GA House lawmakers set to vote on Medicaid funding - CBS46 News

GA House lawmakers set to vote on Medicaid funding

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ATLANTA (CBS ATLANTA) -

State lawmakers any day could approve a plan to fund Medicaid in Georgia.

Gov. Nathan Deal wants the general assembly to quickly pass the controversial hospital provider fee that critics derisively call a bed tax.

State lawmakers already approved SB 24 in the Senate and sent it to the House.

The House could vote on the bill by the end of the week.

Most Georgia hospitals pay a little more than 1 percent of their profits to fund Medicaid for about 650,000 low-income Georgians.

The state uses that money to qualify for more federal aid, as much as $400 million this year.

That money is given back to hospitals based on how much Medicaid care they provide.

The fee is set to expire this year.

David Tatum, a lobbyist for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, said many of its patients are low-income young people.

If lawmakers opt not to renew the fee, hospitals like Children's Healthcare would be forced to make some tough choices, Tatum said.

"The Medicaid program would start to collapse," Tatum said. "We would lose $100 million. We would have to make some difficult decisions on what services we have to make for kids, what kind of research we could fund and how many people we can employ."

State Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin, is sponsoring the bill in the House. Hatchett said the fee is the best way for Georgia to fund Medicaid.

"This is something that has to be done," Hatchett said. Without it "this would be catastrophic," he added.

Opponents have argued that the fee would not solve the program's funding problems.

Joel Aaron, director of communications with the libertarian tax-reform group Americans for Prosperity, called the fee a bed tax and a short-term fix that doesn't go far enough.

"It's not the best solution. We need to address Medicaid reform and malpractice reform as a part of the package," Aaron said.

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