State News

March 18, 2014

Georgia Republicans moving against Obama health plan

ATLANTA — Republicans were poised Tuesday to make it even tougher for Georgia to expand a government health insurance program for the poor, undercutting a big part of an overhaul backed by Democratic President Barack Obama.

The election-year legislation was expected to come up for a vote as soon as Tuesday as state lawmakers in the General Assembly held their second-to-last day of the legislative year. By law, Georgia’s state lawmakers meet for 40 working days. Legislators are in a mad rush to pass their bills because any legislation that does not win approval by the final day on Thursday automatically fails for the year.

One of the most significant bills would give Georgia’s Republican-dominated legislature the final say on whether to loosen the rules governing how much money people can make and still qualify for the government-funded Medicaid program. The Democratic health care plan counted on states to expand their Medicaid programs to include people who are too poor to afford subsidized health insurance but otherwise ineligible for government care.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has said the long-run costs of expanding the state’s Medicaid system are too expensive. GOP lawmakers want to permanently restrict the governor and his successors from changing course. The measure will likely prove popular with Republican voters during an election year. Deal’s administration projects that an expansion would cost Georgia roughly $48 million in the first full year, or less than 1 percent of the proposed state budget. Deal’s administration projects those costs would rise to nearly $498 million by 2023.

“We believe that a decision about an entitlement program should be made by the legislative branch and not an appointed board,” said state Sen. David Shafer, the Republican President Pro Tempore. “The federal government is trillions of dollars in debt. ... We should be careful about doing our long-term planning based on promises the federal government is making.”

Democratic lawmakers say enlarging the state’s Medicaid system is Georgia best opportunity to get insurance for an estimated 400,000 people.

“I have never seen a piece of legislation where the majority party voices its skepticism of its own governor,” said state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta. “We have the greatest treatment, the greatest doctors in the world. The only problem is, not enough Georgians have access to those hospitals.”

Capitol police arrested several protesters who chanted from the Senate gallery in support of enlarging the Medicaid system. Zan Thornton, 52, said she blames her mother’s death from cancer on her inability to seek affordable care. She was too poor to pay for health care, but her family made too much money to qualify for government coverage.

“The governor has other priorities,” Thornton said. “His priorities are big business, not the people.”

House lawmakers also voted to restrict companies from offering coverage for abortion in health insurance policies sold on federally run exchanges, except when a pregnancy threatens the life or health of the mother. Democratic opponents have faulted the plan, saying it offers no exceptions for women who are raped and limits a woman’s access to abortion. That bill will now head to the Senate for final approval.

Other measures under debate would:

— Require drug testing for people receiving food stamps;

— Allow Georgia to adopt a medical marijuana program for patients suffering from some illnesses.

———

Follow Ray Henry on Twitter: http://twitter.com/rhenryAP.

 

1
Text Only
State News
  • One charged in death of Dalton woman, another sought

    A Dalton woman found dead in Calhoun earlier this month is believed to have died of a drug overdose after two Calhoun residents abandoned her in a car behind the VFW on East Line Street, Lt. Tony Pyle with the Calhoun Police Department said Wednesday afternoon.

    June 18, 2014

  • Guard shot at FedEx center to undergo 14th surgery

    A security guard critically wounded when a gunman went on a rampage at a FedEx facility is scheduled to undergo his 14th operation Tuesday.

    May 27, 2014

  • Arson ruled out as cause of chemical plant fire

    Police say investigators have been able to rule out arson or foul play as the cause of a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles.

    May 27, 2014

  • Teen tied to shopping cart drowns in lake

    Georgia Department of Natural Resources officials say a teen has died after being tied to a shopping cart and pushed into Lake Allatoona.

    May 25, 2014

  • Underground tattoo artists frustrate officials

    The work of tattoo artists whose living rooms double as body art studios might come cheap, but experts say the unsterile -- and illegal -- work environments could leave clients in pain long after the initial sting of the needle subsides.

    May 25, 2014

  • No runoff lets Republicans focus on Rep. Barrow

    While Georgia Republicans have to wait until July to settle runoff races for the U.S. Senate and three open House seats, one of the biggest GOP victories in the primary elections last week went to Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen.

    May 25, 2014

  • Audit probes juvenile justice turnover rate

    A state audit cites low pay, long hours and management concerns as reasons for a relatively high turnover rate at the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

    May 25, 2014

  • Atlanta schools ex-tech director to be sentenced

    After his relationship with the superintendent of Atlanta’s school system soured, a former technology director for the district set up a kickback scheme to pad his pockets before he left his job, according to court documents.

    May 24, 2014

  • Georgia veteran, 92, honored at surprise ceremony

    Family and friends surprised a 92-year-old World War II veteran from Georgia on Memorial Day by honoring him and presenting him with the World War II Victory Medal.

    May 24, 2014

  • Police: Massive chemical plant fire extinguished

    Authorities say a massive fire at a chemical plant outside Atlanta that spewed black smoke and flames visible for miles has been extinguished.

    May 24, 2014