This article is an opinion piece by Georgia State House of Representatives, Jason Spencer (R – Woodbine). State Representative Jason Spencer represents House District 180, which includes Camden, Charlton and Ware counties , and he is also a board certified physician assistant (PA-C) practicing critical access emergency medicine in various small rural hospitals in south Georgia. It is the opinion of the authors and does not necessarily reflect the views of AllOnGeorgia.
The chaos that continues to engulf the health care debate in Washington, D.C. reaffirms the assertion that states must forge their own paths to protect the most vulnerable in communities across the nation. But too many states have turned to an expansion of ObamaCare as a solution—and have put the truly needy at risk and have left taxpayers with surging costs as a result.
Georgia must go a different route.
The opportunity that Georgia now faces can’t be understated: a chance to protect valuable resources for the most vulnerable in our communities while ensuring that our state has funds to provide vital services for generations to come. But to succeed, we must avoid an ObamaCare Medicaid expansion.
Across the nation, ObamaCare Medicaid expansion has flooded state welfare rolls with able-bodied adults at an alarming rate; states that have expanded Medicaid have enrolled 110 percent more adults than ever expected, creating a new welfare class of able-bodied, childless adults that are dependent on the government.
The result? Creating a fiscal crisis that looms over states’ budgets, eating away at funds necessary for education, public safety, and infrastructure. State revenue simply cannot keep up with the rising Medicaid costs, so policymakers saddle taxpayers with the debt.
As the number of able-bodied enrollees rises, cost overruns will continue to devour state budgets—just consider Indiana, where the expansion ran $285 million overbudget in the first 11 months of the program, or Ohio, where lawmakers are considering slashing payments to pediatric hospitals to fund the state’s expansion. Georgia cannot afford to do the same.
But beyond being fiscally irresponsible, ObamaCare Medicaid expansion is immoral—and it threatens our most vulnerable neighbors. The expansion’s perverse funding structure incentivizes states to siphon resources away from the truly needy to help pay for the cost overruns.
Nationwide, over 600,000 truly needy individuals are trapped on Medicaid waiting lists as state governments continue to extend benefits to able-bodied adults. Thousands of children and adults with development disabilities are languishing on waiting lists, often getting pushed to the back of the line to make way for new expansion enrollees. These expansions of ObamaCare Medicaid are destroying and perverting the original mission of Medicaid.
One need only look to Arkansas for a cautionary tale of ObamaCare expansion. Originally billed as a fiscally conservative alternative to traditional expansion, Arkansas’ “Private Option” ObamaCare expansion was simply a more expensive way to expand welfare.
A combination of soaring enrollment and rising costs has put additional pressure on other spending priorities, and has left few resources for the truly needy in the state. Though Arkansas lawmakers originally promised that only 215,000 able-bodied adults would enroll, the number of able-bodied enrollees had surged to nearly 325,000 adults by September 2016, resulting in $80 million in cost overruns, according to a recent study.
But in Arkansas—as is the case in every expansion state across the nation—expansion has hurt the truly needy the most. Since expanding ObamaCare, over 700 disabled children and adults have been added to the state’s Medicaid waiting list. Thousands more are at risk of losing care and the resources that they desperately need as benefits continue to go to able-bodied adults.
To expand ObamaCare Medicaid willingly puts Georgia’s most vulnerable at risk. It is a blatant deception to the taxpayers in our state who work hard for the money they earn and deserve to receive quality public services. It would enable able-bodied adults to fall into the welfare trap and begin a lifetime of government dependency.
Now in an effort to exploit the political chaos in Washington, D.C., powerful interest groups in Georgia are lining up to persuade the state legislature to journey down this treacherous fiscal path, while touting Medicaid waivers as a way forward. Such interest groups will be calling for addition of “work requirements” to the Medicaid expansion waivers in order to pass them off as “conservative versions” of Medicaid, while loading the state’s Medicaid roles with able-bodied working adults who would not qualify as the traditional Medicaid recipient: the deaf, blind or disabled.
In a recent legislative study committee meeting addressing the topic of access to health care in rural Georgia, it was noted that “eighty percent of rural hospital income comes from the government”, yet rural hospitals are still having problems staying open. This dynamic illustrates that rural Georgia essentially has a “single-payer” health care system when the dominate payer of services is government. As one who knows and works intimately with this system, Medicaid expansion will only exacerbate the crisis of access to care in the most vulnerable populations and regions of our state. Throwing more money at this problem only serves as a “Band-Aid” approach, thus offering no real solution — only a clever welfare trap.
Nationwide, ObamaCare Medicaid expansion has been a massive policy failure, but we cannot forget that policy always has a human face. Children and adults continue to suffer every day as a result of this legislation—and we must not make the mistake of imparting that same suffering on the people of Georgia. We cannot miss the opportunity to protect our own state from the disasters of ObamaCare expansion.