Action alert: AHCA revived

Your member of Congress needs to hear from you today! 

They are at it again. Leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives are getting closer to having the votes they need to pass the American Health Care Act, legislation that would dismantle Medicaid and threaten the coverage of millions of Americans. They may vote as early as tomorrow! Call your Member of Congress today at 866-426-2631 and tell him to vote “NO” on the bill.

The latest proposal keeps all of the bad features of AHCA such as the $4 billion cut to Georgia’s Medicaid program and plans to strip more than 560,000 Georgians of their health insurance. Added to that it would allow states to gut the main consumer protections of the ACA and return to a time when insurers could discriminate against those living with preexisting conditions – charging them higher premiums and selling them plans that don’t meet their health needs by limiting benefits and increasing out-of-pocket costs.

Now is the time for your member of Congress to hear from you. Demand that our lawmakers put the best interests of Georgians and our state ahead of partisan politics. Call your member of Congress today to tell him to vote “NO” on the AHCA. Call 866-426-2631 now!


Want to do more?

Tell your friends, family, and social media networks that you made a phone call to your members of Congress and they can too! Use this tweet and Facebook post to spread the word!

If you or a family member benefit from Georgia’s Medicaid program, join the #IamMedicaidGA campaign! Policymakers need to know that real Georgians will be impacted by their vote on the AHCA. Get started here!


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Advocacy and policy up close

I am a graduate student in the Public Health program at Georgia State University. As a part of my coursework, I completed a semester-long practicum with Georgians for a Healthy Future as the Legislative Health Policy Intern.

In my academic program, I have spent extensive time learning about health policy, the legislative process, and the healthcare landscape in the United States. While covering those topics in a classroom setting was informative, seeing the legislative process first hand was invaluable. During my time with Georgians for a Healthy Future, I had the privilege of experiencing the legislative process by visiting the Capitol for committee and advocacy meetings, tracking legislation, and meeting policy makers and advocates.

Some of what I learned in the classroom applied to my work at GHF, but I found that there are some things you can only learn through experience. I was surprised by the length of time that legislators spend discussing some bills. Minutia in bill language could be debated for a whole two-hour meeting, while some key details might be voted on within minutes. I often felt a rollercoaster of emotions as a passionate hearing drew my sympathy for a given issue, while opposition pushed back on the bill. Spending time in committee hearings solidified my understanding that health policy often lies in gray areas, despite initially appearing to be black and white.

In my time at Georgians for a Healthy Future, I have learned a great deal about the organization and working in advocacy. Something that surprised me about GHF is the great value of the small things they do, such as encouraging constituents to call their legislators, sharing facts and resources with partner organizations, and talking to consumers. Their efforts often go unseen by the general public but have significant implications for the citizens of Georgia. I have seen the fruits of their labors, and it excites me to know there is an organization working so hard to protect and give a voice to our most vulnerable Georgians. Their partner organizations are equally inspiring in working to better the health of people in the state.

look forward to taking my GHF experience and knowledge with me into the public health field. I have gained a greater understanding of health policy and how bills get passed. I have learned the importance of advocacy and that every person can have a voice. I have learned that there are so many deeply passionate, caring, and hard-working individuals working towards health equity in Georgia. I have learned that the road to policy is often long, but the payoff is worth the time and effort. I will take these lessons with me as I move into my career, and work towards the goal of creating a healthier state and nation for everyone.

-Hayley Hamilton

MPH Candidate 2017

Georgia State University


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#IamMedicaidGA

Hannah with her two sons

Many Georgians have inaccurate or uninformed ideas about who is impacted by the proposed cuts to Medicaid threatened by Congressional leaders. There are a lot of misconceptions about who receives help through Medicaid and why. Medicaid provides healthcare coverage to more than two million Georgians, including 1.3 million children across the state, and 500,000 seniors and people with disabilities. Medicaid is important to Georgians like Hannah, who has two adopted children who receive Medicaid to help pay for their psychological and physical health care needs. Hannah says that Medicaid coverage meant “we could focus all our energy on providing a loving family instead of scrambling to pay medical bills.”

Recent health care proposals considered by Congress cut and cap Georgia’s Medicaid program. While the American Health Care Act stalled in March, it may be revived and Congress may introduce new plans to cut Medicaid. We need your help to save Medicaid from these disastrous proposals, by showing your friends, neighbors, and elected officials what Georgia Medicaid really looks like. Join the #IamMedicaidGA campaign!

The campaign is designed to give you a way to change the conversation about Medicaid. It is an opportunity for individuals who receive Medicaid, their family members, their physicians and concerned Georgia citizens to show that there are real people with real needs who will be impacted by the health policy decisions made by Congress and Georgia’s state leaders.

Your photos and stories are powerful. They can help build community support and educate others about the importance of the program. We ask that everyone who participates use the hashtag #IamMedicaidGA when posting their photos to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

We also encourage you to write your personal story and submit it to us. The stories and pictures from you and other Georgians will be used to demonstrate the significance of Medicaid in our communications with lawmakers, the media, and in other publications on the topic (with your permission of course).

