More than 409,000 Georgians fall into the Medicaid gap—they make too much or don't meet the benefit guidelines for traditional Medicaid, make too little to get a subsidy to buy private insurance—because Republican Gov. Nathan Deal refused Medicaid expansion for the state. But more than just the people lacking coverage, the state's healthcare network is now suffering, with rural hospitals in particular struggling to even stay open. Democrat Jason Carter is highlighting that issue in his campaign challenging Deal, calling for Medicaid expansion.
Montezuma’s squat hospital now offers only psychiatric services and little else. County officials said they’ve had to spend more than $800,000 extra on basic healthcare services, such as ambulance costs, to stabilize patients and transport them to nearby regional hospitals.Four rural hospitals in Georgia have shut down and a dozen more have had to cut the services they provide. The state has come up with a semi-solution, a new licensing program that would allow these hospitals to operate as free-standing emergency departments, but right now it's unclear where the funding for that would come from.
One official from the remote town of Ideal told Carter it could take up to three hours from a 911 call to a hospital. Another said he worried that the regional unemployment rate, which hovers around 13 percent, will stay stagnant without a hospital. And a county commissioner said he often worries what would happen if a major tragedy struck town.
“Who says there’s not going to be a natural disaster, a train derailment?” said Bob Melvin, the Macon County commissioner.
It's not going to come from Medicaid, if the Republicans in Georgia have anything to say about it. Georgia recently passed legislation, which Deal happily signed, to give the legislature veto power—in perpetuity—over any decision by a future governor to accept the Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. State laws aren't written in stone, and this could be repealed, should be repealed. It's not just the 400,000+ low-income Georgians who are being punished by state Republicans—it's anyone who is losing access to local emergency care because of nothing more than politics.