The second-to-the-last day of the 2014 state legislative session kicked off with protests in the Senate gallery over Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid. The disruption was part of a rolling series of civil disobedience acts to urge lawmakers not to pass a bill that would bar a sitting governor from adding enrollees to Medicaid.
The pace of business at the State Capitol has quickened, and that’s especially true for certain types of business. Lawmakers looking to push controversial measures are grafting parts of their bills onto other pieces of legislation that are fairly vanilla. Thursday afternoon, the House was about to vote on a bill to expand services to Alzheimer’s patients. Then all of a sudden, the Majority Whip, Atlanta Republican Rep. Ed Lindsey, arrived with an amendment that would block state agencies from carrying out any of the mandates of the Affordable Care Act.
Georgia lawmakers have now made it to the other side. That is, the other side of so-called Crossover Day, which took place Monday at the state Capitol. They are now three-quarters of the way through the 2014 legislative session, and barreling toward the end, currently scheduled for March 20. Any bill that didn’t pass one of the General Assembly’s chambers Monday won’t have a shot at becoming law in the final ten days of this year’s 40-day legislative session.
The issue of Medicaid expansion drew its first full-scale 2014 General Assembly hearing Wednesday. As expected, the arguments reflected the passions surrounding the Affordable Care Act. A House Judiciary subcommittee voted to pass HB 990, which would require the Legislature to approve any expansion of Medicaid here, rather than leaving the decision up to the governor alone.
Sen. Vincent Fort hinted that his arrest Monday for occupying Governor Nathan Deal’s office wouldn’t be the last clash in his efforts to convince Georgia’s top official to expand Medicaid. The Atlanta Democrat has pledged to hold events each week that he’s calling “Moral Mondays.” And in an interview Tuesday, he reiterated his belief that Deal’s decision not to expand Medicaid to the 650,000 Georgians without health insurance is immoral.
State Sen. Vincent Fort (D-Atlanta) and nine other Moral Monday Georgia supporters were arrested inside Gov. Nathan Deal’s office Monday after refusing repeated police orders to leave. The demonstrators wanted Deal to accept their letter urging him to expand the state’s Medicaid program.
Georgia Democrats have little power these days. They hold no statewide offices, and have forceless minorities in both chambers of the state legislature. So when House and Senate Democrats rolled out their agendas in separate press conferences Thursday, it’s not an exaggeration to say little of what they proposed will come to pass. Much of it will fail to even garner a committee vote, much less make it to the floor of either chamber for a vote.
While describing how Georgia’s economy has escaped its “deep freeze,” Gov. Nathan Deal again showed no signs of thawing on the idea of expanding Medicaid. Expansion of Medicaid as called for under the Affordable Care Act would cost the state too much, Deal said. A legislative panel Thursday offered a different perspective.
Georgia health care had more than its share of drama and surprises in 2013. Some of the big stories were linked to the Affordable Care Act. This far-reaching federal law, passed in early 2010, was still generating changes and attracting controversy as if it were brand new. But the ACA wasn’t the only hot topic in Georgia health. Issues ranged from drug scares to complex policy disputes and funding battles.
Calculating the cost to taxpayers, a new study released Thursday says Georgia could see a net loss of $2.9 billion in the year 2022 if it continues to reject Medicaid expansion. That’s because Georgia taxpayers would be paying for expansion of Medicaid in other states, while not getting anything in return, said the Commonwealth Fund study. Additional federal funds go to states that expand Medicaid.