Pride and LGBT Health Care in Savannah

Savannah PrideAt Georgians for a Healthy Future, we pride ourselves on strong partnerships. Over the past few years, we have been collaborating with Georgia Equality and the Health Initiative to ensure that the health care needs of LGBT Georgians are not neglected.

These partnerships brought Whitney Griggs, GHF’s Consumer Education Specialist, to Savannah on September 12th for the annual Savannah Pride Festival. Together with the Health Initiative, Whitney distributed information related to LGBT health care needs and spoke to festival attendees about how to enroll in health insurance.  Of particular interest was our joint fact sheet with Georgia Equality on Transgender Health Care. Some of the festival attendees who picked up this fact sheet shared stories of having been denied coverage due to being trans-identified in the past, but who can now get coverage that meets their needs because of the Affordable Care Act. People that stopped by the table were also interested to learn that health care services must be provided regardless of gender identity or expression. This means that health insurance plans must cover transition-related care, as long as that care is covered for cisgendered people under on the same plan. So services such as hormone replacement therapy and gender-specific care (like mammograms and prostate exams) must be covered if they are covered for other people enrolled in the same plan.

Whitney also gave out some tips for trans-identified folks to keep in mind when enrolling in health insurance:

  • On all enrollment forms, check the sex box that matches the sex you believe is on file with the Social Security Administration.
  • Some important questions to ask include:
    • Is hormone replacement therapy covered?
    • Is my doctor included in the plan’s network?
    • Is there a network of trans-friendly doctors and/or doctors who have training working with or currently serve trans clients?
    • Are reconstructive surgeries covered?

All in all, it was great day in Savannah (despite the rain) and people learned a lot from GHF and the Health Initiative.

If you have a specific question about LGBT health care and health insurance, feel free to reach out to Whitney Griggs at or the Health Initiative at (404) 688-2524

Road trip! Coverage gap is a big theme in Augusta outreach

Augusta.riverwalk.bridgeWe (Consumer Education Specialist, Whitney Griggs, and Community Outreach Manager, Laura Colbert) made the drive to Augusta this week to check in with health care stakeholders and consumers in the northeast Georgia city.  We were warmly welcomed by community partners and are excited to return for next week’s community forum Coverage and Access to Care: A Local Focus on Augusta.

Our primary purpose for the trip was to attend the Greater Augusta Health Network’s (GAHN) fall forum.  The forum covered a variety of topics, including how the local District 13 Department of Public Health provides much needed direct patient services to people in its service areas, GAHN’s on-going health care utilization data collection efforts, and the Affordable Care Act’s effect on small employers (51 to 99 employees).

The forum closed with a discussion panel of indigent care providers, including Medical Associates Plus, St. Vincent de Paul health clinic, and Christ Community Health Services. These providers described their determined efforts to provide care for Augustans who cannot afford health insurance or pay for their health care. Mentioned by all three panelists was the need to close Georgia’s coverage gap. Every day each clinic serves people who need health care coverage, like veterans who can’t get are at the VA. The clinics are able to do this work only because of generous donations and profits from a few insured patients. While these charity care clinics are doing amazing work, they say that they cannot provide all the care that is needed for Augustans in the coverage gap.  Each of the panelists made the case that closing the coverage gap would be great for their patients and clients, and for their clinics.

Photo Sep 15, 1 48 20 PMChrist Community Health Services generously hosted us in the afternoon, so we could talk to their patients about why closing the coverage gap is important to them. One of the patients they talked to was Tracy. Tracy has chronic pain in her back, and is managing anxiety and depression brought on by her back pain. Her pain makes it impossible for her to sit at a computer to do her graphic design work, which means she has no income and no health care coverage. Tracy is stuck in the coverage gap. Her mother, Maria, pays what she can for Tracy’s care and drives her to and from appointments.  Tracy told us that she isn’t asking for a hand-out, she “just wants the public benefits that I paid into when I was working.”

It was clear from our visit that closing the coverage gap is an important issue to health care stakeholders and consumers in Augusta.  To learn more about the coverage gap in Augusta and in Georgia, join us for a community forum next Thursday, September 24th.

RSVP here.

Ensuring health coverage for all Georgians

GHF surveyed and interviewed enrollment assisters across the state to understand not only the “what,” but also the “why” behind the second open enrollment period.  The results of that research have led us to several policy recommendations to maximize health insurance enrollment and retention and to ensure that coverage translates to meaningful access to timely and appropriate medical services for Georgia health care consumers.

  1. Close the coverage gap in Georgia. Approximately 300,000 Georgians fall into the coverage gap, meaning they do not qualify for Medicaid under existing income eligibility guidelines in Georgia but their income is still too low to qualify for financial assistance (tax credits) to purchase health insurance on the Marketplace. Eligibility for tax credits begins at 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, or $11,770 for an individual or $20,090 for a family of three in 2015, while Medicaid eligibility for most adults in Georgia cuts off at income much lower. Thirty states including DC have closed their coverage gaps thus far with promising results. We encourage Georgia policymakers to take this important step as well to ensure all Georgians have a pathway to coverage.
  2. Set and enforce network adequacy and transparency standards. Many of the plans sold through the Health Insurance Marketplace are Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans that feature narrow provider networks. While these narrow networks can help keep premiums down, a trade-off many consumers may be willing to make, consumers do not currently have sufficient information to make this choice. There is no information available to consumers at the point of sale about whether a provider network is ultra narrow, narrow, or broad, and provider directories are routinely inaccurate. More transparency and oversight are needed to ensure that consumers have accurate and useful information to make these choices. It is also important that all provider networks allow for meaningful access to all covered benefits. To ensure this, we support putting in place and enforcing network adequacy standards.
  3. Encourage public-private partnerships and remove unnecessary restrictions on consumer education and assistance. Many of the enrollment assisters we surveyed indicated that reducing barriers to partnering with state government organizations such as public colleges, universities, and health departments would lead to stronger and more effective partnerships. Specifically, many respondents indicated that improved coordination between enrollment assisters, the Marketplace, and the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to better facilitate PeachCare for Kids and Medicaid enrollment would be helpful. The “Health Care Freedom Act,” passed in 2014 as part of HB 943, prohibits state and local governmental entities from operating a health insurance navigator program and places other limitations on governmental entities. This provision has been counterproductive, creating confusion around what educational and consumer assistance activities local entities can engage in as they work to serve their community members. We recommend lifting these restrictions.


Georgians for a Healthy Future


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Phone: 404-567-5016
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