As a candidate to represent District 81 (HD81) in the Georgia State House, Ellen Diehl brings a wealth of experience and intimate knowledge of issues that affect every resident. A health insurance professional with over 20 years of experience, Ellen also has a history of volunteering to help others. She has served breakfast at Rescue Atlanta Homeless shelter, taught Sunday School and supported foster families through Promise 686.
We had the opportunity to get Ellen’s thoughts on a number of issues, and found them to be right on target for Georgia’s future.
GND- Healthcare seems to be one of the hottest topics at the moment. As you know, 33 states have expanded Medicaid but Georgia has not. What is you position on health care in general and Medicaid expansion in particular?
Diehl– I do not believe healthcare is a right, but it is a necessity. Georgia should encourage the insurance industry to innovate and develop as many products as possible in order to give individuals in Georgia options for access to healthcare. I think there are much better alternatives to standard Medicaid expansion. A lot of people claim it’s free, or almost free because the federal government picks up 90% of the bill. Kentucky accepted that claim, and now the state has to come up with $300 million by 2020 to meet its cost for the program.
GND– What other options are there?
Diehl- Premium assistance and managed care. A few states have opted for those because of the advantages they offer. One is better cost control and the other is more consistent coverage. Medicaid expansion is only available to people earning 138% or less of the federal poverty level. If their income increases, they lose Medicaid coverage, so a plan is neede that can more easily offer continuous coverage even if someone’s income rises above the Medicaid qualification level.
GND- Transportation is another hot button issue in the metro Atlanta area. What’s your position on the best way to solve Atlanta’s traffic and congestion problems?
Diehl- We need a comprehensive and integrated transit network across all of metro Atlanta. That means rail, conventional bus, bus rapid transit, flex (micro) transit, flexible lanes and toll lanes- all of the above. Transit works only if it takes people from where they are to their desired destination. That means different modes in different areas. I think heavy rail is an out-of-date, extremely expensive (over $250 million per mile construction costs) form of transit that is, and always will be under-utilized. The move to autonomous vehicles will completely change the transportation landscape and we need to be ready for that. In 10 or 20 years, rail and bus transportation, which is mostly funded by tax dollars, will see major declines in ridership. I don’t think people should be paying taxes to cover the costs of buses and trains that sit parked most of the time.
GND- Georgia is known for many positive things, but education isn’t one of them. How do we change that?
Diehl- Top quality public schools, and school choice are absolutely essential for Georgia’s future. Public schools should receive sufficient funding to deliver an excellent education to our children, so they may become EARNERS who support themselves and contribute to society. We need to increase teacher pay and develop solid plans to help failing schools. Supplemental pay should go from the State directly to teachers and student-facing staff, NOT central office bureaucracies. We must also protect the HOPE scholarship funds to ensure that Georgians have access to our colleges and technical training opportunities.
We also have to get the federal government off the backs of our educators. The purpose of schools is to provide education that will lead to personal success, but I hear complaints all the time that goal of education seems to be to enable students to pass standardized tests. They may be able to pass those tests, but they’re not getting the education they need for future success.
GND– Taxes are always a popular subject, especially around election time.
Diehl- The state of Georgia has been talking about eliminating our state income tax for a long time. No more talk, it’s time for action. We are flanked by Tennessee and Florida who have no state income tax and I support the same for Georgia. Eliminating the state income tax will bring more jobs to Georgia and House District 81 while giving more take home pay to hard working citizens. Eliminating the state income tax will obviously cut revenue, but I believe if we eliminate waste and redundancy, we will actually have more than enough revenue. Our government and state bureaucracy needs to be held accountable for how they spend our hard-earned money.