Georgia GOP moves backward on health care

About 20 protestors are arrested at the Georgia state Capitol after disrupting the Senate, Tuesday, March 18, 2014.
About 20 protestors are arrested at the Georgia state Capitol after disrupting the Senate, Tuesday, March 18, 2014.
Few states need the Affordable Care Act as much as Georgia. The Southern state has one of the highest rates of uninsured in the nation -- roughly one in five Georgians lack coverage -- and rural hospitals across the state keep permanently closing their doors.
And yet, few states are fighting harder to reject the ACA life-preserver. As Rachel explained on the show last night, it was an especially eventful day in Atlanta yesterday.

Lawmakers approved Tuesday night two anti-Obamacare bills that all but guarantee Georgia won't expand its Medicaid program and that will prevent state agencies from helping consumers sign up for new insurance coverage offered under the Affordable Care Act.

Both measures are striking in their scope and their hostility towards expanding access to affordable medical care.
The first dealt with Medicaid expansion, which would bring coverage to about 650,000 low-income Georgians, and which was the subject of expansive progressive activism in the state capitol yesterday. Conservative policymakers didn't much care.
Under existing state law, the governor's office is largely responsible for either approving or rejecting Medicaid expansion in the state, but a new bill approved yesterday shifts the balance -- the power is now in the hands of the General Assembly, which means expansion is now practically impossible.
There had been rumors that Gov. Nathan Deal (R), a fierce opponent of "Obamacare," might consider the Medicaid policy if he wins re-election, but it will now be a moot point -- state GOP policymakers intend to leave those 650,000 Georgians behind on purpose.
The second bill is just as harsh.

The second, House Bill 943, would bar any state or local governments, agencies or employees from advocating for Medicaid expansion, except under certain circumstances, or from creating a health insurance exchange. It also would bar the University of Georgia and any other state organizations from running health insurance navigator programs to help Georgia consumers buy insurance on the federally run Health Insurance Marketplace. [...] Senate lawmakers gave final approval to HB 943 by a vote of 37-17 just before midnight Tuesday following some late-night political maneuvering by its supporters. The original bill proposed by Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, House Bill 707, ran into a roadblock in a Senate committee earlier this week. But supporters managed to get much of its language inserted into HB 943, which deals primarily with oral cancer medications, at the last minute.

There's just no reason for any of this. It serves no larger purpose, other than advancing the cause of right-wing spite.
There's been an ongoing fear that Georgia's health care system would soon resemble that of a "third-world nation." Yesterday, state lawmakers took a step closer to making that a reality.
Update: I neglected to mention that state Rep. Jason Spencer (R), the author of the latter bill, has been quite colorful in waging his fight against health care reform. Wonkette had a brilliant item yesterday, noting Spencer's reaction when his proposal was recently tabled by his colleagues.

"That eleventh hour betrayal effectively killed the bill, but it could still be brought back to life by amendment of companion legislation," said Rep. Spencer. "Tomorrow [today!], I will identify the Republican Benedict Arnolds, the King George the Third and his myrmidons who ship wrecked my path breaking, patriotic bill (HB 707) to prevent the federal Leviathan from commandeering the machinery of state government or resources to enforce ill-conceived federal health insurance mandates. A patriot saves his country from his government. HB 707 would have been the first occasion in a century to draw a constitutional line against state complicity in endless federal encroachments."

Note, Spencer's bill did not pass as a stand-alone measure, but he and his allies included parts of his proposal in HB 943, which passed and will be signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal (R).
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