Local Physician Featured on National Public Radio

UntitledDr. Jameelah Gater was featured last week on National Public Radio discussing the Affordable Health Care Act and how it affects rural hospitals including those in the Lake Country.  

Governor Deal has been quoted as stating, “No, I do not have any intentions of expanding Medicaid,” Deal said. “I think that is something our state cannot afford. And even though the federal government promises to pay 100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, I think it is probably unrealistic to expect that promise to be fulfilled in the long term, simply because of the financial status that the federal government is in.”

Medicaid expansion would have provided coverage for 650,000 low income Georgians.  “Failure to expand Georgia Medicaid puts all Georgians, especially those in rural areas at risk.”  Dr. Gater goes on to explain.  “Our rural hospitals including those in Morgan, Putnam, and Greene counties rely on federal financial support known as DSH payments (disproportionate share hospital) to help ease the burden of providing care for low income and uninsured patients.  The Affordable Health Care Act reduces those payments to hospitals given that under the law everyone is required to be insured or covered through government programs such as Medicare and Medicaid.”

With deep cuts in DSH payments many rural hospitals would struggle to keep their doors open.   Rural hospitals are hit the hardest because they tend to have a higher or disproportionate share of low income and uninsured patients.  The 2013 DSH allotment for Georgia was over $282 million dollars with Lake Country hospitals receiving more than $1.3 million of those dollars.

As Dr. Gater points out, “Failure to expand the Medicaid program could have a ripple effect on all Georgians because it threatens the financial viability and access to care at their local hospitals.”  Others like Republican Senator Dean Burke disagree.  Senator Burke’s point of view is that the focus needs to be on increasing jobs and thereby increasing the number of people with traditional insurance.  Dr. Gater replies, “My concern is that the economy has been slow to recover and while I’d love to see more jobs and more patients with traditional insurance I don’t believe that shift will happen quickly enough to fix the system.  Meanwhile, it places our access to local health care at risk.”

Jonathan Oberlander, Professor of Political Science and Social Medicine at the University of North Carolina, agrees: “It’s one thing to be opposed to Obamacare ideologically. But when that opposition means that the state is not extending Medicaid and is threatening the finances of your local hospital, you’re going to see the Medicaid expansion in a very different light.”

To read more or listen the NPR story- http://www.npr.org/2014/01/20/264250008/rural-regions-lobby-for-state-medicaid-expansion

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