Peach Pulse: October 14, 2013

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA

 

 


Georgia’s Health Insurance Marketplace is open for business

Need health coverage? The Health Insurance Marketplace is open! Apply Now

On Tuesday, October 1, 2013, Georgia’s Health Insurance Marketplace opened for business.  Uninsured Georgians can now go to www.healthcare.gov to shop the Marketplace and see what insurance plan makes the most sense for them and their families.  Open enrollment runs from October 1 to March 31 so there is plenty of time for consumers to take their time, research their options, and pick a plan that works for them.
The work of outreach and education to communities across our state will never be more important.   78% of people report that they do not know about the Marketplace or how it will affect them—we are working hard to change this! Georgians for a Healthy Future along with Seedco and our other navigator consortium partners is working hard to make sure we are connecting Georgians to coverage.  We cannot do it alone and we hope we can count on your support and partnership. To read more about the launch of open enrollment, click here.


New Open Enrollment Resource Center

CGC

There is a new resource center on the Georgians for a Healthy Future website that is a centralized destination for everything consumers and community partners might need related to the Health Insurance Marketplace.  There they can find resources, tools, updates and more about new opportunities for healthcare coverage as we move forward with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  Visit and refer others to the resource center to find:

Be sure to check the resource center frequently for updates and new resources.


Insurance plan data now available for browsing

Since the launch of www.healthcare.gov, consumers have had a difficult time creating an account, logging in and browsing information about insurance plans.  To help more people shop and enroll in these new coverage options, HHS has added more servers and engineers, and improved the system configuration so it can handle more volume and will have shorter wait times.  HHS has designed the system to be dynamic, and will continue to make adjustments to improve the consumer experience.

As of late last week, HHS allows consumers to preview Marketplace health plans and prices available in their area without having to create an account. To find out their actual costs, consumers will still need to apply.  The estimates provided on this site do NOT include the premium subsidies. Individuals between 100% and 400% of federal poverty level (FPL) are eligible for subsidies in the exchange that make their insurance more affordable.  To calculate the premium assistance they may be eligible for, consumers can visit the Kaiser Family Foundation’s subsidy calculator.

HHS will continue to work with consumers during the next six months to get people enrolled in the health insurance plans they need and want. People have until December 15 to apply for coverage starting January 1, 2014, but open enrollment is on-going through March 31, 2014.


THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA

 

 

Georgians in the coverage gap

The Affordable Care Act was originally drafted so that individuals making up to 138% FPL (approx. $15,000 for an individual or $27,000 for a family of 3) would be eligible for Medicaid.  The Supreme Court decision in June 2012 made this optional for states and to date, Georgia has not elected to expand coverage through Medicaid.  The ACA also authorizes individuals between 100% and 400% FPL to receive premium subsidy assistance to make their insurance affordable.

So what happens to the individuals who are not currently eligible for Medicaid with incomes below 100% FPL?  They fall into the coverage gap.


Medicaid

So what will happen to people in the coverage gap? Unfortunately, these individuals will not qualify for Medicaid and are not eligible for exchange subsidies so insurance will remain unaffordable and they will not be able purchase it.  They do not have to pay a penalty under the “individual mandate” but they will also not have a reliable source of healthcare. While they can continue to access the healthcare system the way they do now–through the Emergency Room, at community health centers, and at free clinics, they will continue to suffer the consequences of avoidable hospitalizations and complications.

Georgia’s decision to expand coverage through Medicaid is one without a deadline.

Please join the Cover Georgia coalition in its efforts to move forward with this expansion.  There are several ways to get involved:

  1. Take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 138% FPL.  For talking points, click here.
  2. Sign and share the petition to Governor Deal.
  3. Share your story with us–are you one of the people who would gain coverage with expanded Medicaid? Do you know people who would? Have them share their story with us to help put a face on this important issue to policy makers and the media.
  4. Join Cover Georgia and become an active member of our statewide coalition dedicated to expanding coverage for Georgians.

Georgians who have used the Health Insurance Marketplace

Since the launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace, GHF has been working to connect Georgians to coverage.  We are very eager to hear from consumers who have tried to navigate the online marketplace on their own or with the assistance of a navigator, certified application counselor, agent, or broker.  Please share your experience with us–good or bad–so that we can continue to learn and assist Georgians with the enrollment process.


RECENT AND UPCOMING EVENTS  

Help us plan an open enrollment event in your community

With nearly 2 million uninsured Georgians, we have a lot of work over the next several months to connect those Georgians to the resources they need to access affordable health insurance.  GHF and our Seedco consortium partners are working hard to plan events across the state in local communities and with local partners.  If you are interested in partnering with us to identify a community who will benefit from this information, please reach out to us and let us know.

GHF benefit concert with Paul Thorn

image (4) image

Thanks to Paul Thorn Band and Jackson County Line, and the music lovers in Atlanta, GHF’s first ever benefit concert on September 7 was a success! Thanks to all our supporters who came out for an evening of camaraderie and music.  A very special thank you to GHF Board Member, Jon Wollenzien for his leadership and vision for this event.  Click here to see pictures from the concert.


Peach Pulse: June 5, 2013

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA

 

 

CARE-M Coalition Update

CARE-M (Coalition to Advance Redesign Effectiveness for Medicaid) is a group of organizations who advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations, patients, and health care consumers in Georgia.  Georgians for a Healthy Future is a member of the coalition. The coalition was formed shortly after the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) announced plans to explore redesigning Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids (CHIP) programs to ensure that the voices of these patients and consumers were heard in the process. Many CARE-M partners have been appointed to and serve on task forces and work groups convened by DCH to gain stakeholder input.
In May 2013, CARE-M released an updated version of its principles and concerns around Medicaid redesign.  The revised guiding principle is:

  • Improved healthcare outcomes for members should be the primary goal that drives changes to Medicaid. Improvement in the Medicaid system of services and supports will result in improved healthcare outcomes for the members.

