We have written before about how provisions of the Affordable Care Act affect the way hospitals that provide care for indigent patients are financed. In a nutshell, federal dollars previously distributed to hospitals like Grady in Atlanta or St. Mary’s in Athens, which serve a large number of uninsured patients, are being phased out. The ACA’s authors assumed this money would no longer be required because so many more people would be covered under the expanded Medicaid program in the Act.
After the Supreme Court decided that expanded Medicaid would be optional rather than mandatory, Georgia decided not to participate. And, judging by yesterday’s State of the State address, Governor Deal has no intention of expanding Medicaid, despite the protests of Moral Monday.
According to Walter Jones of the Morris News Service, Governor Deal is considering providing state funding to charity hospitals.
Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff, told reporters that Deal is weighing options ranging from a one-time cash injection to an ongoing commitment for hospitals that serve large numbers of uninsured patients.
“It’s a constant discussion with hospitals in Georgia,” he said. “It’s important to the governor.”
And why would this be so important?
Someone once told me the three primary functions of state government are to educate, medicate, and rehabilitate. Providing additional funding for K-12 education and staking out a bigger role for technical education covers the first. Getting the final leg of his criminal justice reform initiative passed covers the third. And, making sure that charity hospitals–especially in rural Georgia–don’t close due to lack of funding could complete the hat trick that lets Deal remain in the governor’s mansion for another four years.