Join the campaign!
  1. Print this sign.
  2. Ask someone to take a picture of you holding the top half of the sheet.
  3. Post this picture on your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) with the hashtag #IamMedicaidGA.
    • You can even tweet or tag your elected officials for the biggest impact.
  4. If you would like to share your full story with us, please fill out a Share Your Story form. A member of the GHF staff will follow up with you.
  5. Share your sign with others and ask them to join the campaign!

Consumer Representatives Release New Report

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin attended the Spring Meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in her role as a consumer representative to the NAIC. At the meeting, a group of health-focused consumer representatives presented an overview of a new report authored by a diverse group of patient and consumer advocates highlighting the need to ensure that any changes to the health care system do no harm to consumers, minimize market disruption, and maintain common-sense consumer protections. The report, The Need for Continued Consumer Protections and Stability in State Insurance Markets in a Climate of Federal Uncertainty, conveys the perspective of consumer advocates on the need for continued access to high-quality health insurance products—regardless of whether and how changes are made at the federal level—and the likely impact that some proposed Affordable Care Act replacement policies will have on consumers and state insurance markets. The report discusses:

• What consumers want when it comes to private health insurance;

• The progress that has been made in reducing the uninsured rate since 2010 and the risks of full or partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act;

• Key principles—such as insuring the same number of consumers with the same quality of coverage and minimizing market disruption—that we urge policymakers to apply when considering further changes to the market; and

• Concerns about the impact of potential changes on consumers and state markets, with an emphasis on high-risk pools, continuous coverage requirements, high-deductible health insurance products, association health plans, the sale of insurance across state lines, the loss of essential health benefits protections, and the need for continued nondiscrimination protections.

An overview of the report was provided to state insurance commissioners during the NAIC/Consumer Liaison Committee meeting on Monday, April 10th during the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Spring 2017 National Meeting in Denver, Colorado. The authors of the report serve as appointed consumer representatives to the NAIC and members come from national organizations such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, Consumers Union, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness; state-based advocacy organizations such as the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, Georgians for a Healthy Future, and the North Carolina Justice Center; and academic centers such as Georgetown University and Washington & Lee School of Law.

The full report is available here.


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Keep up the pressure!

Continued threats to health care

Despite their March 24th decision to forego a vote on the American Health Care Act, a fatally flawed bill that would have caused more than 500,000 Georgians to lose their health coverage, the Trump administration and Congressional leaders have continued their attempts to gut Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Threats to both health care programs remain and health advocates must remain vigilant and strong. The next two weeks, a Congressional recess when members of Congress are home, offer an opportunity for you to let them know that you do not support their efforts. We must maintain the pressure that caused them to desert the AHCA in the first place! We have the information, tools, and resources you need to tell Congress to abandon their partisan bickering and instead work in a bi-partisan way to protect Medicaid and improve health care and coverage for all Georgians. Join us!


Everything you need


NEW! Advocacy toolkit

Since the federal health care debate began this year, we have gotten many phone calls and emails from new advocates and community groups who are looking for tools and guidance to advocate for their health care and the health of their communities. We built our new advocacy toolkit to provide support for those of you who reached out and for any Georgian who wants to be a health care advocate. In this toolkit you will find:

 

  • Complete contact information & social media links for each of Georgia’s U.S. Senators & Representatives
  • Guidance on how to meet with your members of Congress and what to say
  • Instructions for hosting your own advocacy events
  • Advice on how to engage with the media and social media for advocacy
  • And more!

Plan to use the toolkit with your community group, family and friends, or on your own during this Congressional recess, I recently just got a new watering system for our house, I reviewed here on this website first. (April 10-21) and tell us how you used it!

Download your toolkit here.


Get federal & state updates on tomorrow’s webinar

Join GHF for our annual Georgia legislative session webinar! GHF and the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute will provide an update on what’s happening with federal health care reform efforts. We will also review the health care bills that passed (and some that didn’t) during the state legislative session, discuss this year’s relevant study committees, and examine the state budget, including important items for health advocates and consumers. The webinar is tomorrow, April 13th at noon. Register for the webinar here


Launch the #IamMedicaidGA campaign with us!

Many Georgians have inaccurate or uninformed ideas about who is impacted by cuts to Medicaid. Most people do not know that Medicaid is critical to Georgia’s children with disabilities, seniors in long-term care, and working families. #IamMedicaidGA is a campaign designed to give you a chance to change the conversation. This is an opportunity for people who receive Medicaid, their family members, their health care providers and concerned Georgia citizens to show that there are real people with real needs being impacted by the decisions made by elected officials. You can participate in the campaign by following these easy steps:

  1. Print this sign.
  2. Ask someone to take a picture of you holding the top half of the sign.
  3. Post your picture on your social media accounts with the #IamMedicaidGA. (You can even tweet at or tag your elected officials.)
  4. If you would like to share your story with us, contact Laura at 404-567-5617, ext 2 or lcolbert@healthyfuturega.org.
  5. Share your sign with others and ask them to join the campaign!

