Jim Galloway of the AJC recently wrote a column about a choice that will face gubernatorial candidates this election season. A choice between reality and ideological purity.
If Jeff Davis County and other rural counties in Georgia are going to have successful economies in the future, a working health care system is critical. No business is going to re-locate in a region with a sick or dying hospital.
Galloway quoted Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber, who said “The sad thing is, we’ve had seven rural hospitals close in the last few years. They’re several more that are right on the bubble.
“At the end of the day, if we don’t act now, if we don’t address Medicaid and Medicare in Georgia, if the federal government doesn’t address it, you could have 26 percent of the rural population in Georgia without health care access over the next few years. There’s a huge need to act.”
Galloway said, in essence, the chairman of the Georgia Chamber was asking Republicans to bow to two realities: First, that the ACA is here to stay, at least for some time to come. Secondly, that the situation in rural Georgia is bad enough to warrant a break with a decade of GOP orthodoxy.
Galloway transcribed Clark’s remarks and sent them to the five major Republican candidates for governor, with a question: “If elected, will you seek a Medicaid waiver to draw down more federal dollars and offer more health insurance coverage for more Georgians?”
He got virtually unanimous negative responses to his questions. None of the Republican candidates are really interested in expanding health care to Georgia’s poorest people, most of whom reside in rural Georgia.
Galloway added that the issue shouldn’t be confined to just the candidates for governor because, whoever is elected, the legislature would have to approve any plan to improve rural health care and help keep rural hospitals open.
Galloway closed his column by saying “…. every candidate for the state House and Senate needs to tell us which is more valuable — rural Georgia, or principled opposition to a health care system that’s likely to remain the law of the land for some time to come.
“Because the time is rapidly approaching when we won’t be able to afford both.”