To read more about the principles and concerns with the redesign process, click here.  For more information about CARE-M, click here.


Medicaid expansion could be a game changer for Georgians with mental illness

Georgia ranks 9th in the nation in the number of uninsured adults with a mental illness who could gain coverage through the Medicaid expansion, according to a new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The NAMI report describes the barriers that people with mental illness face in accessing services and the important role that Medicaid plays in connecting people to services so they can be healthy and productive members of their communities. Expanding Medicaid in Georgia is a major opportunity to change the lives of more than 86,000 low-income uninsured adults with mental illness in Georgia–if you haven’t already, please sign the petition in support of expanding Medicaid in Georgia and join us in our campaign to Cover Georgia!  The full NAMI report on Medicaid and mental health is available here.


ACA is estimated to significantly increase the number of Georgians who start their own businessRWJF Jobs Infographic

According to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act that preclude coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions and that will make health insurance more accessible and affordable, an estimated 56,000 Georgians will be able to start their own businesses who would not have otherwise done so.  To read the full report, click here.

 

 

 

 

 


THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA

 

 

GHF and the work of the Cover Georgia coalition featured in the New York Times: States’ policies on health care exclude some of the poorest

On May 24, GHF was featured in a New York Times article focusing on how states are implementing the ACA and how that affects various populations.  When asked specifically about our state’s Medicaid expansion efforts, GHF outreach and advocacy director Amanda Ptashkin said, “Hundreds of thousands of people with incomes below the poverty level would be eligible for Medicaid if the state decided to move forward with the expansion of Medicaid. As things now stand, they will not be eligible for anything. What do we do for them? What do we tell them?”  To read the full article, click here.

Over the past several months, hundreds of Georgia health care consumers have chosen to speak out about what expanding Medicaid would mean for them by filling out postcards addressed to Governor Deal. The postcards ask him to support the Medicaid expansion in Georgia. Additionally, more than 1,700 Georgians have signed the online petition. The Cover Georgia coalition is collecting these signatures and stories and will deliver them to Governor Deal prior to the start of the 2014 legislative session.  We need your help to make sure these voices are heard!

Please join the efforts of the Cover Georgia coalition however you can. Here are some suggested ways to engage in this important issue:

  1. Take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 138% FPL.  For talking points, click here.
  2. Sign and share the petition to Governor Deal.
  3. Share your story with us–are you one of the people who would gain coverage with expanded Medicaid? Do you know people who would? Have them share their story with us to help put a face on this important issue to policy makers and the media.
  4. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor.  Explaining how the expansion would affect different populations across the state is our best way to show how widespread the effects of the decision’s reach.  For help with media outreach, email Amanda Ptashkin.  For an excellent example of a compelling op-ed on the topic, click here.
  5. Join Cover Georgia and become an active participant in a statewide coalition dedicated to expanding coverage for Georgians.

RECENT AND UPCOMING EVENTS  

 

 

Recent Event Recap!

Core to our mission at Georgians for a Healthy Future is robust outreach and education to various audiences throughout the state.  GHF staff has been busy at work sharing critical information about implementation of the ACA, the upcoming wave of enrollment through the marketplace, or exchange, and the consequences of expanding or declining the Medicaid expansion.  Here are some of our recent presentations:

  • On June 4, executive director Cindy Zeldin presented to the Midtown Atlanta Rotary on the future of health in Georgia, part of the Rotary’s health theme for the month of June. Her presentation is available for download here.

rotary

  • On May 28, outreach and advocacy director Amanda Ptashkin joined the Voters Guild of Metro Atlanta for their monthly meeting and shared information about the ACA, its implementation and the next big things on the horizon.
  • On May 21, outreach and advocacy director, Amanda Ptashkin, joined the Greater Augusta Health Network at their board meeting to discuss the role of navigators in the context of assisting consumers enroll in the new health insurance marketplace.
  • On May 3, executive director Cindy Zeldin served on a panel at the Georgia Charitable Care Network’s annual conference and discussed Georgia’s uninsured and the opportunities and challenges ahead for connecting Georgians to coverage. Her presentation is available for download here.

Decoding the Affordable Care Act: Issues Conference 2013

Please join Georgians for a Healthy Future at the 2013 Issues Conference: “Decoding the Affordable Care Act” taking place on Saturday, June 15, 2013 from 10am to 12pm at the Fayette County Library.  This event is being sponsored by State Representative Ronnie Mabra, District 63.

This year’s conference is purposed at helping individuals understand the implications of the new health care law and highlight its major provisions. The conference will feature presentations and discussion by an expert, non-partisan panel followed by a question and answer session.

Moderator:
Natalie D. Hernandez, PhD, MPH
Health Policy Leadership Fellow
Satcher Health Leadership Institute
Morehouse School of Medicine

Panelists:
Starla Hairston Blanks, MBA, CPHP
Director of Community Health Promotion and Policy Development
Community Voices: Healthcare for the Underserved
Morehouse School of Medicine

Kirkland McGhee, Esq.
Vice President & Regional Counsel
Legal Services and Government Relations
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia

Amanda Ptashkin, JD
Outreach and Advocacy Director
Georgians for a Healthy Future

This event is free and open to the public.  Please help us prepare for your arrival by RSVPing to 2013 Issues Conference.


 

iStock_000010179382XSmallAll Hands on Deck! An Evening with Georgians for a Healthy Future

The Georgians for a Healthy Future board of directors invites you to join us for an evening of camaraderie, conversation, and celebration as we gear up for the next big phase of health reform implementation: connecting hundreds of thousands of uninsured Georgians to coverage. Thanks to national health reform, consumers have more options than they have ever had before. But covering Georgia’s uninsured will take all of us, working in concert, to move our state forward. We need all hands on deck! Please join us on the evening of June 27th to celebrate our successes and prepare for the challenges ahead.

