A bill to take the authority to expand Medicaid in Georgia away from the governor and put it in the hands of state lawmakers has made its way out of a House subcommittee.
The measure, which is supported by Gov. Nathan Deal, would require any expansion be voted on by legislators.
Deal has maintained his opposition to an expansion saying it would cost the state $4 billion over ten years to cover an additional 650,000 low income Georgians.
“That is of such financial magnitude that I do think that it is vitally important that it require a vote of the Legislature,” says House Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones who is among House leaders sponsoring the bill.
But opponents say it only pushes any hope of future expansion further down the road.
Cathryn Marchman, a social worker at Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care Services, says the majority of the 13,000 patients its facilities see a year do not have insurance because they fall in the gap of those who are below the poverty line but make too much to qualify for Medicaid.
“We’ve seen patients where I have literally told my colleagues ‘This is another Newtown waiting to happen’ and we cannot get that patient into care,” she testified before lawmakers.
But Rep. Jason Spencer (R-Woodbine) says too many people are “gaming” the system as it is. As a Physician’s Assistant, he often treats Medicaid patients who test positive for drugs.
“We the taxpayers of Georgia are using taxpayer money to treat the addiction of this person. I don’t think that’s a fair use of Medicaid,” he says.
The bill passed with two Democrats in opposition and now goes before the full House Judiciary Civil Committee.