GOP state senators say health law could shortchange Georgia

ATLANTA (AP) - Some Republican state senators say Georgia would be "punished for fiscal responsibility" under the GOP's proposed health care law.

Georgia's Health Care Reform Task Force was appointed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in January but held its first public meeting on Friday, the same week that GOP congressional leaders unveiled their replacement plan in Washington.

The five Republican senators and Cagle heard testimony from two health care experts. One of the speakers, Washington lobbyist Jim Frogue, served as a policy adviser on President Donald Trump's transition team.

The experts explained the main components of the proposed legislation with the strong caveat that there's a long way to go before the bill to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama's signature health care reform becomes law.

They agreed that changes to Medicaid would likely have the biggest impact on Georgia residents. The new federal bill would be an opportunity to help get more able-bodied people off Medicaid and onto private insurance plans, said Frogue. The goal is to "make Medicaid a springboard as opposed to a landing pad," he said.

Currently the federal government pays a percentage of a state's total Medicaid spending. Under the proposed health care bill, states instead would be reimbursed a fixed rate per Medicaid patient. That amount would be determined by each state's previous spending. Senators are concerned that because Georgia didn't expand Medicaid to cover more people, that Georgia would get less reimbursement compared to states that did expand.

Senators also wrestled with how the proposed tax credit would differ from subsidies offered to low-income Americans to purchase insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

"The time to act is now," said Joseph Antos, a resident scholar at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. "Don't wait for Washington. The issues you are dealing with are already here."