A consumer health advocates guide to the 2018 elections: Georgia’s Governor

Early voting began last week ahead of the upcoming November 6th Election Day. Georgians across the state are heading to the polls to cast their votes for Governor, Insurance Commissioner, state legislators and other elected positions, and voters’ decisions about the candidates in each race will have a critical impact on consumers health issues in Georgia.

One of the most visible positions on the ballot and one that plays a meaningful role in health care policy for the state is Georgia’s Governor. The Governor heads the state’s executive branch, which is broadly responsible for implementing, supporting, and enforcing Georgia’s laws.

As head of the executive branch, the Governor has the authority to appoint and provide direction to the leaders of most of Georgia’s executive branch departments, including the Commissioners of the Departments of Community Health (the state’s Medicaid agency), Public Health, Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and Family and Children Services. Because most health-related programs in the state are run by one of these agencies, the ability to appoint department leadership provides the Governor with outsized influence on the direction, priorities, and initiatives within each.

Ahead of the state legislative session, the Governor has the added responsibility of proposing an annual state budget for the General Assembly’s consideration. Health care is regularly the state’s second largest expenditure, making up almost 20% of the annual budget. Aside from expected items like Medicaid expenditures, the Governor may propose special investments that promote his/her health-related priorities. For example, Georgia’s FY19 budget includes an additional $21.4 million to improve and expand children’s behavioral health services as recommended to Governor Deal by his Commission on Children’s Mental Health. Once the legislature has considered and passed a budget, the Governor has the power to veto or approve the spending plan.

At the end of each year’s legislative session, the Governor has 40 days to approve or veto (“veto” means “to reject”) legislation. Most laws passed by the General Assembly are approved but a few each year are rejected by the Governor because they are ill-informed, controversial, or contrary to the Governor’s priorities. In recent years, Governor Deal has vetoed some health-related laws like SB 357 in 2018, which would have established a Health Care Coordination and Innovation Council.

Once a bill is approved, the Governor may direct the executive branch agencies about how the law should be carried out. For example, if the Georgia General Assembly approves future legislation to expand Medicaid in Georgia, the Governor may provide the Commissioner of Community Health with instructions about how the expansion should be implemented, including program elements that make it easier or harder for people to enroll in or use their new coverage.

Georgia’s next Governor will have a significant role in shaping the state’s health care landscape over the next four years or more. Whether and how the state addresses issues like access to care, health care affordability, the opioid crisis, and the sustainability of the rural health care system may be decided by voters at the ballot box this November.


This blog is part of a series from Georgians for a Healthy Future to educate consumers about the impact of the 2018 election on timely consumer health issues. Please check out our previous blog, Eight questions for health care voters to ask Georgia candidates, where you can find a list of questions to help health care voters get to know the candidates on their ballots.

*Georgians for a Healthy Future is a non-partisan, 501(c)3 organization. We do not endorse or support any candidates or political party.


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Medicaid Matters: PeachCare provides peace of mind

Thanks to Medicaid, Ashley can enjoy the end of summer vacation with her kids without having to worry about health care. Ashley is a mother of three children living in Atlanta and all of her children have health care coverage through Peachcare for Kids.

“[Without Medicaid] I wouldn’t be able to take my kids to the doctors office, I would have to go to the ER each time and there’s only so much they can do there. Medicaid is truly a blessing.”

Medicaid covers the immunizations that Ashley’s kids need before school begins and her youngest child has received care for a heat rash without forcing Ashley to rush to the emergency room.

Ashley and her children live in Fulton county where Medicaid and PeachCare cover 33% of children. (PeachCare for Kids is Georgia’s name for the Child Health Insurance Program, also called CHIP.) Medicaid and CHIP guarantee that essential services like immunizations, developmental screenings, dental care, check-ups, and prescriptions are covered so kids can grow up healthy and successful.

Ashley’s children are three of the 1.3 million children in Georgia who are covered by Medicaid or PeachCare. Unfortunately, another 160,000 children in Georgia remain uninsured despite being eligible for coverage through the two programs. One successful strategy to enroll more children in coverage is for states like Georgia to close the Medicaid coverage gap.

Georgia is among the toughest states for parents to qualify for Medicaid coverage because our state policy makers have not extended health insurance to adults making less than $12,060 (for an individual), However, new data demonstrates that when coverage options exist for parents, children are more likely to be covered as well. In states that have extended Medicaid coverage to all low-income parents, the children’s uninsured rate fell from 6.1% to 4%; in states that did not, like Georgia, the children’s uninsured rate has increased.

In Fulton County, where Ashley and her three children live, 42,103 parents and other adults are stuck in the coverage gap but could be covered if Georgia’s policy makers extended insurance to this group. Gaining coverage would increase the likelihood that all Georgia children are covered and allow parents like Ashley to take care of their health so they can focus on raising their families.


