Thu., December 26, 2013 3:58pm (EST)

Group Wants Georgia Medicaid Patients To Help Pay For Their Care
By Ellen Reinhardt
Updated: 4 months ago

ATLANTA  —  
A Senate committee says Georgia’s current Medicaid program is financially unsustainable.
A Senate committee says Georgia’s current Medicaid program is financially unsustainable.
A group of state lawmakers wants Medicaid patients to help pay for their care. A Senate committee says Georgia’s current Medicaid program is financially unsustainable.

This year, the General Assembly had to renew a tax on hospitals to cover a $700 million shortfall in Medicaid.

Medicaid costs in Georgia are also expected to increase by more than $100 million next year, due to changes under the Affordable Care Act.

According to a report by the Senate Select Alternative Funding for Medicaid and Other Health Care Federal Funding Committee, approximately one in five Georgians is on Medicaid.

The report says the program is encumbered by a large bureaucracy to administer it and it’s “a program that as currently structured is not affordable and is unsustainable in Georgia.”

State Senator Josh McKoon, a Republican from Columbus, chaired the committee. The group is recommending the state consider a plan like the Healthy Indiana Plan.

McKoon says the health care program in Indiana sets up health savings accounts for Medicaid recipients in the state and also requires them to make a monthly contribution.

“What they found after an initial sort of wash through of folks that did not participate, those that decided to stay in the program and continued to pay their monthly enrollment cost, their utilization rate went down significantly and the total dollars that were being spent per enrollee went down significantly,” said McKoon. “ But health outcomes actually improved.”

McKoon says the committee is also recommending the state use some Medicaid funds to set up a voucher program to help enrollees purchase private health insurance. He says more doctors are no longer accepting new Medicaid patients, leaving recipients with fewer options.

“We have to do something fundamental to bend that cost curve and to move people into coverages that will give them access to care and that will make providers whole. And so I think our recommendations sort of point in that direction,” said McKoon.

But McKoon doesn’t expect legislators to introduce any legislation this year due to a shortened General Assembly session. He does expect lawmakers will take up the matter in 2015, and warns that what the state has done so far to stabilize the program “put a band-aid on the problem.”

He says the underlying financial issues remain and must be addressed.