There’s a saying that’s common in both politics and blue-collar work—when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.
Georgia is in a hole right now. Our economy is still recovering from the pandemic and the projected state budget shortfall this year—13 percent—is significant. This is a time for commonsense leadership. And the first thing the state government needs to do is stop digging.
That’s why Governor Kemp must veto the legislature’s partial Medicaid expansion in House Bill 1114. Georgia’s tax dollars—now more than ever—should be protected for the truly needy. This bill doesn’t do that. It just sinks more and more of our families into government dependency. Expanding the welfare state to more families now would just make the hole deeper and our recovery slower.
ObamaCare was never right for Georgia, and anything that builds on its destructive foundation is the last thing we need now.
As it stands, Georgia already spends more than one-fifth of its budget on Medicaid and pays for more than half of all births through Medicaid. Pregnant women are already eligible for full Medicaid coverage up to 220 percent of the federal poverty level—that’s about $58,000 a year for a family of four—from conception to at least two months post-pregnancy.
But Georgia’s public programs do more than that. Those newborns receive Medicaid coverage for 13 months after their birth and, if they’re in a family with incomes up to 252 percent of the poverty level, we cover them for the rest of their childhood. Medicaid also continues to cover the neediest parents. In addition to this extensive Medicaid coverage, the Department of Health conducts extensive public nursing programs that help new mothers.
Despite these massive and important investments, the legislature wants to expand welfare just as the state is beginning to recover. But moms and newborns across the state deserve a Georgia that works—a Georgia that sets them up for success. That requires a strong economy, not more welfare so that the next generation has a seat at the table, not government “help” that pushes them to the sidelines.
Instead, I encourage the legislature to focus on policies that help lift people out of poverty and help them achieve the American dream.
Gov. Kemp is on the right track—it’s time to reduce dependency and move more Georgians into better, more affordable private health care coverage. Georgia has already made progress in increasing health care price transparency. Now state leaders should build on that effort and do more to reward patients for shopping.
But don’t stop there. Georgia should expand the availability of telehealth and subscription-based health care and make low-premium, short-term, and association health plans easier for individuals and businesses to get.
Georgia can get out of this hole together. These health care reforms and reducing dependency to protect taxpayers and the budget is strong starting points. The good news is that Georgia is already in much better shape than most other states. In Florida and South Carolina, for example, budget shortfalls are projected to be 20 percent or higher.
This is, in part, because Gov. Kemp didn’t double down on New York-style lockdowns. Instead, his administration focused our efforts on reopening our economy safely and targeting resources to where they were and are most needed. He must continue to do everything we can to help workers and businesses get back on their feet and prioritize tax-dollars for the truly needy.
Georgia didn’t embrace New York-style lockdowns and it shouldn’t embrace New York-style welfare expansion.
To get Georgia out of this hole, Georgians have to come first. So, let’s stop digging.
Katie Rodgers is the vice president of outreach and government affairs at the Foundation for Government Accountability