According to a published report, Hudgens recently told a Republican crowd in Floyd County his department was doing “everything in our power to be an obstructionist” in implementing the Affordable Care Act.
It’s no mystery where Hudgens stands on Obamacare, but for the commissioner to openly admit his duplicity is surprising for an elected official who is sworn to uphold the law.
Gov. Nathan Deal insists he won’t expand Medicaid and he has refused to set up a state-run on-line health insurance exchange where uninsured Georgians can purchase policies that fit their needs. As I have noted in past columns, taxpayers in states embracing these programs are reaping enormous benefits.
In Arizona, ultra conservative Gov. Jan Brewer expanded Medicaid, correctly explaining to voters on her web site the plan, “pumps billions of dollars into our economy, protects hospitals, and keeps Arizona tax dollars in Arizona.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York launched a state-run exchange in which finance officials there invited 17 health insurers compete for the business of New York’s 2.6 million uninsured. The result is 2014 rates as much as 50 percent less than 2013 rates.
Question: Why are these governors acting while Deal contemplates his navel?
Answer: Brewer, Cuomo and other governors implementing Obamacare see the big picture: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Here’s a personal example of how that works: Ten years ago my doctor, who I see regularly because I have health insurance, told me I had high blood pressure. She prescribed an inexpensive medication I take daily to control the condition.
Now, let’s say I didn’t have health insurance so I didn’t go to the doctor for check-ups because I couldn’t afford the cost. My hypertension goes untreated for 10 years and I have a stroke. I end up at Kennestone Hospital’s emergency room where I must be treated even if I can’t pay for the care. I run up a $100,000 tab and you pick it up in the form of local taxes and higher insurance premiums.
Brewer calls it a “hidden tax.” That’s why she expanded Medicaid in her state. Low income Arizonans can get preventative care that detects serious illnesses early to avoid the exorbitant cost of treating advanced conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease later. Arizona’s tax payers are now off the hook for that care.
State-run health insurance exchanges are likewise a no-brainer except in Georgia and other hard core Red States. Uninsured Georgians will have to use the federally run health insurance exchange where they won’t find the kind of lower rates New Yorkers will enjoy.
Starting Oct. 1, when Georgians log onto the exchange they’ll find “navigators,” experts to guide them through their various options. Hudgens, with help from the legislature, is deliberately sabotaging this process, requiring these navigators to pass the state’s insurance agent test.
Despite Hudgens machinations, uninsured Georgians are expected to flock to the federal exchange because, under Obamacare, insurers can no longer refuse people with pre-existing conditions. And depending on household income, they can qualify for tax credits to be applied directly to the cost of plan premiums when they enroll.
Meanwhile, the Department of Community Health’s board chairman and Deal appointee Norman Boyd is disingenuously complaining about the $128 million it will cost to implement Obamacare in Georgia, telling an interviewer, “I think that’s a significant amount of money and (I’m) not sure what we’re getting in return for that.”
Boyd knows the answer is nothing — at least until Gov. Deal implements Obamacare.
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.