ADEL, Ga. -- In the governor’s race, Republican Brian Kemp was at a south Georgia hospital talking about health care Wednesday. It’s been a tough issue for Kemp, who had downplayed health care on his web site and has taken hits from Democrats over it.

In rural Georgia, a half dozen small town hospitals have closed over the last five years.

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Brian Kemp was outside the Cook Medical Center, where he said he wants to expand access to health care with minimal government influence.

"I recognize that Georgians are strapped with skyrocketing monthly premiums," Kemp told about a hundred people in Adel, about 200 miles south of Atlanta. Kemp says his health care plan would:

  • Stabilize insurance exchange markets
  • Create what he calls a “re-insurance” program to cover pre-existing conditions
  • Expand a rural hospital tax credit program.
  • Not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to cover uninsured Georgians.

Thirty-three other states have expanded Medicaid. Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams wants Medicaid expanded.

Kemp’s plan doesn’t directly address people who are unable to pay for health insurance. Democrats have been trolling Kemp’s bus tour with a van emblazoned with text criticizing his health care stance – which Kemp says took a step forward at this event.

"We’ve got to do something to lower costs and provide more access and this is a step – a bold step in the right direction. But it’s going to be hard work," Kemp said in an interview. "That’s why the legislators are here. They're buying into these things as well. We’ve got to move the needle, and do it quick."

One Kemp backer said the best way to do that is to put to work people who need health insurance.

"Get people a real job, they get real insurance that doctors actually take, that hospitals accept, that’s not below their cost of doing business but that’s above," said state Rep. Mark Newton, an emergency room doctor in Augusta. "I’m excited Brian Kemp is willing to look for a market based solution."