Health News

Georgia lawmakers propose to relax hospital regulations and delay Medicaid expansion

Georgia legislators are considering a bill that would ease the restrictions on building new hospitals and outpatient facilities, while putting off the decision on expanding Medicaid coverage for low-income residents. The bill, sponsored by Republican leaders, is seen as a compromise between the health care industry and the free-market advocates.

The bill aims to address the health care needs of rural areas

The bill, known as SB 106, would allow the state to apply for two waivers from the federal government to change its health care system. One waiver would let the state create a reinsurance program to lower the premiums for people who buy insurance on the Obamacare marketplace. The other waiver would let the state cover more people under Medicaid, but not as many as the full expansion under the Affordable Care Act would allow.

The bill also includes provisions to relax the certificate of need (CON) program, which requires health care providers to get approval from the state before building new facilities or offering new services. The bill would exempt rural hospitals from the CON process, and raise the thresholds for capital expenditures and equipment purchases that trigger the CON review.

The sponsors of the bill argue that these changes would help address the health care needs of rural areas, where many hospitals are struggling to stay open and access to care is limited. They also claim that the bill would save the state money and give it more flexibility to design its own health care system.

Georgia lawmakers propose to relax hospital regulations and delay Medicaid expansion

The bill faces opposition from different sides

However, the bill faces opposition from different sides, who have different views on how to improve Georgia’s health care system. Some Democrats and health care advocates say that the bill does not go far enough to expand Medicaid, which would cover an estimated 500,000 more people and bring billions of federal dollars to the state. They also worry that the bill would impose work requirements or other barriers for Medicaid enrollees, which could reduce their access to care.

Some Republicans and conservative groups say that the bill goes too far to expand Medicaid, which they see as a costly and inefficient program that would burden the state budget and the taxpayers. They also oppose any changes to the CON program, which they say protects existing hospitals from unfair competition and ensures quality of care.

Some hospitals and health care providers also have concerns about the bill, especially the parts that would loosen the CON regulations. They argue that the CON program helps prevent the oversupply of health care facilities and services, which could drive up costs and hurt the financial viability of hospitals. They also fear that the bill would favor some providers over others, and create an uneven playing field in the health care market.

The bill is expected to face further debate and amendments

The bill received its first hearing on Wednesday, February 21, 2024, in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Several proponents and opponents of the bill testified before the committee, and some offered suggestions for improving the bill. The committee did not vote on the bill, but the chairman, Sen. Ben Watson, said that he expects the bill to move forward and that he is open to amendments.

The bill is expected to face further debate and amendments as it goes through the legislative process. The bill’s sponsors hope to pass the bill before the end of the session, which is scheduled for April 2, 2024. If the bill becomes law, the state would have to submit its waiver applications to the federal government, which would have to approve them before they can take effect.


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *