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In spite of health care decision, Ga.’s DCH cancels board meeting for ‘sparse agenda’

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Even as the U.S. Supreme Court restricted on Thursday the Medicaid expansion provision in the Affordable Care Act, the Georgia agency tasked with oversight of the health program announced today it had canceled its next monthly board meeting for a lack of consequential considerations.

The Department of Community Health emailed a notice Thursday morning, just minutes after the court had made public its health care decision, that a “sparse agenda” had precipitated the canceling of its July meeting. The email, sent by the executive assistant to the commissioner, said its next meeting would be held in August.

An incredulous Tipsheet source forwarded the two-sentence memorandum, expressing concern how “the board with responsibility for implementing Medicaid changes” could announce it was “canceling its July meeting because of a sparse agenda.”

A DCH press officer confirmed the meeting had been cancelled, but offered no more explanation as to why.

The recent health care law, which largely cleared a critical judicial hurdle today, stipulated an expansion of Medicaid eligibility guidelines underwritten by more tax dollars, first absorbed by the federal government and later by states. By 2020, individual state coffers would be ponying up ten percent of costs associated with the expansion.

Those states that refused cooperation would be stripped of existing federal funding.

Georgia’s Medicaid program, which DCH administers, consumes $21 million in state and federal funds per day. (The already-cash-strapped program has recently begun reorganizing the safety net for the state’s underserved population as it wrangles an expected annual deficit of more than $600 million by 2015.)

But the Supreme Court ruled today that while it was within the authority of Congress to expand Medicaid’s enrollment roster, it lacked the authority to enforce a punitive provision on those state’s that failed to acquiesce. “What Congress is not free to do is penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

State health chiefs from Washington State to Florida are already scrambling to reassess obligations in the wake in the ruling. But here in Georgia, the agenda is sparse.

- James Richardson