Gov. Kemp Lays Out Medicaid, Obamacare Waiver Plan

Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration says the new bill would essentially complement those efforts by letting the governor sign off and implement a waiver plan.

John Amis / Associated Press

Gov. Brian Kemp says he wants more Georgians to have access to quality, affordable healthcare. And he’s turning to Medicaid and Obamacare to do it.

A bill introduced in the state legislature Wednesday, would give the governor authority to pursue two different kinds of waivers, which allow states to tweak how they administer federal healthcare programs.

One waiver would focus specifically on Medicaid. The other would aim to reduce insurance costs for consumers.

“This is a big step, but a big step is needed. We’re at a crisis with healthcare not only in our state but in our country,” Kemp told reporters.

It’s not an entirely new approach for Kemp. His recently put $1 million dollars in to the state budget for the Department of Community Health to look into Medicaid waivers.

That money would allow the department to hire an outside consultant to craft Georgia’s waiver pitch and work with the federal government to iron out details.

Kemp’s administration says the new bill would essentially complement those efforts by letting the governor sign off and implement a waiver plan.

When it comes to what Kemp would like to see in a Medicaid waiver, administration officials were vague.

They pointed to targeting specific populations for additional services, such as people with mental health issues, and made sure to point out any waiver would not lead to Medicaid expansion as laid out under the Affordable Care Act.

Kemp said his plan was more comprehensive.

“Look, everybody keeps talking about Medicaid expansion. We are working on a couple of things here. We want to lower private-sector health care costs. That’s what’s killing hardworking Georgians out there,” he said.

And the measure does lay out a pathway to do that. It enables the governor to pursue an Obamacare waiver that could reduce insurance costs for consumers using mechanisms like reinsurance programs.

Though, it’s not clear what either waiver pitch will look like when all is said and done. Kemp administration officials didn’t even offer a prediction on how many more Georgians might be covered by Medicaid under a possible waiver.

That’s a figure that Sen. Steve Henson will certainly be watching out for. He’s sponsoring a bill in the legislature that would fully expand Medicaid as laid out under Obamacare.

He says putting more people on Medicaid roles is a step in the right direction, if not a step of indeterminate size.

“Certainly covering more Georgia citizens than we have now is something that’s better, “ Henson said. “But we shouldn’t look at just making things a little bit better unless there’s a real significant reason not to make it better for as many people as we can.”

He’s not the only Democrat to stress the value of a full Medicaid expansion under the Gold Dome this session.

House Minority Leader Bob Trammel has continued to press the issue, using the details from a fiscal note prepared by state auditors this year.

And though Kemp’s waiver effort has received the support of top Republicans, such as Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan and House Speaker David Ralston, Democrats have seemed wary. None added their names to the bill.