Political Insider

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The Jolt: Kemp cracks the door open to Medicaid waivers


Republican Brian Kemp has yet to roll out an in-depth healthcare policy, but he said his soon-to-be released plan won’t exclude the possibility of Medicaid waivers that would bring vast changes to the state’s medical system.

“I’m not going to rule out anything that’s innovative,” the GOP candidate for governor said. “The word waiver, what that means, whether it’s a waiver, flexibility, allowing the states to be an incubator – if somebody is talking about that on the federal level, I’m glad to talk to them.”

This is a new approach from Kemp, who earlier said he would not support waivers but would “work with the Trump administration to implement a Georgia-focused, free-market solution that enhances health care coverage and reduces costs.”

His campaign said Thursday that Kemp was specifically open to a broader Affordable Care Act waiver modeled after a Wisconsin program approved earlier this year. That five-year waiver is designed to create a $200 million reinsurance program to stabilize premiums.

That mirrored the policy unveiled by Abrams on Monday. She said she would explore a federal waiver program that aims to stabilize insurance premiums by partially reimbursing insurers for some claims.

Kemp has long attacked Democrat Stacey Abrams’ calls for a Medicaid expansion as too costly, and he repeated his opposition to that idea after an event on Wednesday. But he said he would be open to waivers that could reduce costs or create more competition.

Some states have used the waiver program to expand their Medicaid programs on their own terms — and snag more federal funding to pay for costly health care.

Under financial pressure, Georgia briefly flirted in 2015 with wide-ranging waivers that would have sought more flexibility — and more federal funding — for the Medicaid program. But Gov. Nathan Deal soon abandoned that idea amid stiff pushback from fiscal conservatives.

Some Republican leaders contend that waivers are the best hope to shore up the state’s flagging network of rural hospitals. Abrams, meanwhile, makes the “moral and economic imperative” of expanding the Medicaid program central to her campaign. 

 

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A Whitfield County judge denied a congressional candidate’s request for bond as he awaits an appeal on a drunken driving conviction.

The Dalton Daily Citizen-News reports that Steve Foster, the Democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Tom Graves in Georgia’s 14th District, will almost certainly remain behind bars through Election Day. The paper said the superior court judge who dismissed the request worried Foster could be a flight risk because of his past humanitarian work in Central America. Foster, who was sentenced to six months in jail last month, was seeking to serve out the rest of his sentence on probation.

Foster has vowed to remain in the race from prison, even as Democratic officials have distanced themselves from his campaign.

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Lucy McBath is out with her first digital ad of the general election cycle, a two-minute spot recounting the death of her son and how the tragedy inspired her run for Congress. The Democrat has relied heavily on her life story as she campaigns against U.S. Rep. Karen Handel in the 6th Congressional District. Watch it here:

https://twitter.com/LucyWins2018/status/1039930734352494592 

The new ad comes a day after the release of McBath’s memoir, “Standing Our Ground.” 

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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue threw his weight behind legislation to expand the agricultural guest-worker program despite opposition from some western farmers. The bipartisan legislation would allow the current guest-worker program to address both seasonal and year-round labor needs. Via Politico

Perdue said the legislation would provide needed certainty to farmers coping with a shortage of workers, and noted that agriculture's chronic labor problem is one of the issues that comes up most often when he travels the country, along with trade and regulations.

"I hope Congress can see to pass that bill and give farmers and workers in agriculture an opportunity to rely on a guest-worker program without having the shadows of illegality working over them all the time," Perdue added.

Farmers are quick to complain about the feds’ current immigration rules for farm workers, with many arguing that it’s hard to find dependable labor under today’s system. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have tried to address the problem for years, only to see it get lumped in with larger, much more divisive immigration debates. We wrote in February about how Perdue has tried to navigate the issue in an administration with such a strict immigration mantra. 

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While Stacey Abrams tries to stick to positive messaging, the Democratic Party of Georgia continues a trend of going on the attack against Brian Kemp.

The party released a third ad targeting Kemp’s “mishandling of sexual assault claims” as secretary of state. It references a demand by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s supporters during the primary for prosecutors to probe a possible “quid pro quo” involving Kemp’s campaign donors. 

The allegations center on Massage Envy clinics that face at least four complaints involving therapists groping women during massages. 

The Board of Massage Therapy, under Kemp’s purview, has not sanctioned or revoked any of the accused therapistsAn AJC investigation revealed the owner of those clinics is a donor to Kemp’s campaign for governor. 

Kemp’s campaign has said he did nothing wrong in taking campaign cash from the clinic’s former owner, Dr. Patrick Greco, and that it has refunded hundreds of thousands of other donations from industries his office regulates. 

While Kemp’s office has administrative control over the massage board, only a five-member panel appointed by the governor has the power to suspend or revoke licenses or launch an investigation. 

Watch the ad here.

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