For both Georgia and the United States as a whole, the election of Donald Trump as president is going to mean some major changes in our lives.
For a start, you can expect to see more air and water pollution, more closings of rural hospitals and more people without access to health insurance under the new administration.
The most concise blueprint of what lies ahead comes from Sen. David Perdue. In a radio interview last week, Perdue predicted Republican members of Congress will quickly repeal Obamacare, the Clean Power Plan and the “Waters of the United States” water quality rule.
They will also approve the Keystone oil pipeline that would extend through the massive Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest underground sources of fresh water.
“All four of those things will get signed into law by President Trump,” Perdue said. “All four of those things will get done in the first 100 days.”
The widely expected repeal of the Affordable Care Act effectively puts an end to any talk of Medicaid expansion in Georgia.
Gov. Nathan Deal could have brought more than $9 billion in federal funds to the state if he had agreed to Medicaid expansion in 2013, but he declined the opportunity because of his political opposition to the Affordable Care Act. There had been talk in recent months of easing into Medicaid expansion in 2017 and bringing some of that federal money to Georgia, which would have gone to hospitals and physicians that treat Medicaid patients. With the repeal of Obamacare, that is a dead issue.
The big losers here will be financially stressed rural hospitals that treat a large number of indigent patients who can’t afford to pay their bills. Without the hoped-for influx of Medicaid expansion funds, you could see as many as 15 to 20 of Georgia’s rural hospitals forced to shut their doors because they can’t afford to stay in operation.
In addition to that, the end of Obamacare will leave more than 20 million Americans without health insurance. In Georgia, more than 580,000 people get health coverage through the insurance exchange that is part of the Affordable Care Act. Once the act has been repealed, they will be without insurance, as well.
The repeal of the Clean Power Plan will be a financial boost to Georgia Power, which will be able to keep operating coal-fired power plants that spew greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Georgia Power could even reopen some of the coal-fired facilities it has closed in recent years because of the clean air standards.
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has proposed for years that Social Security be privatized and that Medicare be terminated and replaced with an insurance voucher system. Social Security, in fact, has been a target of the Republican Party since the program was first implemented in 1935. One of the GOP’s most cherished goals has been to reverse the New Deal that President Franklin Roosevelt put in place.
“If you’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare, you have to address those issues, as well,” Ryan said last week. “Medicare has got some serious issues because of Obamacare. So those things are part of our plan to replace Obamacare.”
Once you replace Medicare with an insurance voucher plan, senior citizens will have no choice but to pay whatever premiums are demanded by private insurance companies. They very likely will pay more money for less coverage because vouchers will not be able to keep up with the increasing cost of health insurance.
With a Republican president and GOP majorities in both houses of Congress, Ryan should be able to accomplish his long-held goals of dismantling Social Security and ending Medicare — if not in the first 100 days of the new administration, then shortly after.
Trump’s strongest support, of course, came from voters who are age 65 and older — they are the ones who would be directly affected by the elimination of Medicare and Social Security. It will be interesting to see how quickly, or whether, the new president signs legislation that would have such a negative impact on his staunchest supporters.
Trump voters said they wanted changes, and they will get changes beyond anything they may have imagined. Whether they like those changes is another matter entirely.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report.