Georgia Capitol

Kemp called a press conference to announce he is committed to working with lawmakers to "craft a Georgia-centric healthcare system that ensures a bright and healthy future for all Georgians — no matter their zip code."

Tillery, a Republican from Vidalia, is the governor's floor leader. His father, Mike Tillery, grew up in Rome and his mother, Vicki Tillery, is from Cedartown.

His Patients First Act, SB 106, would restore the governor's authority to negotiate with federal officials on how to serve more low-income residents. The measure has more than a dozen Republican co-signers, including Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome.

While Kemp has yet to propose a specific plan, Hufstetler said he is "comfortable with" the governor leading the charge.

"The goal is to help improve the health of Georgians," he said. "The idea is that preventative care would be a lower cost so there will be an effort to move healthcare upstream."

Hufstetler said a quasi-governmental test project at Grady Memorial Hospital and several rural hospitals showed a healthcare management-type program reduced costs by 43 percent.

 Kemp has included $1 million in his budget for a consulting firm to help develop the waivers. He has said he wants to target assistance to the very poor, according to Georgia Health News, and tamp down premium hikes in the ACA's private health insurance exchange.

"They're hopeful they can have something presented to the federal government by July, although it could take another year to work through the system," Hufstetler said.

If the waivers are approved, Georgia would net $9 in federal money for every $1 it spends on the programs.

As plans are firmed up, the governor also could call on a special House and Senate committee charged with fiscal oversight of the state's Medicaid program and other healthcare funds.

Hufstetler, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, was appointed Tuesday by Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan to the Federal and State Funded Health Care Financing Programs Overview Committee. Three other Republicans and the Senate Minority Leader also will serve.

House Speaker David Ralston has made comparable appointments to the committee, which will be chaired by Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla. The House Minority Leader is Bob Trammell — a Democrat from Luthersville who is pushing for Medicaid expansion.

Georgia's previous governor, Nathan Deal, rejected a straight expansion under the Affordable Care Act and the General Assembly later removed that power from the governor's office. Ralston, who joined Kemp for Wednesday's announcement, indicated he would support only targeted programs.

"I appreciate Gov. Kemp working with the legislature to find a conservative way to ensure access to healthcare for more Georgians,” He said. "We are committed to moving forward in a fiscally-responsible way that avoids the perils associated with Medicaid expansion."