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Georgia's governor is letting down his state's citizens

By Jack Bernard
Proquest LLC

Does Georgia's governor truly care about the health and well- being of the citizens as he said in his State of the Union message?

Or is he just interested in the special interests that contribute to his very well-funded political campaign?

Two of Nathan Deal's actions over the last year clearly illustrate that he does not support the right of all Georgians to receive affordable health care.

First, the governor made the unilateral decision not to expand Medicaid for the poorest Georgians, preventing hundreds of thousands of our citizens from receiving adequate health care.

He did this despite the fact that the expansion was 100 percent paid for by the federal government for three years, gradually falling to 90 percent federal funding.

It appears that the governor is fine with having a high unemployment rate as well.

By not agreeing to the expansion, he effectively killed 70,000 private sector jobs. According to a recent Georgia State University report that came up with this figure, these jobs would have produced nearly $250 million each year in state and local taxes.

Why is Medicaid expansion a bad deal?

It is likely that Deal is more afraid of being "tea partied" in the GOP primary than having poor people get out and vote against him.

But that does not explain his latest anti-employee actions, affecting a large number of middle-class working and retired Georgians who are covered via state insurance.

Although not covered extensively enough by the media, awhile back the governor pushed through a draconian revision of the state health plan that covers all state workers and public school teachers as of Jan. 1.

Historically the state has not had anything near a "Cadillac plan" for its employees. But there was a range of options with reasonable premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

Deal and his Department of Community Health threw caution to the winds and changed the playing field. Deductibles under the new state health plan are now unaffordable on the salary of a teacher or state employee.

Poorly paid state employees and teachers are now faced with bankruptcy if they have major illnesses.

Although it is just March, horror stories are already appearing on a teacher Facebook page (see T.R.A.G.I.C.). I can guarantee you that many more such stories will appear over this year when the medical bills roll in and people find out that they are only covered in the event of a catastrophe.

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Blue Cross of Georgia, which is controlled by a large corporation located out of state, runs the health plan. Only Blue Cross plan options are available. But we cannot blame them for having outrageous deductibles in the Georgia plan.

As a former employer, I can tell you that insurance companies will put together just about any plan you want.

If you desire catastrophic insurance, shifting the financial burden to your employees, they can do that, and that is exactly what Deal wanted and got with the new state health plan.

Don't just take my word for it. The state plan can be found online.

An average teacher in Georgia makes very little compared to other college graduates. And if you examine pay rates for state employees, they are low as well. One thing that our public employees could traditionally count on was decent benefits.

Now that is gone, thanks to the governor. How much the State Health Plan affects teacher recruitment and retention is yet to be determined. How many of our best state employees will leave for the private sector is also an unknown. But over time, I predict a substantial impact on our state.

Deal's policies are a bad deal. Unless he reverses course soon, he will discover this fact in the upcoming general election.Jack Bernard of Monticello. Ga., was the first director of Health Planning for the state of Georgia.

Copyright:(c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.
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