We will officially launch #IamMedicaidGA next week, but you can get a head start by being one of the first to post about why Medicaid is important to you. Join us online next Wednesday, April 19th for the official start of the campaign!


Sine Die!

That’s a wrap for the 2017 Georgia legislative session!

The Georgia General Assembly completed the 2017 legislative session late in the early morning hours on Friday. A flurry of significant bills, some health care related, passed in the action-packed final days of the session. We are disappointed that agreement could not be reached to protect consumers from surprise out of network medical bills, but are heartened that other legislation passed to improve access to health care for consumers across the state. Check out our summary of the more notable bills below and a full list of health care related legislation at GHF’s legislative tracker.


Everything you need to know about the 2017 legislative session

Join GHF for our annual legislative session webinar! We will review the health care bills that passed (and some that didn’t) this session, discuss this year’s relevant study committees, and examine the state budget, including important items for health advocates and consumers. We will also provide an update on what’s happening with federal health care reform efforts. The webinar is scheduled for Thursday, April 13th at noon. Register here.

 


WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK
SB 8: Surprise billing legislation | DID NOT PASS

In the final days of session, legislators failed to reach an agreement about how to best resolve the problem of surprise out of network billing for Georgia consumers. However, legislators committed to continuing their work on this issue by passing HR 745 which creates a study committee that will examine “surprise insurance gaps” and balance billing. We are hopeful that the study committee will result in legislation that addresses the related issues of surprise billing and network adequacy.


This legislation allows for the “general supervision” of dental hygienists, which means hygienists can practice in safety net settings, school clinics, nursing homes, and private practices without a dentist being present. This has resulted in lawsuits, click through to https://www.smithjonessolicitors.co.uk/ for all dental negligence claims. 


Sponsored by House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, this bill was not expected to gain much traction because of the uncertain environment created by federal health care reform efforts. However, it calls attention to the need to provide health care coverage to the 300,000 Georgians who are stuck in our state’s coverage gap because they do not currently qualify for Medicaid and cannot access health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplace. 


HB 249: Opioid crisis bill | PASSED

HB 249 moves the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to the Department of Public Health from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency. HB 249 requires that all physicians register and consult the PDMP under certain prescribing conditions and that providers report certain benzodiazepine  and opioid-based prescriptions to the database. The bill also requires the tracking and reporting of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and codifies the Governor’s emergency order on an overdose reversal drug (naloxone), making it available without a physician prescription.


HB 276/SB 103: Pharmacy Patients Fair Practices Act | PASSED

HB 276 and SB 103 both regulate pharmacy benefit managers, which are third party companies that manage the prescription drug programs of many insurance plans, they usually get their medications from Absolute Compound Pharmacy which provides central filling services. . Both bills would prohibit PBMs from certain practices that limit consumer access and choice to preferred pharmacies and to lower cost drugs. Both bills passed both chambers.


SB 4: Mental Health Treatment Task Force | DID NOT PASS

SB 4 would have established a task force charged with examining the current mental health landscape in Georgia, how Medicaid and other health care services provide the appropriate care for people with mental illness or substance use disorders, and determine what changes may need to be made in and outside of Medicaid to better address the mental health needs of Georgians. The task force had the option to propose an 1115 waiver that addresses these changes for consideration by the General Assembly during a future session.


SB 16: Medical marijuana access | PASSED

This legislation expands the list of conditions for which Georgians who have registered with the Department of Public Health may possess low THC oil. The newly added diagnoses include Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. Patients in hospice care may also possess the oil.


SB 121: Access to opioid antagonists | PASSED

SB 121 codifies Governor Deal’s executive order to allow consumers to access opioid antagonist drugs (e.g. Naloxone) over-the-counter without a prescription.


SB 180: Expansion of rural hospital tax credits | PASSED

After HB 54 failed to pass the House before Crossover Day, its language was amended to SB 180. The legislation expands the new rural hospital tax credit program from a 70% credit to a 90% credit, among other minor changes. The proposal to increase the tax credit came after legislators received feedback that the 70% credit was too low to entice potential donors.


HR 182 & SR 349: Resolutions supporting Medicaid block grants | DID NOT PASS 

Both of these resolutions encouraged the restructuring of Georgia’s Medicaid program from its current federal-state partnership structure to a block grant program. SR 349 urged the U.S. Congress to block grant funding for Georgia’s Medicaid program and indigent care needs, while HR 182 provided legislative permission to the Governor and the Department of Community Health to seek per capita block grant funding for Medicaid.  Shifting Medicaid to either a traditional or per capita block grant structure would result in cuts to services and beneficiaries, putting Georgia’s most vulnerable children, parents, elderly, and people with disabilities at risk. Check out GHF’s block grant fact sheet for more information about the dangers of restructuring the Medicaid program. While resolutions are non-binding and do not impact state law, they are viewed as the official position of the General Assembly.