Laura Colbert, the executive director of the patient-advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, is especially concerned about rural patients. Ninety percent of Georgia’s Obamacare customers would be protected from…
At the center of Congress’s recent health care debates has been Medicaid, the government health insurance program for low-income children, seniors, people with disabilities, and pregnant women., and significant support for the program from the public and elected officials is one of the primary factors in the demise of several health reform bills in the U.S. Senate. Since its enactment in 1965, Medicaid has provided millions of Americans with critical health care coverage and services, and it is the largest source of federal funding in state budgets.
In Georgia, Medicaid provides critical support for the health, education, family life, ability to work, and aging of people across the state. Our state’s Medicaid program:
- Provides health insurance for half of all Georgia children, including 100% of foster children;
- Ensures almost 40,000 people with disabilities can live and work in their communities rather than in institutions;
- Supports healthy mothers and babies by covering half of all Georgia births;
- Assists more than 70,000 low-income seniors by covering their Medicare co-pays and deductibles;
- Keeps kids in school by providing needed supports for the 118,000 students with disabilities statewide and funding for school nurses;
- Is the primary payer for 75% of Georgia’s nursing home stays;
- Connects people with substance use disorders to life-saving treatment; and
- Provides health insurance for around 2 million Georgians (20% of the state).
On July 30th, we celebrated the 52nd anniversary of Medicaid (and Medicare), and despite the overwhelming evidence that the program works, its future has been called into jeopardy. Efforts to cut and dismantle Medicaid, wrapped in the cloak of repealing the Affordable Care Act have so far been derailed, but the threat has not yet subsided. Medicaid beneficiaries and supporters alike must continue to oppose any such efforts. If we want to ensure that Medicaid will have another 52 years to contribute to Georgia’s health and prosperity, we have to continue to let our elected officials know we fully support the program and will not accept cuts, caps, block grants or any other proposal that would jeopardize the care of millions and throw our state budget into chaos. We must continue to communicate Medicaid’s importance and put forth evidence-based, patient-centered proposals that strengthen the program and enhance its value for Georgia. We hope you will join us as we work to ensure Georgians can count on Medicaid for another 52 years and more.
For more information about Georgia’s Medicaid program, check out GHF’s Medicaid chart book.
Early this morning, the U.S. Senate’s newly released Health Care Freedom Act was defeated on the Senate floor in a very close vote, bringing to a close a months’ long attempt to dismantle Medicaid and repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act. This outcome is a victory for Georgians in every corner of the state.
At various points, Congress’s proposed legislation would have forced unconscionable cuts in health care services for vulnerable children, people with disabilities, and seniors who rely on Medicaid, made health insurance unaffordable for low and middle income Georgians, and stripped consumers of critical protections that ensure access, equity, and fairness. The passage of any of the debated proposals would have set Georgia’s health care system back 50 years and put significant strain on our state budget. Instead, we are relieved that these immediate threats have been overcome leaving in place Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act on which so many Georgia consumers rely.
This success would not have been possible without advocates like you. You worked to educate Georgia’s policymakers, mobilize your communities, and stand up for health care for all Georgians. We recognize the hard work that you have invested over the last several months and are grateful to have worked alongside you in this effort. Thank you for your dedication and your advocacy!
Our work is not over
While we celebrate today, we know our work is not over. Too many Georgians remain uninsured, continue to be burdened by high health care costs, face persistent health disparities or cannot access care when and where they need it. Now it’s time for Georgia’s policy makers, health advocates, consumers, and health care stakeholders to come together and find solutions for these problems. We must build on the progress that has been made as a result of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act so that all Georgians have the coverage and care that they need. We look forward to working towards these goals with you to create a healthier future for all Georgians.
In a week with fast moving policy and politics, the newest Senate health care proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act is being called a “skinny repeal”. It is reported that the skinny repeal proposal would change fewer ACA provisions than previous proposals; primarily, it would eliminate the individual and employer insurance mandates, repeal the medical device tax, eliminate the Prevention and Public Health Fund, but it may include some additional provisions. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the skinny repeal would leave an additional 16 million people uninsured, raise premiums 20% in the private market, and potentially result in insurers fleeing the market all together.
