The 2019 Georgia Policy Legislative Forum: Healthcare

Published by Fardeen Sheikh on

The 2019 Georgia Legislative Policy Forum: Healthcare

Last month at the Georgia Legislative Policy Forum, the healthcare panel discussed the healthcare waivers Georgia is seeking to get approved by the federal government. These waivers could help Georgia focus on innovative approaches to healthcare reform that can make it more accessible and affordable. The goal was to remove federal regulations that bogged down competition and limited consumers’ options. 

The healthcare panel kicked off with Kyle Wingfield, the President and CEO of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation, moderating the panelists’ discussion. The panel included Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, from the Georgia State Senate, Nina Owcharenko Schaefer, a health policy analyst from the Heritage Foundation, and Ryan Locke, a Special Projects Coordinator from the Office of Governor Brian Kemp.

Nina Owcharenko Schaefer (left), Ryan Locke (center), and Senator Kay Kirkpatrick (right) discussed how waivers would allow states the freedom to be more innovative with healthcare policies.

Waivers are requests a state makes to the federal government to have some flexibility in how it administers federal programs or federal dollars. About a dozen states approved waivers for reinsurance programs, which provided payments to health insurers to help offset the costs of enrollees with large medical claims. The Trump administration reframed how waivers are used and some of the concepts and guidelines for them. 

The conversation centered around Georgia being the first state to ask for a waiver that goes beyond reinsurance since the administration’s guidance came out last fall. Locke discussed how the waivers sought to address the gaps in healthcare policy. He mentioned that a “without a waiver scenario,” single individuals in the state who don’t have children and are under the poverty level, about $12,000, currently do not have any coverage options under Medicaid.

Georgia seeks to get the 1332 waiver and the 1115 waiver approved. 

The 1332 waiver refers to the Affordable Care Act and allows states to experiment with alternative models of providing healthcare coverage for its residents. The 1115 waiver allows the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to approve experimental and innovative projects that test and evaluate state-specific policy changes in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)  programs to improve care, increase efficiency, and reduce costs without increasing federal Medicaid expenditures. 

Senator Kay Kirkpatrick speaks about her experience both as a doctor and state senator. Courtesy of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

The Kemp administration wants to have both waivers approved by next fall. Kemp is also implementing a companion program to the 1332 waiver, a program called Georgia Access, which no other state has tried to do before. This program is requesting approval from the federal government to limit state participation on federally facilitated exchange on Ideally, people will see greater options in the private health insurance markets and lower insurance premiums.

Schaefer stressed the need for states to have more control over healthcare policy in order to decrease premiums and increase choices. According to Schaefer, the federal government must cut back on regulation and allow states greater flexibility in how they design their healthcare policies for more efficient plans. 

Schaefer explains how states should have more control over their healthcare policies as opposed to being federally regulated. Courtesy of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.

The panel then wound down with a question and answer segment, where other topics were discussed such as Georgia hopefully getting rid of the certificate of need, a program that limits competition in the medical industry. 

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Fardeen Sheikh

Fardeen Sheikh is from Stockholm, Sweden, and he has travelled the world at a very young age. Before coming to Atlanta, he’s lived around Europe and the Middle East. He has recently moved back to Sweden, and is going to study Journalism in City, University of London. Sheikh enjoys watching movies, drinking inordinate amounts of coffee, photography, writing and drawing–even with his best attempts–stick figures. He speaks Bengali, Hindi, French, English and Swedish, while learning a bunch of new things in his free time.


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