Political Insider

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The Republican state senator who endorsed Medicaid expansion

Buried in the storm of bills shoved through the Legislature on Tuesday was a late-night surprise – for those paying attention.

During debate on HB 990, members of the Senate suddenly found themselves listening to a Republican – Chuck Hufstetler of Rome -- advocating for the expansion of Medicaid.

Sammy Jones of Georgia Public Broadcasting kindly dug through the GPB archives and produced the above clip.

No, Hufstetler doesn’t have any opposition this year. But it was still stunning to hear a Republican commit GOP apostacy. It’s worth listening to Hufstetler’s entire presentation, but here’s a few tidbits:

“I fought the Affordable Care Act and believe the program as a whole is detrimental to our country. The individual mandate, which I hoped would be invalidated by the Supreme Court, was not. But President Obama has given so many waivers that, for all practical purposes, it’s gone.”

Hufstetler cited the list of Republican governors in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio and Utah who have made accomodations with the Affordable Care Act. He also pointed out that Clayton County was considering a $50 million SPLOST to keep its local regional hospital afloat – to replace Medicaid dollars being spurned by Georgia. To continue:

“I believe this transfer of wealth is going to hurt Georgia as numerous studies by Kaiser, the University of Georgia, and Georgia State have pointed out. Our stance is hurting our state, but we’re not lowering the federal deficit. I just don’t believe that it’s consistent, after sending the Medicaid Financing Act last year to the Department of Community Health and the executive branch – that we now want to take control of Medicaid expansion, as we go into recess for the rest of the year, without a single hearing on Medicaid expansion in the last two years….

“I am concerned that my party is going to lose thousands of health care workers and independent voters over this. The majority of Georgians do oppose Obamacare, but six out of 10 believe we ought to expand Medicaid. There is a difference between the two.”

Hufstetler voted against HB 990, which passed the Senate on a vote of 35-19. He was the only Republican to do so.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.