I have lived in Georgia for 35 years and I have never seen an election that offered state voters as stark a difference in their choice of candidates as this year’s gubernatorial contest does.
Republican Brian Kemp cannot complete a sentence about himself without using the word “conservative” and name-dropping President Donald Trump. He is stridently pro-gun and anti-abortion, and promises not to raise your taxes, no matter what.
Democrat Stacey Abrams is running as an unapologetic liberal whose views on gun laws, abortion, government spending on programs for the poor and pretty much everything else run directly counter to Kemp’s position on these same topics.
If you’re a partisan voter who is loyal to either party this might be the easiest decision you will ever make in a voting booth. But I believe there is a large, often overlooked portion of the voting public who hold no allegiance to a party or political ideology and choose a candidate based on how they think that candidate’s policies and actions in office will affect the state — and their families — in a strictly practical sense.
In order to be of some service to those pragmatic, non-partisan voters I’m going to use this space over the next few months to spotlight some of the more critical issues that our state is likely to face the next four years and explore how each candidate is likely to respond to those issues if elected. First we’re going to take a look at health care. Abrams is making health care a central issue in her campaign and her proposal to get more low-income Georgians insurance coverage is very simple: accept the standing offer from the federal government to expand Medicaid to cover about a half a million Georgians who currently have no insurance.
That offer, which has been available to states since Obamacare was passed in 2014, expands the number of people who are eligible to obtain coverage under Medicaid with the federal government covering most of the bill. States have the choice to opt in or out of the additional coverage, and Georgia (like most states in which Republicans hold a majority in government) has so far opted out.
Abrams has said that getting the Medicaid expansion approved would be her top priority if she is elected. She believes it would not only gain coverage for hundreds of thousands of Georgians who currently have no insurance but would also be a lifeline for rural hospitals which are currently struggling to survive and provide new employment opportunities in the health-care field. She says that federal money is just sitting there, ready to help Georgia’s uninsured, but Republicans are stubbornly refusing to accept it simply because it’s part of a health-care plan passed by a Democratic Congress.
Kemp disagrees. He thinks the Medicaid expansion is a bad deal for Georgia as it would leave the state with new expenses (since states do have to cover a small percentage of the costs for the new coverage) that would likely require a tax increase and it would put us in a position of being further dependent on the whims of the deficit-plagued federal government.
So what’s his alternative? Here is the quote he seems to repeat whenever he is asked about the subject: “I will work with the Trump administration to implement a Georgia-focused, free-market solution that enhances health care coverage and reduces cost.”
That sounds an awful lot like boilerplate campaign rhetoric, and I was unable to find any details about what Kemp’s free-market solution would entail. But I’ll keep an eye out and let you know if his campaign releases a more detailed plan.
In any event, undecided voters have a very important and well-defined difference of opinion between the candidates in regards to whether or not Georgia should get on the Medicaid expansion bandwagon. Determining how you feel about this one issue might take you a long way towards deciding which candidate you decide to support in November.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.