ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Georgia's governor has taken the first step to address what he describes as a healthcare "crisis" in the state.
Wednesday, Senate Republicans filed "The Patients First Act," which outlines a two-prong solution. First, the bill would allow the state to seek a waiver from the federal government to change Medicaid in Georgia. It would also allow for a similar waiver for the insurance marketplace created under the Affordable Care Act.
"We are working on a couple of different things here," said Governor Brian Kemp. "Number one, we want to lower private sector healthcare costs. I mean, that's what's killing hardworking Georgians out there. So that's the reason that we're doing both the waivers together so we can address the private sector markets, but then also innovate a program that's not working."
The Governor's budget proposal sets aside $1 million in funding to hire a private consultant to review Georgia's healthcare system and offer solutions. Under this bill, Governor Kemp would then be authorized to implement any changes without legislative approval.
"I'm not trying to be The Lone Ranger on this. You know, we're all in this together. We're all in this working together to tackle all the issues that we have, not just Medicaid, but also the private market," said Governor Kemp.
Democrats have pushed for the state to expand Medicaid ever since the passage of the ACA. After reading "The Patients First Act" Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain, said he still believes that is the best path forward.
"I think that's the way to go," said Sen. Henson. "The governor's going to have to convince us that you know, there are other directions that we could go in that will also help Georgians and certainly, I'm open to discussions with him on that matter."
If the bill passes, it would likely take 12 to 18 months before the Governor can implement any concrete changes.