate Bill 24 to hit the floor.

That’s because the chamber requires a two-thirds majority – or 38 votes – to amend the rules. The Republicans hold 37 seats, at least until a special election Feb. 5 to fill the District 11 seat of former Sen. John Bulloch. And at least one Republican, Josh McKoon of Columbus, voted against SB 24 in committee on Tuesday.

The expected trade-off for Democratic cooperation is a full discussion before the vote – unlike a vote Monday on the chamber’s new rules, which returned power back to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle over things …

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Your daily jolt: Senate Dems to push back on ethics, abortion, HOPE and foreclosures

On Feb. 5, when the south Georgia contest to replace John Bulloch is completed, Republicans will have 38 members in a 56-member state Senate.

That will give the GOP a super-majority of two-thirds. Which means Democrats will be a super-minority.

Nonetheless, Senate Democrats this morning intend to push out their agenda for this year’s legislative session. Much of it is blue-skying, but here’s a quick rundown of the new legislation they’ll attempt:

– A bill to eliminate all distinctions between the Zell Miller scholarship and other HOPE grants, and to require colleges universities and tech schools to accept HOPE payments as full tuition. Sponsor: Curt Thompson of Tucker;

– A bill to reduce GPA requirement for HOPE grants to 2.0. Sponsor: Jason Carter of Decatur;

– A prohibition on the use of handheld devices while driving. Horacena Tate of Atlanta;

– Repeal of the “fetal pain” bill that the Legislature passed last year, reducing the period during which a woman can seek …

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Grover Norquist’s verdict: ‘Bed tax’ solution a ‘step in wrong direction’

Last October, Grover Norquist, president of the D.C.-based anti-tax group Americans for Tax Reform, warned state lawmakers not to renew the state’s “hospital bed tax” passed in 2010 to plug a hole in the state Medicaid budget. The tax/fee expires on June 30.

Today, in a statement obtained by my AJC colleague Greg Bluestein, a spokesman for Norquist doesn’t like Gov. Nathan Deal’s effort, unveiled today, to shift the burden of raising the cash from the Legislature to the state Department of Community Health. From Josh Culling, the ATR’s state government affairs manager:

”Gov. Deal’s decision to shift taxing authority from the legislature to the Department of Community Health does nothing to improve the hospital bed tax. Instead, it is a step in the wrong direction, attempting to absolve the governor and legislature of any potential blame for the looming tax increase.

“The hospital bed tax remains a job-killing tax hike that will increase the cost of health care …

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Gov. Nathan Deal’s solution to the ‘hospital bed tax’ debate

Want your free copy of Gov. Nathan Deal’s solution to the debate over renewing “hospital bed tax”/Medicaid assessment fee? Just click here.

Here’s a summary from my AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin, gleaned from last night’s Wild Hog Supper:

Gov. Nathan Deal believes he has found a possible solution to one of this year’s thorniest legislative issues: how to keep hospitals that rely on Medicaid solvent while allowing legislators to avoid voting on what some see as a tax increase, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Deal’s floor leaders in the House and Senate will introduce legislation today that switches the responsibility for levying the fee from the Legislature to the Department of Community Health. The move to levy a provider fee would replace the so-called bed tax on hospitals.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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The power of a name at the center of Medicaid debate

The first step on the road to wisdom, Confucius declared thousands of years ago, is to call a thing by its proper name.

Republicans in Washington have taken the Chinese philosopher’s advice to heart, and are now engaged in a debate over whether an increase in federal revenue can correctly be labeled a tax hike. Anti-tax guru Grover Norquist says yes. U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss says no.

A Georgia version of this name game – no less intense than the one in D.C. — is already percolating. Two-and-a-half years ago, the state Legislature passed what came to be known as “the bed tax” – a levy on Georgia’s hospitals used to leverage federal dollars and prop up the state’s Medicaid program.

It expires next year. Gov. Nathan Deal, House Speaker David Ralston and soon-to-be Senate president pro tem David Shafer all agree that without it, there will be hell to pay.

But a bed tax? They’ve never heard of it. “Medicaid assessment fee,” says Ralston. “Provider fee,” …

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A Q&A with Speaker David Ralston on ‘personhood,’ immigration, a new Georgia Dome and hospitals

House Speaker David Ralston recently sat down to discuss the November elections and their impact on the next session of the state Legislature, which begins in January.

Ralston predicted that Republican re-engagement on immigration reform in Washington would forestall further state legislation on the issue. He also suggested that a “personhood” amendment to the state constitution was unlikely to fly and said he has urged state lawmakers to think coolly and calmly about two hot issues: a new stadium that would serve as home to the Atlanta Falcons and renewal of an “assessment fee” on hospitals to help prop up the state Medicaid program.

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House Speaker David Ralston greets supporters of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan during the election night party for the 2012 U.S. presidential election results at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead. Jason Getz/jgetz@ajc.com

Some excerpts from our conversation:

Q: So what’s your verdict on the 2012 campaigns?

A: I think the November elections were a …

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Nathan Deal: ‘Cost and control’ behind his refusal to set up Georgia insurance exchange

Gov. Nathan Deal was on Fox News this morning, explaining why Georgia and 16 other states (so far) will not set up the health care insurance exchanges required by the Affordable Care Act:

The federal government will set up the operations in Georgia and those other states. Said Deal:

“Historically, the regulation of insurance has been a state function. That’s why we have state insurance commissioners. We don’t have a federal insurance commissioner. We will have one, of course – maybe not in name, but in practicality.

It is not politics. It is the cost and the question of state control of an issue that’s so important to the citizens of our state.”

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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Your daily jolt: With new GOP leadership, state Senate rift may be at an end

The state Senate’s two-year experiment with self-rule may be about to experience a major correction.

In a private meeting held at the edge of the earth – well, Little Ocmulgee State Park down in south Georgia – the Senate Republican caucus voted 25 to 10 to make David Shafer of Duluth the president pro tem and No. 1 leader in the chamber.

On the losing end was Bill Cowsert of Athens. He had been at the top of a slate of candidates put together by outgoing President pro tem Tommie Williams of Lyons and other GOP senators who banded together two years ago to strip Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of his authority over the chamber.

From the official press release:

“I am humbled by the support shown by my Senate colleagues in today’s election,” said Senator Shafer. “With the upcoming legislative session less than two months away and with several critical issues needing immediate attention, it is imperative that we begin work now.”

In that same press release, Cagle – whom the …

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Nathan Deal: Falcons need to make case for a new stadium

After a signing ceremony for a Veterans Day proclamation, Gov. Nathan Deal held a first post-election scrum with reporters.

Among the topics: The Atlanta Falcons’ drive to replace the 20-year-old Georgia Dome with a new $1 billion facility with a retractable roof. The governor will have to sign, and the Legislature approve, an increase in the bonding capacity of the Georgia World Congress Authority.

Deal was asked about hints that the Falcons have been dropping, that leaving the city – perhaps for Los Angeles – might be an option. Should people in Atlanta be concerned? the governor was asked. Replied Deal:

”I don’t know how to answer that question, because nobody has suggested that’s an option that’s on the table now. I did meet with the commissioner of the NFL, Mr. [Roger] Goodell, and met with the authorities of the Atlanta Falcons this week. We had a good meeting. We had a good discussion….

That really is an issue that addresses itself to the Legislature, …

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