Laura Colbert, the executive director of the patient-advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, is especially concerned about rural patients. Ninety percent of Georgia’s Obamacare customers would be protected from…
Blog (April 2013)
Based on feedback from consumer groups, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today a shortened and simplified health coverage application that will help individuals easily apply for coverage when open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013. Additionally, for the first time consumers will be able to fill out one simple application and see their entire range of health insurance options including those in the marketplace, Medicaid, PeachCare, and tax credits to help pay for premiums. To view the new applications for individuals and families, click here and here, and here.
Many of the Affordable Care Act’s major health insurance reforms take effect in 2014. One of the most important changes impacting consumers will be the availability of substantial new tax credits to help individuals and families afford health care coverage. Individuals with annual incomes between about $15,860 and $45,960 (or between about $32,500 and $94,200 for a family of four) will be eligible for the health insurance tax credits. According to a new study by Families USA, about 800,000 Georgians will be eligible for these credits to help make coverage more affordable for them. Georgians for a Healthy Future joined with Families USA in a co-release of the report to highlight the Georgia-specific findings. You can find media coverage of the report’s findings here, here, and here. You can download the report here.
Georgians for a Healthy Future is currently working with Enroll America to assess the interest and capacity of Georgia community-based organizations, health care-focused nonprofits, and other stakeholders in working collaboratively on education, outreach, and enrollment into the new health insurance options available to consumers in 2014 through the Affordable Care Act. As a first step, we held a webinar on April 10th and an in-person meeting on April 11th that many of you attended. For those who missed the meetings, the materials can be found here.
While a big part of those meetings focused on the navigator program, we are asking for your help today regardless of whether you plan to apply as a navigator. If your organization has a stake in covering the uninsured, we’re asking you to complete a brief survey about your current work and future plans to engage in connecting uninsured Georgians to coverage. Georgians for a Healthy Future plans to use the overall results of the survey to guide the formation of a new enrollment-focused coalition and to inform an upcoming policy brief on health insurance outreach and enrollment (all information will be reported in aggregate unless we seek and receive your permission to do otherwise).
Please take a few minutes to complete this survey. Georgians for a Healthy Future is committed to advancing the goal of covering Georgia’s uninsured by bringing stakeholders together who are interested in and able to collaborate towards this shared goal. The results of this survey will provide a baseline and starting point for this important work. Thank you!
Open enrollment into the new health insurance marketplace, or exchange, begins in just under six months (October 1, 2013) for coverage starting in January 2014. Georgia has one of the highest numbers of uninsured in the nation (1.86 million), and many of these uninsured Georgians will be able to access health care coverage for the first time through the marketplace.
According to research from Enroll America, however, more than three-quarters of the uninsured don’t know about the new health insurance marketplace. Multiple surveys have also found that when uninsured individuals learn about the new health insurance options that will become available to them through the marketplace, they say they will need help navigating the process.
That’s why the new navigator program is so important. Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a funding opportunity announcement inviting organizations and individuals to apply for the navigator program. Groups may apply individually or as a consortium, although HHS is encouraging the consortium approach. Navigator responsibilities include:
- Maintain expertise in eligibility, enrollment, and program specifications;
- Conduct public education activities to raise awareness about the Exchange;
- Provide information and services in a fair, accurate, and impartial manner. Such information must acknowledge other health programs (such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP));
- Facilitate selection of a Qualified Health Plan;
- Provide referrals to any applicable office of health insurance consumer assistance or health insurance ombudsman established under Section 2793 of the Public Health Service Act, or any other appropriate state agency or agencies, for any enrollee with a grievance, complaint, or question regarding their health plan, coverage, or a determination under such plan or coverage; and
- Provide information in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate to the needs of the population being served by the Exchange, including individuals with limited English proficiency, and ensure accessibility and usability of Navigator tools, such as fact sheets, and functions for individuals with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
For entities interested in applying for the navigator funds, letters of intent (optional but recommended) are due on May 1, 2013 and applications are due to HHS on June 7, 2013. To learn more about the navigator funding opportunity, click here.
Nearly 100 of you joined us last week for a meeting to begin discussing how consumer and community-focused nonprofit organizations can work collaboratively to maximize enrollment in Georgia. The meeting also was an opportunity for organizations considering applying to HHS for the navigator grants to network with each other and see if there were opportunities to submit joint applications. To those of you who were unable to join us, here are the resources and materials that were shared:
- HHS navigator funding opportunity announcement
- Georgians for a Healthy Future’s navigator fact sheet
- Enroll America’s enrollment assisters fact sheet
- Enroll America’s navigator and in-person assistance programs
- Enroll America’s bridging the enrollment gap: the importance of providing in-person assistance
- Enroll America’s power point presentation
- Seedco’s power point presentation
- Webinar power point presentation
Join us for a webinar and in-person meeting about ACA Navigators April 10 and 11
If you or your organization are interested in applying for the upcoming funding opportunity provided through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for navigator grants or you would like to connect with other organizations who will be applying, please join Georgians for a Healthy Future, Seedco, Families USA and Enroll America for an important webinar on April 10th, 2013 at 11am and an in-person meeting on April 11th, 2013 from 2:30 to 4:30pm at the Philip Rush Center (1530 DeKalb Ave).
In the next few days, HHS is planning to announce funding that will be available to organizations for outreach and assistance to help individuals and small employers enroll in health coverage. These grants are created as part of the navigator program that was established by the Affordable Care Act. To learn more about navigators, click here.
To join us for the webinar, please click here to RSVP. To join us for the in-person meeting to further discuss this funding opportunity and opportunities for collaboration on outreach and enrollment, click here.