 

 

 
Featuring remarks by: Senator Jason Carter
JasonCarter

WHEN:  Thursday, June 27, 2013, 6pm to 8pm
WHERE:  18th Floor Deck, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough

 

 

 

 

 

Host committee (in formation)

CAPTAIN

Dr. Harry Heiman & Abby Friedman

Representative Pat Gardner

Dr. Doug Skelton

Healthcare Georgia Foundation
FIRST MATE

Dr. Edward Fernández-Vila and Mr. Jeff Cornett

Cindy Zeldin & Doug Busk

Lenz Marketing
CADET

AARP Georgia

Advocates for Responsible Care

Kent & Diane Alexander

Julie Edelson

Iris & Bruce Feinberg

Jeff Graham

Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia

Susan Kupferberg

Jeanney & Steve Kutner

Catherine Smith

Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia

Marci Thomas

Joann Yoon

***

Host committee opportunities available:

Captain ~ $1000 and up (6 tickets)
First Mate ~ $500 (4 tickets)
Cadet ~ $250 (2 tickets)

Please contact Cindy Zeldin to join the host committee or for more information about the event.

General tickets are $60.  To register, click here.


Peach Pulse: May 23, 2013

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA

 

 

 

Three in five Georgians support expanding Medicaid

It’s time for our state policymakers to catch up to their constituents. A new public opinion survey out this week from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies finds strong support within Georgia and across the Deep South for covering the uninsured through an expansion of Medicaid. Sixty-one percent of Georgians support expanding Medicaid, including forty-seven percent of self-identified conservatives. In addition, fifty-five percent of Georgia respondents said that the Medicaid program is important because they like knowing that it exists as a safety net to protect low-income people who can’t afford needed care. Four in ten said it was important because they or someone they know may need to rely on Medicaid benefits in the future. Georgians care about the health of their families and communities and want our policymakers to do the right thing. Please sign the Cover Georgia petition or distribute postcards throughout your network to ensure this majority support for Medicaid is heard. The full results of the survey are available here. Georgia Health News also covered the story here.

Connecting Georgians to coverage: update

Thank you to the dozens of community groups, nonprofit organizations, and health care stakeholders who responded to our survey about your plans to conduct consumer outreach and facilitate enrollment into the new health insurance options that will become available to many uninsured and underinsured Georgians later this year through the new health insurance exchange, or marketplace. Georgians for a Healthy Future will compile the results and share them as part of a resource document later this summer. In the meantime, here are three new resources that may be useful for you.

  • Families USA, a national consumer health advocacy organization, has developed an online resource center for navigators and others working on outreach and enrollment. You can visit the resource center here.
  • Consumers Union, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports, has developed a consumer-tested brochure to help consumers understand the new health insurance tax credits. The brochure is available here.
  •  The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) has an updated FAQ available on the navigator program.  You can view that document here.
You can also find links and resources regarding health insurance navigators on the Georgians for a Healthy Future website here.

Commission on mandated benefits to meet on June 4th

The Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Insurance Benefits will hold its second meeting on June 4th from 10am to 3pm on the 9th floor of the Sloppy Floyd Building’s West Tower at 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30334. The commission was 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. The commission will hear testimony on three pieces of legislation at its June 4th meeting:

  • 10 – 12 p.m.    HB309 – Rep. Ben Harbin, (Ava’s Law)
  • 1 – 2p.m.        HB74 – Rep. Ed Lindsey, (Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Act)
  • 2 – 3p.m.        HB73 – Rep. Ed Lindsey, (Insurance; coverage for physician prescribed special dietary food)
If you are interested in testifying on any of these pieces of legislation at the commission’s June 4th meeting, please contact the office of House Insurance Committee Chair Richard Smith at 404-656-6831. Minutes from the March 12th meeting are available here.

The Uninsured in Georgia

 

 

“Georgia’s future deserves to be healthy”

“It’s the right thing to do.”

“Not only will it benefit Georgia’s economy, but it will provide insurance coverage for me; I am a low-income childless adult trying to jump start my career.”

“All Georgians should have access to affordable health coverage; Medicaid expansion delivers this!”

These are just a few of the hundreds of responses we’ve received when we asked the question, “Why do you support expanding Medicaid in Georgia?”   Over the past several months, hundreds of Georgia health care consumers have chosen to speak out about what expanding Medicaid would mean for them by filling out postcards addressed to Governor Deal. The postcards ask him to support the Medicaid expansion in Georgia. Additionally, more than 1,700 Georgians have signed the online petition. The Cover Georgia coalition is collecting these signatures and stories and will deliver them to Governor Deal prior to the start of the 2014 legislative session. Recent polling indicates that a solid majority of Georgians support expanding Medicaid, but we need your help to make sure their voices are heard!

Please join the efforts of the Cover Georgia coalition however you can. Here are some suggested ways to engage in this important issue:

  1. Take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 138% FPL.  For talking points, click here.
  2. Sign and share the petition to Governor Deal.
  3. Share your story with us–are you one of the people who would gain coverage with expanded Medicaid? Do you know people who would? Have them share their story with us to help put a face on this important issue to policy makers and the media.
  4. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor.  Explaining how the expansion would affect different populations across the state is our best way to show how widespread the effects of the decision’s reach.  For help with media outreach, email Amanda Ptashkin.  For an excellent example of a compelling op-ed on the topic, click here.
  5. Join Cover Georgia and become an active participant in a statewide coalition dedicated to expanding coverage for Georgians.

UPCOMING EVENTS

 

 

 

 

All Hands on Deck! An Evening with Georgians for a Healthy Future

The Georgians for a Healthy Future board of directors invites you to join us for an evening of camaraderie, conversation, and celebration as we gear up for the next big phase of health reform implementation: connecting hundreds of thousands of uninsured Georgians to coverage. Since our founding in 2008, Georgians for a Healthy Future has worked with all of you to provide a strong voice for Georgia’s health care consumers in the policy decisions that impact their lives. Please join us on the evening of June 27th to celebrate our successes and prepare for the challenges ahead.

