Deal still opposes Medicaid expansion

A few prominent Republican governors have recently broken ranks and opted for expanding their Medicaid programs.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich was the latest, becoming the fifth Republican governor to decide in favor of expansion. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer was among the first. (Here’s a Politico story on the GOP decisions.)

But Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania, another Republican, said Tuesday that he will not pursue an expansion of his state’s Medicaid program, at least for now.

Georgia’s governor has not budged from his opposition to Medicaid expansion. In an interview with WABE on Tuesday, Nathan Deal said Georgia can’t afford the extra money it would cost the state, which he said is estimated at $4.5 billion over 10 years.

As outlined by the Affordable Care Act, expansion would bring more than 600,000 low-income adults into the state’s Medicaid program, which is jointly financed by the state and federal governments. It would bring an estimated $40 billion in federal money into Georgia’s health care economy.

The U.S. Supreme Court, in its decision last year on the ACA, gave states much more latitude to reject expansion than the original legislation had allowed.

Deal told WABE’s Denis O’Hayer that it would take federal flexibility on expansion – he mentioned turning the Medicaid program into a ‘‘block grant’’ – before he would reconsider.

Last week, the Legislature passed a provider fee bill that’s expected to fill a huge potential financial hole in the state’s Medicaid program.

“When you’re having a tough time paying for what you already have, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to expand it and cost yourselves even more,’’ Deal told WABE.

Separately Wednesday, a self-described progressive advocacy group, Better Georgia, released results of a survey of Georgians in which it reported that more than 60 percent responded that they supported Medicaid expansion when asked this question:

“Georgia and other states are considering whether to accept more federal funds for Medicaid. The money would insure more Georgians, put hundreds of millions of dollars in our economy, create thousands of jobs and possibly prevent rural hospitals from closing. Do you support or oppose Georgia accepting the Medicaid funding?”

Last fall, the AJC reported that a survey of Georgians found a “slight plurality’’ favored expanding Medicaid.

The Republican-dominated Georgia General Assembly, in session now, is not expected to approve any major expansion measure this year.