New Georgia House Speaker Says State Tobacco Tax Hike Is Possible, Dimmering Hopes For Medicaid Expansion – WABE

If anyone was holding out hope that a new House speaker would want to review the full expansion of Medicaid in Georgia, House Speaker Jon Burns threw cold water on Thursday.

Burns is only the second speaker since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, but he will continue Georgia’s longstanding Republican tradition of opposing the full expansion of the insurance program for the state’s low-income residents. Georgia is one of 11 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the Obama-era health care law.

Instead, Burns told reporters Thursday that he believes Gov. Brian Kemp’s more limited expansion plan, due to begin in July, should have an opportunity to extend coverage to more Georgians. About 50,000 people can get health coverage under this plan if they complete 80 hours of work, job training, or other qualifying activity each month.

“Gov. Kemp is certainly leading the way on waivers, and I think we need to give him time,” he said.

House Democrats plan to make full expansion their top priority this session, as they have for years. Minority Leader James Beverly has already introduced a bill that would expand coverage to about half a million Georgians. The Democrats’ bill was already facing great difficulties in the GOP-controlled Legislature, but the speaker’s opposition makes it a flop in that chamber.

Burns also said he has no interest in adopting new abortion restrictions while the state’s six-week abortion ban is being challenged in court, a position that will deflate any hopes anti-abortion advocates had for more restrictions in the first session. legislation from the US The Supreme Court made abortion access a state decision.

A Fulton County Judge struck down the Georgia law in November, but the state appealed the ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in March. A try to make it harder to access abortion medications in Georgia, which require, for example, an in-person examination, stalled last session.

“I think the position that the House should be in, and certainly the position that Jon Burns is in, is that we are going to wait and see exactly what happens with the legislation that we pass,” he said.

“We are going to listen to the state Supreme Court and then we will move on something if we have to. If not, we certainly have something lined up.”

But Burns said he was open to another health care proposal that has gone nowhere in the past: raising the state tax on tobacco products. Georgia has the second lowest tobacco tax rate in the country.

“That is one of the areas that we will look at,” he said.

Burns has restructured House committees in a way that is intended to encourage lawmakers to dig deeper into complex health care issues, saying a possible tobacco tax increase is an example of health care policy that could emerge from the committees.

Behavioral health will also be a “front page issue” for these committees, he said. Last year, legislators past a celebrated bipartisan behavioral health parity bill that was seen at the time as the beginning of an effort to improve access to treatment in Georgia. Advocates and legislators I hope to build in that job this year.

“We want to make sure we address the issue broadly, whether it’s mental health professionals, as we look at an issue that affects almost every family in this state,” he said.

Under Burns, public health was spun off as its own committee, led by Marietta Republican Rep. Sharon Cooper, who was the chair of the health committee. Rep. Lee Hawkins, a Gainesville Republican, now chairs the health panel.

Rep. Butch Parrish, a Swainsboro Republican who previously chaired the health budget subcommittee, now leads the House Health Care Special Committee.

“I think we have the right people when we look at the approach we’re going to take in a broad health perspective,” Burns said. “And certainly if that’s something that rises to the level that we want to have a more serious discussion, we can have that.”

This story was provided by WABE’s content partner georgia recorder.

Leave a Reply

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