Thanks to national health reform, consumers have more options than they have ever had before. But covering Georgia’s uninsured will take all of us, working in concert, to move our state forward. We need all hands on deck!  Please join us for an entertaining evening of celebration and conversation about our collective strength and how Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to work on behalf of all Georgians to help navigate the rough waters ahead.

WHEN:  Thursday, June 27, 2013, 6pm to 8pm
WHERE:  18th Floor Deck, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough

Host committee opportunities available:

Captain ~ $1000 and up (6 tickets)
First Mate ~ $500 (4 tickets)
Cadet ~ $250 (2 tickets)

Please contact Cindy Zeldin to join the host committee or for more information about the event.

General tickets are $60.  To register, click here.


Webinar–The countdown to affordable health insurance: Time is running out!

In a few short months, millions of uninsured Americans will qualify for affordable healthcare coverage either through Medicaid, CHIP or tax subsidies. Citizens in every state will be affected by the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and its mandated updates to eligibility determination. Where will they go for answers?

Join GOVERNING magazine for a live webinar to hear from government and industry experts and learn:

  • How should states educate consumers?
  • What are the issues at hand?
  • What current resources can be used?
  • How can you ready your Agency for the changes ahead?

Date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM PDT | 1:00 PM EDT

Click here to register.


Peach Pulse: April 30, 2013


WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
Preparing for the next phase of health reform: outreach and enrollment

Open enrollment into the new health insurance marketplace, or exchange, begins in just five 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 affordable health care coverage for the first time through the marketplace.  [However, unless Georgia implements the Medicaid expansion, our state’s lowest-income uninsured will still lack a pathway to coverage.  To learn more about this coverage gap and Georgians for a Healthy Future’s efforts to cover this population, click here.]

According to research from Enroll America, 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 who would be eligible for affordable coverage through the marketplace learn about the new health insurance options that will become available to them, they say they will need help navigating the process.

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.

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 either through applying to become a health insurance navigator or in other ways. 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.

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!


More than 800,000 Georgians will be eligible for health care tax credits in 2014

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.


HHS issues proposed regulations on health insurance navigators

Connecting uninsured Georgians to new coverage opportunities will be a major undertaking. To facilitate consumer education, outreach, and enrollment, the Affordable Care Act creates a health insurance navigator program. Earlier in April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued proposed regulations providing more information about how the program will work. The proposed regulations contain strong conflict of interest provisions, cultural competency and accessibility requirements, and training standards. You can read an analysis of the proposed regulations from the journal Health Affairs here.  HHS is accepting public comments on the regulations until May 6th. Please consider sending comments in support of these consumer-friendly provisions.

The proposed regulations also indicate that state-level restrictions on navigators that are so burdensome as to prevent the viability of the navigator program will be preempted. This was included in response to a spate of bills that have popped up in legislatures across the country at the behest of the health insurance broker and agent lobby. Many of these bills are nearly identical across states and, if implemented, could impede the critically important navigator program. During the 2013 legislative session, Georgia legislators passed HB 198, which would place restrictions on navigator functions and require navigators to meet licensing and training requirements in Georgia. Although there is good reason to believe at least parts of HB 198 will be preempted, Georgians for a Healthy Future remains vigilant about the potential negative impact of HB 198 on the participation of small consumer and community-focused nonprofit organizations in the navigator program. The robust participation of these types of entities will be needed to ensure hard-to-reach populations in Georgia learn about and enroll in the new health insurance options available to them. Should HB 198 be signed into law, Georgians for a Healthy Future hopes to work with state officials to implement it in a way that is consistent with federal law and that strengthens the navigator program, perhaps by offering a training curriculum on state-specific programs like Medicaid and PeachCare, rather than weakens it.

The Augusta Chronicle recently interviewed Georgians for a Healthy Future’s executive director about the importance of the navigator program, the proposed rules, and Georgia’s HB 198. That article is available here.


CMS announces simplified health coverage application

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.



THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA
The stakes are highest for the state’s lowest income citizens

One of the guiding principles of the Affordable Care Act is that everyone should be eligible for some type of health care coverage.  While the new health insurance marketplace opens in 2014 and will make affordable health insurance available for nearly 800,000 Georgians, hundreds of thousands of additional low-income Georgians could be left out in the cold unless Georgia policymakers implement the Medicaid expansion, which was made optional by last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision.  Tax credits are available to consumers with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (or starting at about $15,860 for an individual or $32,500 for a family of four) to purchase coverage through the health insurance marketplace. Medicaid was intended to be the route to coverage for individuals and families with incomes below that threshold, and many states are indeed extending Medicaid to their lowest-income citizens. We need your voice to move Georgia from no to yes on the Medicaid expansion!


Please join the efforts of the Cover Georgia coalition however you can. Here are some suggested ways to engage in this important issue:

  1. Take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 138% FPL.  For talking points, click here.
  2. Sign and share the petition to Governor Deal.
  3. Share your story with us–are you one of the people who would gain coverage with expanded Medicaid? Do you know people who would? Have them share their story with us to help put a face on this important issue to policy makers and the media.
  4. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor.  Explaining how the expansion would affect different populations across the state is our best way to show how widespread the effects of the decision’s reach.  For help with media outreach, email Amanda Ptashkin.  For an excellent example of a compelling op-ed on the topic, click here.
  5. Join Cover Georgia and become an active participant in a statewide coalition dedicated to expanding coverage for Georgians.  Once October hits and we see hundreds of thousands of Georgians begin to learn about their coverage options, we will also begin to see just how many people stand to fall into the coverage gap created by the failure to expand Medicaid.  Help the advocacy community overcome this obstacle by joining our efforts to #CoverGeorgia.

UPCOMING AND RECENT EVENTS  
SAVE THE DATE: All Hands on Deck! An Evening with Georgians for a Healthy Future

Please save the date for Georgians for a Healthy Future’s annual cocktail reception and fundraiser.  This year’s event, All Hands on Deck!, stresses the critical nature of our collaborative work as we collectively navigate the health care landscape in our state.  Please join us for a fun and entertaining evening!

