Gov. Nathan Deal and the Republican-dominated state legislature have it in their power to improve the prospects of small businesses like mine, one of approximately 165,000 Georgia small businesses with 500 or fewer employees. They can start a state-run health insurance exchange and implement Medicaid expansion.
This year I will spend $175,000 to insure my 27 Cobb County-based employees and their families. Were Deal and the legislature to implement a state-run exchange, Georgia officials could negotiate rates with health insurance companies on behalf of the uninsured and small businesses like mine, forcing insurers to compete for our business. New York officials did exactly that and rates next year will be as much as 50 percent lower than 2013 rates.
I could dump my overpriced insurance plan and send my employees to the Georgia exchange, where they would shop for lower-cost policies that fit their needs and I would reimburse them accordingly. Now apply this to Georgia’s other small businesses that insure their employees. The cost savings would permit more hiring, equipment purchases, and so on.
Medicaid expansion, which will cost Georgia nothing in its first three years and just 10 percent thereafter, will create 70,000 health care industry jobs, generate $275 million in tax revenues, and have an annual economic impact of $8 billion annually, according to Dr. Bill Custer, a leading health care economist in Georgia.
So why is something so obviously in the best interests of Georgia’s economy not a priority for Gov. Deal?
Hizzoner’s website completely ignores the economic projections detailed in the study Dr. Custer produced for the Georgia Healthcare Foundation. Instead, the governor offers a tepid tea party-inspired rationale for turning his back on the state’s almost 700,000 uninsured and small businesses.
That’s why Georgia’s business leaders need to help the governor see the light. It happened in Arizona, where Republican Gov. Jan Brewer implemented Medicaid expansion after saying she wouldn’t.
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce says it’s waiting for a private, Georgia-based, free-market alternative to the federal plan. That’s not likely to happen, so a state-based public plan that can be implemented immediately is, by far, the best alternative. And what could be more free-market than health insurers competing for business?
The Chamber has taken “no position” on Medicaid expansion, but is monitoring other states. Let’s hope its leaders listen to what their Arizona counterparts are saying:
Arizona Chamber of Commerce CEO Glenn Hamer: “By opting to expand Medicaid, Arizona is positioned to obtain $1.6 billion in federal matching funds in the first year alone, which could help mitigate the effects of (indigent health care), while providing insurance coverage to an estimated additional 240,000 Arizonans.”
Arizona Small Business Association CEO Rick Murray: “While the benefit to underserved Arizonans is obvious, it’s the economic benefit of nearly $2 billion a year pumped into Arizona’s economy that will positively affect every Arizonan and hundreds of Arizona small businesses.”
Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce CEO Julie Pastrick: “The … plan is tremendously important to the business community in rural Arizona … we can not only bolster our essential rural hospitals … we can also begin to reduce the burden borne by Arizona families and business owners due to the growing costs of uncompensated care.”
Georgians are paying a steep price for Deal’s intransigence. Your federal tax dollars are going to Blue States like New York and California to fund their state-run health insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion. Georgia taxpayers are getting nothing in return.
That’s a business proposition that makes no sense, regardless of your politics.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.