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Gov. Deal wants to add to the number of uninsured in Georgia
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Georgia is still refusing the federal funds to expand Medicaid to cover more than 500,000 uninsured people. This decision will cost the state's health care system about $34 billion over the next decade, according to a new report by two well-respected research organizations.

Georgia's hospitals alone will lose out on almost $13 billion. That money could go a long way to help stabilize Georgia's rural and safety-net hospitals.

Those are the takeaways from a new policy brief from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute that examines the impact of not expanding Medicaid in the 24 states still choosing not to.

These reports add to a growing body of evidence that shows the fantastic value a Medicaid expansion would provide for Georgia. There would be increased state revenue resulting from increased economic activity or potential state savings in existing health-related programs. Factoring in increases offsets about 80 percent of the state's new costs.

Georgia ranks among the worst states in the country for its the number of residents without health insurance coverage. These statistics help explain a number of growing problems in Georgia's health care system, recently evident in the financial struggles of rural and safety-net hospitals.

These hospitals must treat patients who can't pay. This results in a budget shortfall which in turn leads to, Georgia's rates for the private uninsured going higher and, in some cases, hospital closings.

The state is leaving billions of federal dollars on the table that could go a long way to ensure the financial stability of Georgia's health care system and its hospitals.

Making matters worse, Deal's new budget for 2016 includes a recommendation to cut health care coverage for 11,500 public school employees.

If Deal's plan goes forward, most of these janitors, bus drivers and cafeteria workers will be added to the rolls of the uninsured. This is because most work less than 30 hours per week and will be ineligible to obtain Medicaid insurance to replace their loss of their State Health Benefit Plan Health Insurance.

Is this the way our Republican Governor and State legislators should be treating hard-working Georgians?

W. Lorraine Watkins, M.D.