WHEN:  Thursday, June 27, 2013, 6pm to 8pm
WHERE:  18th Floor Deck, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough

Invitation and RSVP link to follow shortly.

Health care town hall focused on how the ACA affects Georgia’s LGBT community

On April 17th,  Georgia Equality and Georgians for a Healthy Future held a health care town hall meeting to share the specifics of what health care reform means for Georgia’s LGBT community.

The ACA brings with it great changes to our health care system and how people are able to access coverage.  While these changes will affect everyone, there are some very specific issues that the LGBT community should be aware of.

Brian Bassinger, an associate at King & Spalding and former Georgia Equality Board member, gave an informative presentation which included the history of LGBT health care access and the implications of the ACA’s provisions for LGBT individuals.  To view Brian’s presentation, click here.  Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Amanda Ptashkin also presented at the town hall about the importance of coverage, particularly through the lens of the Medicaid expansion. To view Amanda’s presentation, click here.  To download two health reform focused LGBT specific fact sheets, click here and here.


Peach Pulse: April 3, 2013

georgiaWHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
 
Legislative Update

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.


Commission on mandated health benefits holds its first meeting

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.


Georgians for a Healthy Future ED appointed to the Georgia Health Information Network board of directors

Cindy Zeldin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director, has been appointed to the Georgia Health Information Network board of directors to represent the health care consumer perspective. The Georgia Health Information Network serves with the Georgia Department of Community Health and the Georgia Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center in a public-private collaborative to establish Georgia’s statewide health information exchange, which will eventually connect hospitals, labs, clinicians, regional HIEs, and other health care stakeholders.


umbrellaTHE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA
 Grassroots support grows for expanding Medicaid in Georgia


The Cover Georgia coalition, a group of more than 60 organizations advocating for the Medicaid expansion in Georgia, has collected nearly 1500 signatures on its online petition and distributed approximately 2000 postcards garnering messages about why expanding Medicaid is important to individuals, families, and communities.

But we’re just getting started—please help us spread the word about the importance of expanding coverage for approximately 650,000 Georgians.  Sign the petition and share it with your networks.  Explain what coverage means for nearly 2 million uninsured Georgians.  Explain the economic impact that an influx of $40.5 billion in federal dollars will have on our state over a decade.  Help us make the case that Georgia should implement the Medicaid expansion.  Help us #CoverGeorgia today.  For more specifics on how the expansion would affect our state, click here.


megaUPCOMING AND RECENT EVENTS
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.


LGBT health care town hall

Join Georgia Equality and Georgians for a Healthy Future to learn more about the specifics of what health care reform means for Georgia’s LGBT community. On Wednesday April 17th from 6:00 – 7:30, we will host a public meeting at the Phillip Rush Center, 1530 DeKalb Avenue, Atlanta 30307. We will also be streaming the town hall meeting live for those outside of the Atlanta area who would like to participate.

Starting later this year and continuing throughout 2014, there will be great changes to our health care system and how people are able to access coverage.  While these changes will affect everyone, there are some very specific issues that the LGBT community should be aware of.  The town hall meeting will not only discuss how the Affordable Care Act will change the health care landscape for everyone, but how it will specifically impact LGBT individuals, couples, youth and people living with chronic medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS.

The program is free for participants but we do ask that you RSVP.  Light refreshments will be available.  We hope to see you there on the 17th.


GAIRS quarterly meeting and training held in Macon

On Wednesday, March 20, GAIRS (Georgia Alliance of Information and Referral Systems) held their quarterly meeting and training in Macon and welcomed Amanda Ptashkin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach and Advocacy Director, to educate their members on implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  GAIRS is an organization made up primarily of individuals who work in the field of information and referral/assistance.  The training aimed to prepare members to respond to the hundreds of inquiries received about different services and programs from seniors, caregivers, persons with developmental disabilities, and the general public. Participants in the meeting came eager to learn more about the provisions of the law that affect their patients and to learn more about how individuals will be able to access the new health insurance marketplace (exchange). In the coming months, Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to share information about the exchange, the role of navigators, and anything else relating to upcoming changes resulting from the ACA that will impact health care consumers. To view Amanda’s presentation, click here


CEU Concepts Resource-a-Palooza

On Friday, March 22, CEU Concepts held an all day training session, Resource-a-Palooza, and provided social workers, case managers, discharge planners and other healthcare professionals with an opportunity to expand their knowledge base and have a better understanding of how to access various resources in the community.  Amanda Ptashkin joined participants in the morning to share information about the work of the Cover Georgia coalition and explain how critical the expansion is to the nearly 534,000 Georgians who run the risk of falling into the “coverage gap” if our state does not accept the expansion dollars.  Participants were surprised to learn that if our state does not expand our Medicaid program, individuals between our current eligibility levels and 100% of Federal Poverty Level (FPL), will have no affordable options for coverage and will likely remain uninsured and less likely to access care when it is needed.    Participants at the event shared their patient stories and signed postcards directed at the governor asking him to move forward with the expansion.  If you haven’t signed a postcard, please be sure to sign our petition to the Governor.  To view Amanda’s presentation, click here.


Peach Pulse: March 11, 2013

georgiaWHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
 Legislative Update

The General Assembly has now completed 30 days of its 40-day session. For a bill (except for the state budget) to remain viable, it must pass at least one chamber by the end of Day 30, known as Crossover Day. The Legislature will be in Session for Days 31 through 34 Monday through Thursday of this week. Below is a summary of bills that have passed at least one chamber and that Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring, as they could have an impact on Georgia health care consumers if enacted into law.


Legislation impacting health insurance consumer protections and access to insurance
A trio of health insurance related bills are moving through the General Assembly. Consumer health advocates are concerned about these bills because they could restrict information and choices for consumers. 

