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Friday, February 14, 2014

Jason Carter: Deal has an 'amazing fear' of taking the lead on Medicaid expansion

Earlier this week, Republican state lawmakers introduced a rather surprising bill that would require the General Assembly's approval on any future decisions by the governor to expand Medicaid.

Gov. Nathan Deal, who currently has the sole authority to opt into the federal program that would give hundreds of thousands of uninsured Georgians access to health care, said briefly to reporters yesterday that he was "fine with that" proposal.

State Sen. Jason Carter, D-Decatur, Deal's main Democratic challenger in this year's gubernatorial race, tells CL he was shocked to see the bill and taken aback by the governor's support of the measure.

"I didn't know that the Legislature had a problem with the governor making this decision," Carter says. "That was surprising. What's even more surprising is that the governor supports it. That the governor is willing to have his administration co-sponsor the bill and then to say he's 'fine' is amazing to me. It's just another example of him just being nervous to take leadership on this issue. It's not just this issue, he passes the buck over and over again to try to diminish his authority. That, to me, is an amazing fear of the responsibility of leadership."

At yet another ice storm presser this morning, the governor refused to answer questions on the topic of Medicaid expansion. But Deal campaign spokeswoman Jen Talaber told the AJC: "So Senator Carter believes cutting a backroom deal with the Obama administration is preferable to giving the people's representatives, himself included, a say in how hundreds of millions of their taxpayer dollars are spent?"

With Georgia residents already paying for the federal program, Carter thinks it would be a poor fiscal stewardship to simply refuse any options. If elected, he says, he would consider either outright Medicaid expansion or a hybrid plan similar to what's been implemented in states such as Arkansas, Iowa, or Kentucky.

"We can take those dollars and use them to reduce the uninsured population, use them to stabilize rural hospitals, use them to improve the lives and the health of our citizens, use them to inject money into our economy," Carter says. "We have to find a way to do that."

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