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Greg Bluestein

Gov. Nathan Deal makes a (very limited) exception to his stance against Medicaid expansion

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Record numbers of unaccompanied minors from Central America have been arriving at the U.S-Mexico border. Eric Gay/AP

Record numbers of unaccompanied minors from Central America have been arriving at the U.S-Mexico border. Eric Gay/AP

Gov. Nathan Deal has gone to great lengths to assure his supporters that he’s against the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. But he carved out one exception this week.

It has to do with the more than 1,100 unaccompanied immigrant children transferred by the feds this year to the care of sponsors living in Georgia. The influx comes amid a surge of Central American children fleeing instability and violence at home to illegally cross the southwest border.

The governor said in an interview he expects their number to grow, and that he’s hearing they could be granted official refugee status. That means they could be eligible for state welfare programs, the costliest being healthcare coverage.

And that’s where Deal is in favor of the feds picking up the full tab for a very limited Medicaid expansion. Said Deal:

“I would suggest if they are going to do it in that fashion, if they want somewhere they can spend 100% of the cost of Medicaid expansion, it ought to be in this refugee program. The federal government ought to pick up 100% of that tab.”

For now, though, Deal said he’s still waiting for basic details from the White House on how many of the unaccompanied minors are still to come – and who will pick up the tab. He said one agency said the feds will pay for all the costs associated with the children, including education, but he said he doubts that is correct.

“I think we deserve an answer,” said Deal. “It’s not that we’re unsympathetic. We’re not. The children, of course, this is not something they brought upon themselves. We will be as compassionate as anyone will be. We just need to know what to expect, and we need to know how to anticipate the costs of them being in state.”

 

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