SB 236 would require insurance companies to indicate on statements sent to consumers that provide notice of premium increases 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 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 the Senate and is in the House insurance committee.
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 is an important goal, 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. HB 198 has passed the House and is on the Senate floor today.

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 the House and is in the Senate Insurance committee.


Legislation that could impact Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries

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 has passed the House.

SB 62 would create Federal and State Funded Health Care Financing Programs Overview Committee, a joint committee of the General Assembly. SB 62 has passed the Senate.

SB 163 would direct the Department of Community Health to examine and identify options for reforming Medicaid in Georgia, including but not limited to more use of managed care, with the purpose of bringing savings to the state. SB 163 has passed the Senate and is in the House Health and Human Services committee.


Commission on mandated benefits to convene this week

The Commission on mandated health benefits, created by legislation in 2011, is finally set to hold its first meeting tomorrow, March 12th, at 1:30pm in the Ninth Floor Training Room of the West Tower of the James H. Floyd Building.  The commission is charged with evaluating the social and financial impact of current and proposed benefit mandates. Read the Governor’s announcement about the commission’s first meeting here and to read a recent Georgia Health News article about the commission, click here.


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THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA
Without Medicaid expansion, Georgia will continue to have high numbers of uninsured

Georgians for a Healthy Future is a proud partner in the Cover Georgia coalition. The coalition supports covering Georgia’s uninsured by taking advantage of the resources on the table through the Affordable Care Act to invest in our state’s Medicaid program. Governor Deal has thus far said that he does not support expanding Medicaid in Georgia. However, without the expansion, Georgians will represent an even larger portion of the nation’s uninsured and our state will have fewer resources to invest in our health system as compared to other states.

According to new data from Enroll America, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s uninsured live in 13 states, one of which is Georgia. Of these 13 states, 8 have indicated that thus far that they plan to implement the Medicaid expansion. More than 10 million of the nation’s uninsured live in 10 metropolitan areas, one of which is Atlanta. Of these 10 metropolitan areas, 7 are in states that have indicated they plan to move forward with the Medicaid expansion. There are approximately 1.9 million uninsured Georgians, about 861,000 of whom are located in metropolitan Atlanta.

In recent weeks, several governors have announced support for expanding Medicaid in their states. So far, 24 states and the District of Columbia are planning to participate in the Medicaid expansion, including 8 states with Republican governors. Most recently, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Governor Rick Scott of Florida announced their support for expanding Medicaid in their states. To see a complete chart of where each state stands, click here.

Here are some new resources that you may find helpful in advocating for the Medicaid expansion.  They can also be found on the www.coverga.org website:


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UPCOMING AND RECENT EVENTS
Save the Date: NHeLP hosting Medicaid expansion webinars

The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) is hosting a series of webinars on the Medicaid expansion focused on five states: Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and West Virginia.

  • Medicaid Expansion Messaging and Strategy (201) on Mar 14, 2013 1:00 PM EST: For this webinar they will have a guest from the Herndon Alliance talk us through Medicaid Expansion messaging. The format will include time for you to raise state specific examples to discuss messaging strategies in your states. We will also emphasize: all Medicaid and Med Ex messaging (not just recent surveys), messaging to policy makers, and how to actually get the message out there. It will also be an important chance to strategize about how to pursue Medicaid Expansion in your challenging environments.
  • Medicaid Expansion Benefits (301) on Mar 21, 2013 1:00 PM EST: This webinar will cover the complex rules about the services that would be available in the Medicaid Expansion. We’ll discuss the key advocacy opportunities for state advocates to improve coverage.

Medicaid expansion takes center stage at recent events

geeventOn February 26th, Georgians for a Healthy Future and Georgia Equality hosted a training and information session for social justice advocates who want to learn more about Medicaid. Entitled “Medicaid Advocacy 101,” presenters talked about the basics of the Medicaid program, how it is funded, and how expansion will benefit Georgia’s uninsured and our state’s economy.  Click here for more pictures from the event.

 

 

13863_10151312590032861_1754899292_nOn February 19th, the Cover Georgia coalition and more than 100 volunteer advocates brought the message about the importance of coverage to their elected officials under the Gold Dome.  Volunteers spoke to their State Representatives and Senators about why Georgia should take advantage of the federal dollars on the table to expand coverage to more than 650,000 uninsured Georgians through Medicaid.  For more pictures, click here and here.

 

 

cartercenterOn February 14th, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin participated as one of the featured panelists in a forum hosted by the Carter Center: “Improving Access to Mental Health and Addiction Services: Medicaid Expansion and Alternative Approaches – A Public Policy Forum.” Materials from the event are now available, including video highlights from the panel discussion and copies of the speaker presentations.


Peach Pulse: February 13, 2013

georgia

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
 
New report quantifies the economic impact of expanding Medicaid in Georgia

CaptureAn analysis conducted by Dr. Bill Custer of Georgia State University and released today by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation finds that, if Georgia policymakers choose to accept the $40.5 billion in federal funds available to the state between 2014 and 2023 to expand Medicaid, this infusion of resources would create more than 70,000 jobs statewide, adding an annual $8.2 billion to statewide economic output and generating $276 million in state and local tax revenue annually.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, states can create a new eligibility category for Medicaid for people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or approximately $15,850 for an individual or $26,950 for a family of three. In Georgia, according to the report, about 694,000 people would gain health coverage under this expansion, mostly childless adults and some parents.

To date, Governor Deal has rejected the offer to expand coverage citing concerns about the cost to the state.  As this new report details, however, expanding Medicaid would be an economic engine for Georgia. Of the more than 70,000 jobs that would be created, just over half would be in the health care sector; however, other industries such as real estate, food services, and wholesale trade businesses would also gain jobs. The report also shows the geographic distribution of jobs created throughout Georgia by state service delivery region. To read the full report, click here.  For AJC coverage of the report, click here.