The 2013 Georgia Legislative Session has ended. The 2014 state budget and dozens of bills now go to Governor Deal for his signature or veto (the governor does have the authority to line-item veto parts of the state budget). Bills that did not pass this year are still viable in the 2014 Legislative Session, which will be the second year of a two-year session. Below is a summary of bills that passed the General Assembly this year that could impact health care consumers. For a complete rundown of how health care-related legislation fared, see Georgia Health News’s recap.
Legislation that could impact Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries
The final 2014 budget eliminated proposed rate cuts for health care providers (a 0.74% rate cut had been proposed for non-primary care providers within Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids), eliminated a proposed coding change that would have resulted in cuts for certain providers, and included funds for enrollment growth in Medicaid. This is good news for access to health care services; however, Medicaid, PeachCare, and other public health programs have sustained deep budget cuts in recent years. In future years, if we are to improve the state’s health, additional investments in public health and health care delivery will be needed.
HR 107 would create a joint study committee on Medicaid reform that would study current Medicaid policies and procedures, models in other states, and other aspects of the Medicaid program and report to the General Assembly and the Governor by December 31, 2013 with recommendations. HR 107 passed both the House and the Senate.
SB 62 would create a Federal and State Funded Health Care Financing Programs Overview Committee, a joint committee of the General Assembly. SB 62 has passed both the House and the Senate.
SB 24, which would authorize the Department of Community Health to levy a fee on hospitals to continue drawing down federal funds to support Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, was passed by both the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor back in February. The current hospital fee had been set to expire on June 30, 2013. The renewal of the fee was essential to ensuring Medicaid and PeachCare’s solvency and preserving access to hospital care in Georgia.
Legislation impacting health insurance consumer protections and access to insurance
SB 236 would require insurance companies to send concurrently with any statements sent to consumers that provide notice of premium increases an estimate of the portion of any premium increase that is due to the Affordable Care Act. How this is determined would be left to insurance companies to calculate, and they would not have to disclose their methodology. There would also be no requirement to present information about any other factors leading to premium increases or to notify consumers about available tax credits that may more than offset premium increases or about any cost savings or benefit enhancements they are receiving as a result of the Affordable Care Act. As such, this bill would result in consumers receiving incomplete and potentially misleading information. SB 236 has passed both the House and the Senate.
HB 198 would require licensing, certification, and training for health benefit exchange navigators and would restrict their ability to assist consumers. While ensuring that consumers receive accurate information from navigators about their health insurance options and protecting consumers is an important goal shared by Georgians for a Healthy Future, HB 198’s restrictive language and potentially duplicative training requirements could deter community-focused nonprofits, whose participation in the navigator program will be essential in reaching vulnerable populations who have historically faced barriers to enrolling in health insurance, from becoming navigators or from providing appropriate consumer assistance. Georgians for a Healthy Future looks forward to working with policymakers to ensure this bill is implemented in a manner that minimizes duplication and encourages participation from community-focused nonprofit organizations. HB 198 has passed both the House and the Senate.
HB 389 would allow insurance companies to terminate, cancel, or non-renew conversion policies or any health insurance policies offered through the health insurance assignment system when guaranteed issue becomes available (with a 90-day cancellation period and a 90-day open enrollment period into new health insurance options made available through the Affordable Care Act). HB 389 has passed both the House and the Senate.
The Commission on Mandated Health Benefits, created through legislation passed in 2011 to advise the governor and the General Assembly on the social and financial impact of current and proposed mandated benefits and providers, held its first meeting on March 12th. The meeting was largely an organizational one, but members also discussed how the commission’s work might intersect with aspects of the Affordable Care Act such as essential health benefits and the bills before the General Assembly that would require insurance companies to cover autism, child hearing aids, and medical foods. The next meeting date has not yet been announced. To read the minutes from the March 12th meeting, click here.
On March 23, the nation’s landmark health care reform legislation, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), turned 3 years old. Though it has only been three years since its passage and while we are still months away from some of the law’s most prominent features taking effect (i.e. health insurance marketplace, individual mandate, etc.), millions of people have already taken advantage of some of the law’s provisions, including many Georgians.
Here is how the ACA has affected Georgia:
- Young adults up to age 26 can now remain on their parent’s health plans. As of December 2011, 123,000 young adults in Georgia gained insurance coverage as a result the health care law.
- Prescription drug coverage for Medicare beneficiaries is now more affordable through the gradual closing of the “donut hole.” In Georgia, people with Medicare saved over $161.9 million on prescription drugs since the law’s enactment. In 2012 alone, 99,057 individuals in Georgia saved over $72.5 million, or an average of $732 per beneficiary.
- Preventive services are now available with no cost sharing for services such as colonoscopy screening for colon cancer, Pap smears and mammograms for women, well-child visits, and flu shots for all children and adults. In 2011 and 2012, 71 million Americans with private health insurance gained preventive service coverage with no cost-sharing, including 2,202,000 in Georgia.
- Medical loss ratio ensures that insurance companies must provide consumers greater value by spending generally at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care and quality improvements instead of overhead, executive salaries or marketing. If they don’t, they must provide consumers a rebate or reduce premiums. This means that 243,813 Georgia residents with private insurance coverage will benefit from $19,764,771 in rebates from insurance companies this year, for an average rebate of $134 per family covered by a policy.
To learn more about how the ACA has affected Georgia and its citizens, click here. As we get closer to 2014 the focus will turn to the health insurance marketplace, or exchange, and how individuals who are currently uninsured can access new health care options. Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to monitor the implementation of the ACA and ensure that health care consumers are able to take advantage of the provisions of the law that most affect them.