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Greg Bluestein

Hillary Clinton urges Georgia to expand Medicaid

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Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Foundry United Methodist Church for their Bicentennial Homecoming Celebration, in Washington on Sunday. AP/Molly Riley

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. AP/Molly Riley

Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton joined the House Democratic caucus in calling for Georgia to expand the Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act.

The former secretary of state urged lawmakers to pass legislation to expand the program and for Republican Gov. Nathan Deal to put the “well-being of Georgia’s families ahead of ideology by signing it into law.”

“Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do because it’s good for rural hospitals, it’s good for doctors and nurses, and it will lead to lower costs and healthier Georgians,” Clinton said in a statement.

Don’t expect Clinton’s call to change the debate in Georgia this year. Deal has long argued that expanding the program would be too costly for the state – he said last week the paperwork costs alone would top $2.1 million – and Republican legislative leaders have said the idea is a non-starter.

Still, Republican leaders elsewhere have expanded their programs, defended previous expansions or signaled they were willing to give it a fresh look. Georgia toyed with a Medicaid “experiment” in 2015 seeking more federal funding for struggling rural hospitals, and some conservatives hold out hope 2016 could pave the way toward a middle ground.

Clinton’s statement, meanwhile, is another signal that Democrats hope they can gain traction in Georgia by pressing the issue. With the specter of billionaire Donald Trump or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at the top of the Republican ticket, Clinton is aggressively embracing President Barack Obama’s agenda in hopes of locking down his most ardent supporters.

House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams sees the same opening. She put the initiative at the top of her caucus’ agenda last week, saying the Expand Medicaid NOW Act would provide affordable health care to nearly 500,000 more Georgians.

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