Legislative Update

The 2013 Legislative Session continues at a swift pace, with legislators in session today for day 17 of the 40-day session (the legislative calendar is available here). Here are some key health care updates:

  • Yesterday, the Health Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee heard from the Commissioners of the state’s health-related agencies, including the Department of Community Health and the Department of Public Health, about their proposed FY 2014 budgets. Today, the subcommittee will meet again from 2 – 4pm in Room 506 CLOB to take public comment on the proposed budgets. If you would like to comment, you must sign up in advance in Room 245 of the State Capitol. The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute has released an analysis of the 2014 proposed budget for the Department of Community Health, available here.
  • 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 this morning. The current hospital fee is 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. To read AJC coverage of the renewal, click here.
  • HB 198 would require navigators to be licensed, place certain restrictions on their functions, and would give the Georgia Insurance Commissioner regulatory authority over them. Navigators are organizations or entities that apply for and receive federal grants authorized by the Affordable Care Act to provide individuals and small businesses with impartial information and assistance with enrollment in health coverage in the new health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. While it is important that navigators are qualified to perform these functions and that there is adequate oversight to protect consumers, consumer advocates are also concerned that overly restricting navigators could have a chilling effect on the community-focused organizations whose participation in the navigator program will be critical in connecting hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations to coverage. Advocates worked with legislators to improve the bill, which passed the House Insurance Committee last week and was passed by the Rules Committee yesterday. To read a recent AJC article on this issue, click here.

Advocates Will Convene at the Capitol on 2/19/13 to Highlight Importance of Coverage

CoverGA_logo_BlueBackgroundGeorgians for a Healthy Future and the Cover Georgia coalition will be heading to the State Capitol on Tuesday, February 19th from 9am to 1pm to advocate for covering Georgia’s uninsured through an expansion of the Medicaid program.  For more details about the event and to RSVP, click here.

With one in five Georgians currently uninsured, many Georgians have no access to health insurance coverage.  The Affordable Care Act gives us the option of accepting federal dollars to expand coverage to low income adults who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level, approximately $15,400 a year in 2012. This would allow about 600,000 Georgians to gain health coverage.

Our state policymakers need to hear from health care consumers, patients, providers, and stakeholders about how important this issue is to them. We need your voice! Please join us at the Capitol on the 19th!


megaEVENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Carter Center Hosting Event on the ACA’s Impact on Access to Mental Health Services in Georgia 2/14/13

The Carter Center, in partnership with the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards, and the Georgia Association for Primary Health Care, is hosting a nonpartisan public policy forum on the Affordable Care Act’s impact on Georgia’s efforts to improve and expand access to mental health and substance abuse services on Feb. 14, 2013, from 2-4:30 p.m. in the Carter Center’s Ivan Allen III Pavilion.  The event will include opening remarks from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Frank Berry, Healthcare Georgia Foundation President Gary Nelson and a panel discussion to include:

  • Cindy Zeldin, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future
  • Tim Sweeney, director of Health Policy at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
  • Ron Bachman, president and CEO of Healthcare Visions Inc.
  • Frank Bonati, executive director, Gateway Behavioral Health

To register for the event, email CarterCenterMHP@gmail.com.  For more information about the event, click here.


Medicaid 101: An Advocate Training 2/26/13

Expanding Medicaid is one of the most important steps that the State of Georgia could take to help low income people and families in Georgia. In order to convince policymakers, it will take the combined efforts of all advocacy organizations who care about social justice and equity.

Join Georgia Equality, Georgians for a Healthy Future, and the Cover Georgia coalition for a training for advocates on  Tuesday, February 26th, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm at the Phillip Rush Center (1530 DeKalb Avenue).

There is no cost to attend but registration is requested. Space is limited so please register today.


Peach Pulse: February 1, 2013

georgia

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
The 2013 Legislative Session: budget hearings held, hospital tax renewal moving through the House of Representatives

Last week, state agency heads presented Governor Deal’s proposed budgets for their respective agencies to the House and Senate Appropriations committees.

Access to care: the good news
Primary care providers will receive an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates to parity with Medicare rates, funded entirely with federal dollars made available to Georgia through the Affordable Care Act. This can help preserve and strengthen access to care for Medicaid patients seeking primary care and prevention services.

Access to care: the bad news
The Department of Community Health’s proposed budget would reduce provider reimbursement rates within Medicaid by .74 percent for providers other than hospitals, primary care, FQHC, RHC, and hospice providers. This proposed rate cut, if implemented, could jeopardize access to care for Medicaid patients who require services such as dental care, obstetrics and gynecology, and oncology, among other non-primary care services.

The Department of Community Health’s proposed budget can be found here. Please contact your legislators and ask them to preserve access to care by restoring these important funds in the state budget.

Hospital fee renewal moves through the Legislature
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, has passed the State Senate and will be before the House of Representatives for a vote today. The current hospital fee is set to expire on June 30, 2013. The renewal of the fee is essential to ensuring Medicaid and PeachCare’s solvency and preserving access to hospital care in Georgia.


megaEVENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Hot off the press: A Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the 2013 Georgia Legislative Session

Each year, Georgians for a Healthy Future releases A Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the Georgia Legislative Session to provide you with the information and tools you need to take action on the health care issues you care about. Our 2013 guide is now available and features an overview of the legislative process in Georgia; contact information for all state legislators; descriptions and listings for each legislative committee with jurisdiction over health care issues; contact information for state agencies and officials; contact information for health care organizations and associations active in Georgia; key media contacts; and tools and strategies for effective consumer health advocacy. You may download the guide here or request hard copies of the guide by e-mailing Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach & Advocacy Director here.


Advocating for Coverage for Georgia’s Uninsured: Join us at the Capitol on 2/19/13


CoverGA_logo_BlueBackground
Please join Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Cover Georgia coalition at the State Capitol on Tuesday, February 19th from 9am to 1pm as we advocate for covering Georgia’s uninsured through an expansion of the Medicaid program.  For more details about the event and to RSVP, click here.  Help us Cover Georgia.

