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Governor Deal at Eggs: No Such Thing as “Free Health Care”

Mike Klein

Mike Klein

Governor Nathan Deal said the state Department of Community Health has been told to reduce its amended current fiscal year budget by 3 percent and then find 5 percent more in new cuts next year to help the state absorb Medicaid costs that continue to escalate.  The state faces a Medicaid deficit that will approach $800 million during the next 18 months of its fiscal cycle.

Deal devoted nearly his entire speech to health care when he addressed the Georgia Chamber of Commerce annual “Eggs and Issues” breakfast Wednesday at the World Congress Center in Atlanta.   The Governor also suggested folks who cannot attend Thursday morning’s State of the State address should monitor his “Tweeter” account.  Deal will announce his budget during the speech, scheduled for 11:00 a.m. at the State Capitol.

“Georgians who have already received a paycheck this January have no doubt noticed that their payroll taxes went up and their take-home salary went down,” Deal said.  “This is the cost of entitlements.  If you think your taxes went up a lot this month, just wait till we hve to pay for ‘free health care.’  Free never cost so much.”

The push is on to quickly approve a Medicaid funding fix bill proposed by the Governor with an initial Senate floor vote perhaps this week.  Lt. Governor Casey Cagle and House Speaker David Ralston echoed their support for the governor’s bill that would give the Community Health board the authority to continue the hospital provider fee that would otherwise sunset in June.

The fee paid by all Georgia hospitals based on annual revenue is used to draw down federal dollars that are redistributed to hospitals that serve Medicaid patients.  The General Assembly enacted the fee three years ago to address a rapidly developing shortage in Medicaid funds caused by increased demand for services.  Deal said 12-to-14 hospitals would face closure if the provider fee is not continued.  DCH imposes a similar nursing home industry fee.

Governor Nathan Deal

Governor Nathan Deal

“In fact, we are one of 47 states that have either a nursing home or hospital provider fee or both,” Deal said.  The governor said “it makes sense to me” that DCH should have authority over both fees “for maximum efficiency and effectiveness.”  The move also means that state lawmakers would be spared having to vote to continue an expiring fee or impose a new one.

Deal said DCH has identified $109 million in cost-savings. “But this hardly covers the additional nearly $500 million in needed funds caused by growth in Medicaid expenses during the same time frame,” Deal said.  “This means we must make necessary cuts in other agencies and core functions of government since raising taxes is not an option I will accept!”

The governor is no fan or friend to the federal health care reform law known as Obamacare.

During the past several months the Deal administration said it will not expand Medicaid eligibility starting in 2014 because the state cannot afford more than $2.5 billion that it currently spends annually on Medicaid.  The federal government pays about $5 billion annually. Georgia anticipates its share of Medicaid costs will increase at least $1.7 billion over the next ten years.

Deal said the federal health care reform law will add $106 million to the cost of state-provided health care benefits for active and retired employees starting in 2014.  He also said Georgia will be assessed a new $35 million insurance tax starting in 2015.  About 13 percent of all state budget dollars currently pay for Medicaid or the state children’s health insurance programs.

“The irony to me is that there are those in the medical community who are urging the expansion of the Medicaid program while at the same time, they are seeing more and more medical providers refusing to accept Medicaid patients,” Deal said.  “If you are losing money now how do you reconcile the number of patients on whom you will lose even more money.”

Georgia also said it will not create a state health insurance exchange, as envisioned in the federal health care reform law.  “I see no benefit to our citizens to have a program bearing the name of the State of Georgia over which our elected or appointed officials have little if any say so,” Deal said.  “While many federal programs come with strings attached, these strings turn states into marionettes to be manipulated by federal bureaucrats.”

As for “Tweeter,” the Governor noted, “My staff tells me that I am really getting into the modern age.   You can go to my Tweeter account!” for updates on the State of the State address.  The address will be carried live on General Assembly and Georgia Public Broadcasting websites. GPTV will broadcast the State of the State address and the Democratic leadership response in their entirety at 7:00 p.m. on the legislative program “Lawmakers.”

(Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation)

January 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nathan Deal’s Subtle Message May Have Been Most Important at Eggs

Mike Klein

Governor Nathan Deal seemed to be saying something unusual Tuesday: “I want to listen.”

The new Governor used the Georgia Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues scramble to announce initiatives that will define how his administration thinks about business opportunities, education and water resources.  But the unspoken subtle message may have been Nathan Deal knows he doesn’t have all the answers by himself and successful governance works best as a team sport.

Time after time, Deal returned to the listen theme and toward the end he said, “I look forward to working with you.  I will have an open door. I will listen to your concerns. I will consider your recommendations and, hopefully together, we can move the great state of Georgia forward.”

The Governor asked for business community help to identify and create job opportunities. He asked teachers, parents, school superintendents and local board members for help with public education. He asked for public-private partnership help to expand the state’s water resources.

Governor Nathan Deal

One thing we have learned is Nathan Deal prefers short speeches. This was his first address as Governor to the state Chamber. He spoke for 11 minutes; 2,000 listened and applauded.

Eight years ago Governor Sonny Perdue received widespread acclaim for his Commission for a New Georgia that would examine government inside and out, leave no stone unturned to ferret out waste and create new best practices.  It was a successful and long overdue model.

Deal’s model is narrower and more targeted: “It doesn’t really serve us in the overall scheme of things to spend our money educating our children K through 12, in college and higher education, and not be able to provide them with jobs that keep them in the state.  So, jobs and education, the two important ingredients for the future of our state, are inextricably linked together.”

Deal said the Georgia Chamber “is going to be a very vital partner working with us” on a new Georgia Competitiveness Initiative that will also bring together two state agencies – Economic Development and Transportation – whose work is critical to Georgia’s recovery now and future growth.

On education, the Governor made it clear he will listen to the downtown professionals, but he also announced creation of new statewide advisory groups that will have membership from all 13 current congressional districts (soon to be 14 after census redistricting later this year).

“I want to meet quarterly with teachers, local superintendents and school board members and parents,” Deal said. “If we are to make good policy it is imperative that we tap into the information and the opinions and the points of view of those who are involved in the process.”

Finally, the governor suggested public – private partnerships are essential to solving the water war with Alabama and Florida that looms overhead like a black storm cloud. “We believe it is important for the state of Georgia to show good faith,” said Deal. “We can’t sit back and wait on Washington to solve the problem for us, nor can we simply expect the courts to do that.”

Deal said the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority will coordinate a new multiple state agencies approach to expand existing water resources and plan new reservoirs.  Deal said the state will invest $300 million over four years to assist local communities with their water resources planning.

The Governor was speaking about the new competitiveness initiative when he said, “If we are going to achieve success, we must know how we are going about it and do it in the most appropriate fashion.”

Apparently, he means to listen.  At least that was the message Tuesday.

Mike Klein is Editor at the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

January 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment