Below is Fulton County Chairman John Eaves' response to Governor Nathan Deal's State of the State Address.
I applaud Georgia Governor Nathan Deal for laying out an agenda for our state’s future that includes additional investment in public education and in job training. The Governor and I also share an interest in unclogging our criminal justice system by addressing issues of recidivism through rehabilitation. However, I remain concerned about the continued lack of assistance in securing the state’s health care safety net by a continued refusal to endorse Medicaid expansion.
I challenge Governor Deal’s assertion that such an expansion would amount to an “intrusion into our rights as a state.” The Affordable Care Act could provide additional health care benefits to our citizens. Without expansion of Medicaid, we cannot access those dollars. An estimated 400 thousand Georgians would qualify for insurance coverage under the ACA if Medicaid was expanded. Some estimates say Medicaid expansion would provide health care coverage for anywhere between 40 thousand and 70 thousand people between the ages of 18-64 in Fulton County alone.
As we continue to reel from the impact of the Great Recession, opposition to Medicaid expansion represents a potential danger to some of our most economically vulnerable populations. An Oregon study showed Medicaid expansion in that state resulted in increased access to medical services, including preventative care. The same study also showed a 70 percent increase in patients finding a regular physician or source of care. Rates of depression were lowered and respondents ended up with fewer unpaid bills as they were now able to financially cope with catastrophic out-of-pocket medical expenses. Another study linked Medicaid expansion to lower death rates. Shouldn’t Georgians be able to reap some of these benefits as well?
While I take exception to what the Governor said about health care benefits, I also am concerned about what he didn’t say about legislation that originates out of the Gold Dome and adversely impacts our county. Just last year, state lawmakers passed legislation to limit our ability to meet our financial obligations, limit our authority over appointees and to redraw our commission districts. For a Governor that has decried federal intrusion into state’s rights, why must the state take such an active role in the affairs of Fulton County?
Our county is home to the state’s capital and largest city. It is home to a multitude of Fortune 500 companies and the main economic engine for an entire region of not just this state, but also of the entire Southeastern United States. As we approach another legislative session, I hope our lawmakers remember the contribution Atlanta and Fulton County make. Decisions made in the best interests of our county are also in the state’s best interests.