GA hospitals push to expand Medicaid

Georgia hospitals, under increasing financial pressure, are pushing the state's conservative statehouse to expand the Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The financial concerns have led hospitals in the Peachtree State to cut jobs. Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Southwest Georgia has eliminated 150 positions, while Emory Healthcare is eyeing similar cuts, radio station WABE reported.

"Like other hospitals and health systems throughout the United States, Phoebe is facing a tidal wave of economic change," Joel Wernick, Phoebe Putney's chief executive officer, told WABE. "We're dealing with an economy and a change in the healthcare industry over which we have limited control."

Meanwhile, the Georgia Hospital Association (GHA) has begun actively lobbying state lawmakers to expand the state's Medicaid program. GHA Vice President Kevin Bloye has noted that three hospitals in the state have closed since the start of the year, and other hospitals face a similar fate. 

"We need Medicaid expansion in the state. We need some sort of relief that will help address some of the financial challenges that the healthcare provider community is facing," Bloye told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "These issues are real. They're not going to go away and we trust leadership that they're going to work with us on this."

A total of 25 states have refused to expand Medicaid, primarily due to political objections to the ACA. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has cited the expenses of doing so, according to the Journal-Constitution, even though the federal government would bear all the costs for the first three years and 90 percent of the cost after that. About 489,000 Georgia residents would be eligible for Medicaid coverage if the state chose to relax income eligibility requirements, according to data from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured.

To learn more:
- read the WABE report
- here's the Journal-Constitution article
- check out the Kaiser Commission report (.pdf)