One in five Georgians is currently uninsured.  That translates to close to 2 million people in our state with no access to health insurance coverage.  Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option of accepting federal dollars to expand coverage to low income adults who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level, approximately $15,400 a year in 2012. This would allow about 600,000 Georgians to gain health coverage.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to drastically reduce the number of uninsured Georgians while also bringing in federal dollars to help our health care infrastructure and local economies.  Despite the tools and resources available to Georgia, our state’s leadership is rejecting the federal funds. Our state policymakers need to hear from health care consumers, patients, providers, and stakeholders about how important this issue is to them. We need your voice! Visit www.coverga.org for more information on this issue.


Georgians for a Healthy Future welcomes new board members

Georgians for a Healthy Future is proud to welcome four new board members, all of whom joined the Board of Directors this month after being elected in December. These new board members are:

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Allyson Burroughs, Vice President, Marketing, Xerox State Healthcare LLC

 

 

 

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Iris Feinberg, Doctoral Candidate in Health Literacy, Georgia State University

 

 

 

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Doug Skelton, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean, Trinity School of Medicine

 

 

 

Marci Thomas Headshot

Marci Thomas, Principal and Director of Quality Control, Metcalf-Davis

 

 

 

 

We also recognize the service of Patricia Nobbie, Scott Mathews, and Robert Bush, all of whom left the Board of Directors at the end of 2012 after years of dedication to the mission of Georgians for a Healthy Future. Full bios for all Georgians for a Healthy Future board members can be found here.


Georgians for a Healthy Future Presents at National Health Advocacy Conference in Washington DC

On Thursday, January 31st, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach and Advocacy Director Amanda Ptashkin presented at the Families USA Health Action 2013 Conference–an annual gathering of state advocates, national advocacy organizations, and health care and policy professionals that takes place in Washington DC every January. Speaking on a panel entitled “Getting to Yes on the Medicaid Expansion,” Amanda shared her thoughts on our state’s approach to health reform implementation as well as the work of the Cover Georgia coalition, aimed at getting our state to accept the federal dollars to expand coverage for thousands of Georgians.  To view her presentation, click here.   The conference goes on until Saturday, February 2nd, and includes advocates from around the country sharing their health care obstacles and successes.  Follow the conversation on twitter, #ha2013, and learn about the great work taking place across the country.


Peach Pulse: January 18, 2013


THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA

Please voice your support for covering Georgia’s uninsured by expanding Medicaid

Nearly two million Georgians have no health insurance at all, among the highest in the nation. This problem has long been recognized as a tragic reality for the one in five Georgians who struggle to access medical care when they need it, as a strain on our state’s health care delivery system, and as a weight on Georgia’s economy. Georgia has the ability to comprehensively address this problem thanks to approximately $33 billion in new federal funding over 10 years to cover low-income uninsured Georgians through Medicaid. As these dollars filter through Georgia’s economy, they will have an estimated economic impact of $72 billion.

But Governor Deal is still saying no to the Medicaid expansion, even as other states across the country are saying yes and even though Georgia would be responsible for zero cents on the dollar for the first three years and no more than ten cents on the dollar thereafter. Georgia cannot afford to maintain the status quo while other states invest heavily in their health systems with federal tax dollars paid by Georgians.

Last week, Georgians for a Healthy Future and more than forty organizations joined together to launch the Cover Georgia campaign in support of the Medicaid expansion, but policymakers also need to hear from their constituents. Here is what you can do:

  1. Please take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
  2. Please visit www.coverga.org to learn more about Medicaid and sign the petition in support of the Medicaid expansion.
  3. Find out who your legislators are here and ask them to support expanding Medicaid.
  4. Please share this information with your friends and neighbors and ask them to join you in supporting the Medicaid expansion by contacting their elected officials and signing the petition.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA

The 2013 Georgia Legislative Session is underway

It was a busy first week at the State Capitol, as the Senate passed legislation (SB 24) authorizing the Department of Community Health to assess a fee on hospitals to secure federal matching funds for the state’s Medicaid program. Without the assessment, the Medicaid program faces a budget shortfall.  SB 24 now moves to the House.

The Legislature will not officially be in Session next week but the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hear from state agencies about their budget proposals. The health-related agencies will make presentations on Thursday morning in Room 341 of the State Capitol. These presentations are open to the public. The Department of Community Health’s presentation is scheduled for 10:15am and the Department of Public Health is at 11:15am on January 24th.

Open enrollment for child only policies

Thanks to the enactment of HB 1166, child only policies are once again available in the individual health insurance marketplace in Georgia. However, there is a short open enrollment period to sign up (January 1 – 31st of this year). To learn more, click here or contact the Georgia Department of Insurance at 800-656-2298.


EVENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 2013 Policy Priorities

Each year, Georgians for a Healthy Future develops policy priorities that guide our advocacy work on behalf of health care consumers. In 2013, we have identified six priority areas that, if implemented, would extend health care coverage to more Georgians, improve access to care, and make Georgia a healthier state. These priorities were developed with input from community partners and stakeholders and we hope you’ll join us in advocating for them this year:

  • Extend health insurance coverage to a substantial portion of Georgia’s uninsured by expanding Medicaid
  • Preserve and strengthen consumer protections for Georgians in private health insurance plans through both federal and state advocacy
  • Ensure access to quality health care for Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries
  • Strengthen Georgia’s public health system
  • Increase the tobacco tax; and
  • Support policies and practices that advance health equity.

To learn more about our priorities, click here.


Thank you for making Health Care Unscrambled a success!

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More than 200 health care consumer and patient advocates, stakeholders, and providers came out on the morning of January 10th for Georgians for a Healthy Future’s third annual Health Care Unscrambled policy breakfast event. Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic, one of the nation’s leading health and social policy writers, shared his insights about health reform and we heard from Georgia policymakers about what’s on their minds for 2013. Pictures from the event can be found here.