GOP Healthcare Plan: How It Could Affect Georgia

House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. speaks during a news conference at the Republican National Committee Headquarters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 8, 2017, as the GOP works on its long-awaited plan to repeal and replace the ACA.
Credit J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press
Audio version of this story here.

 A healthcare consumer advocate lays out what the GOP’s healthcare bills could mean for Georgians.

U.S. House Republicans have unveiled a pair of bills laying out what repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act could look like.

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According to Cindy Zeldin, with healthcare consumer advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, one of the biggest impacts this state would feel is from a major shift in the way Medicaid works.

Right now, under the ACA, a certain number of people in a state qualify for Medicaid and the state works with the federal government to fund their healthcare. Zeldin said the new plan would CAP federal funding based on the state’s population.

“The idea is that, if you’ve [the state] run out of money, it doesn’t matter if you [an individual] qualify or not,” she said. “If the state runs out of that money, then they’re going to have to make decisions about who or what to cut.”

About 1.7 million Georgians are on Medicaid. Many of them are poor children, people with disabilities and seniors. Zeldin said if cuts need to be made, pitting the healthcare interests of those groups against each other is not a comfortable situation for any state policy makers to be in.

She said compared to other states, Georgia already spends very little per person on Medicaid, so there’s not much room to cut if federal funding takes a hit.

Another proposed change Georgians would feel is in the way tax credits work, as in, how the federal government helps people pay for coverage.

“Instead of being based on how much money you make or where you live, tax credits would be based on age,” Zeldin said.

The new plan would offer younger people a flat $2,000 credit. Older people would get twice that.

“This would be paired with a change that would allow insurance companies to charge people who are older five times as much as younger people, rather than three times as much as younger people, which is what they can do today,”  Zeldin said.

The tax credits appear more generous than under the ACA, but she said they won’t be enough to make up for how much premiums would rise.

Ultimately, Zeldin said it’s very unclear what parts of the GOP plan, if any, will make it to law. How the measures would be implemented is just as uncertain.

“There is really no precedent, since the structure of Medicaid has not changed in this way, in terms of cutting and capping it and asking states to make this decision,” she said.

Zeldin said we’ll know more about the broader potential impacts once the congressional budget office has had time to review the bills.