Your story is powerful! Stories help to put a human face to health care issues in Georgia. When you share your story, you help others understand the issue, its impact on Georgia, and why it’s important.

Your health care story is valuable because the reader may be your neighbor, friend, someone in your congregation, or your legislator. It may inspire others to share their stories or to become advocates. It is an opportunity for individuals who receive Medicaid or fall into the coverage gap, 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.

Share your story here!


Get to know our 2018 Consumer Health Impact Awardees!

Linda Smith Lowe Health Advocacy Award: Sylvia Caley

Community Impact Award: CaringWorks

Powerhouse Policymaker Award: Commissioner Frank Berry

Power House Policymaker Award: Representative Bob Trammel


Sylvia Caley, JD, MBA, RN recently retired as a clinical professor at Georgia State University College of Law teaching law students and other professional graduate students enrolled in the HeLP Legal Services Clinic. In addition, she teaches Health Legislation and Advocacy, a year-long course in which law students work with community partners to address health-related legislative and regulatory issues affecting the community. She was an adjunct clinical assistant professor at Morehouse School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics. She is the director of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP), an interdisciplinary community collaboration among Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society, and the College of Law. She is a member of the Ethics Committees at Grady Health System and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and also is a member of the Public Policy Committee at Children’s. She also is a member of the Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation, U. S. Department of Health & Human Services. Her research interests focus on using interdisciplinary and holistic approaches to address the socio-economic and environmental issues affecting the health and well-being of children, specifically the lives of low-income, chronically ill, and disabled children. For her years of service and leadership in Georgia, we are proud to honor Sylvia with the Linda Smith Lowe Health Advocacy Award.


CaringWorks, Inc. was founded in 2002 with a mission to reduce homelessness and empower the marginalized by providing access to housing and services that foster dignity, self-sufficiency and well-being. It was built on the single idea that every citizen, no matter their social or economic standing, should have the chance to improve their quality of life. CaringWorks specializes in providing housing, mental health services, substance use disorder treatment, and an array of related social supports to individuals and families who are experiencing homelessness.

In the 15 years since it’s founding, CaringWorks has grown into one of the largest supportive housing providers in the greater Atlanta area. In 2018, the agency will impact over 900 extremely low-income men, women and children who are facing homelessness, over 90% of whom are expected to achieve permanent, sustainable housing. It collaborates with partners throughout the city of Atlanta, Fulton, DeKalb, Rockdale, Henry and Newton counties to serve the individuals considered to be the most vulnerable and at-risk of injury, illness, or death. For their service, commitment, and impact, we are proud to honor CaringWorks with the Community Impact Award.


Frank W. Berry is the Commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH). In this role, he leads the $14 billion agency responsible for health care purchasing, planning and regulation, and improving the health outcomes of Georgians. The agency administers Georgia Medicaid and the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP), and provides access to health care coverage for approximately one in four Georgians. In addition to Medicaid and SHBP, he also oversees Healthcare Facility Regulation Division, Office of Health Planning (which implements the Certificate of Need program), and the State Office of Rural Health.

Prior to joining DCH, Berry served as the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities for four and a half years, and has more than 30 years of public service experience. He was previously the Chief Executive Officer of View Point Health Community Service Board. Berry serves as the Chairman for the ABLE Board and is a member of the First Lady’s Children’s Cabinet. Commissioner Berry has demonstrated his dedication to bettering health care in Georgia we are proud to recognize him as a 2018 Powerhouse Policymaker.


Bob Trammell practices law at the Trammell Firm, which he founded in Luthersville, Georgia in 2003. He is truly a son of the 132nd district; his law office is located in the former home of his grandparents. Bob started his legal career as a law clerk in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. He subsequently practiced law at King and Spalding before returning home to start his own firm. Since 2011, Bob has served as the county attorney for Meriwether County. He is also a member of the Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce and the Meriwether County Bar Association.

Education has always been a priority for Bob, particularly because both of his parents are retired educators. Bob is a 1996 summa cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia, where he was a Foundation Fellow majoring in English and Political Science. He obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville, Virginia in 1999. Bob believes strongly that education is essential to preparing Georgia’s workforce for the jobs of today and the jobs of the future. Investment in science, technology, engineering, and math programs is the key to creating job opportunities for all Georgians.

Bob and his wife Jenny reside in Luthersville where they are busy raising daughters Mary, three years old, and Virginia, who will be two in September. Jenny, a graduate of the University of Georgia, works as a pharmacist with CVS-Caremark in LaGrange. Bob and Jenny can think of no other place that they would want to raise their family. Bob believes in making Georgia the best place to work, learn, and live for not only his family, but for all Georgians.  For his steadfast commitment to improving the lives of all Georgians, we are honored to recognize him as a 2018 Powerhouse Policymaker.

 

We hope you’ll join us tomorrow, on September 6th as we recognize our amazing awardees! RSVP


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