The skinny repeal is not a compromise, but rather would allow Senate and House leaders to create a conference committee of select legislators charged with crafting an entirely new health care bill. Behind closed doors, the conference committee could draft legislation that includes many of the same harmful Medicaid cuts, reductions to consumer financial assistance, and insurance de-regulations that have thus far been rejected by the majority of Senators and the American public. Any bill coming out of conference committee is subject to only ten hours of debate in the Senate and amendments are not allowed. A skinny repeal still endangers Medicaid, consumers with private market coverage, Georgians with pre-existing conditions, and our state’s health care system.
Senator Isakson needs to hear from you that he should oppose a skinny repeal and any other health care proposal that 1) results in coverage losses for Georgians; 2) cuts and caps Georgia’s Medicaid program; 3) guts consumer protections for people with pre-existing health conditions; or 4) makes health insurance less affordable for low- and middle-income Georgians. Call, email or fax him today. Here’s how you can get in touch with him now:
- Call: 202-224-3643 or 404-661-0999
- Fax: (202) 228- 0724. Click here to send a fax without a fax machine.
Want more information about skinny repeal? Here are some helpful resources:
- Skinny Repeal Poses Big Risks to Medicaid, Georgetown University Center on Children and Families
- States have Already Tried Versions of “Skinny Repeal.” It Didn’t Go Well, NPR
- Commentary: “Skinny Repeal” bill–a Trojan Horse for Broader ACA Repeal and Deep Medicaid Cuts, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Senate votes to open debate on health care bill
Yesterday, the Senate voted to open debate on health care legislation that cuts and caps Medicaid and repeals major portions of the Affordable Care Act. Both Senators Isakson and Perdue voted in favor of the motion to proceed. The Senate will now begin a required twenty hours of debate followed by consideration of a lengthy list of amendments. There is a lot that still needs to happen before a final vote can be taken.
We can still stop this bill!
The foundation for the Senate debate is made up of proposals that would result in more than 20 million Americans losing coverage, the dismantling of Medicaid on which 2 million Georgia children, people with disabilities, and seniors rely, and the erasure of critical consumers protections. This legislation cannot be fixed with amendments and patch work funding. As the Senate proceeds with its debate, it is incumbent upon us to be vocal and visible in our insistence that these proposals cannot be made better.
We must ensure that Senators Isakson and Perdue hear from Georgians about what is best for our health and health care. There is still time to influence our Senators’ positions before the final vote as Senate leaders have not yet garnered the 50 votes they need for passage of any proposal. Here are three ways that you can make your voice heard in this critical time:
- Call Senators Isakson and Perdue. If you called yesterday or if you’ve never called, pick up the phone now. Ask that your Senators reject any bill that 1) results in coverage losses for Georgians; 2) cuts and caps our Medicaid program; 3) guts consumer protections for people with pre-existing conditions; or 4) makes health insurance less affordable for low- and middle-income Georgians. (None of the Senate proposals meet these standards.)
- Senator Isakson: 202-224-3643 or 770-661-0999
- Senator Perdue: 202-224-3521 or 404-865-0087
- Show Up! Stop by the local offices of Senators Isakson and Perdue to share your health care story and deliver your message in person. Both Senators have offices in metro-Atlanta:
- Senator Isakson: 3625 Cumberland Blvd, Suite 970, Atlanta, GA 30339
- Senator Perdue: 3280 Peachtree Rd. NE, Suite 2640, Atlanta, GA 30305
If you are a person of faith, attend a health care pray-in today at noon. No matter where in Georgia you live, you can put your faith into action and stand up for health care for all Georgians. Click here for details from our partners at the Interfaith Children’s Movement.
3. Ask others to join you. Ask five friends and family members to contact Senators Isakson and Perdue. All Georgians will be impacted by our Senators’ decisions over the next few days. Now is the time for all of us to speak up for what we want (and don’t) in health care reform.
Today, Georgians for a Healthy Future (GHF) announced that Cindy Zeldin, who has served as Executive Director since 2009, will step down from her leadership role at GHF to pursue a statewide bid for Insurance Commissioner in 2018. Laura Colbert, Director of Outreach & Partnerships, will assume the position of Executive Director effective August 1st. Cindy will remain involved as a special advisor to GHF to aid in the transition on a contract basis through the end of 2017.
“Under Cindy’s leadership, Georgians for a Healthy Future has grown into the state’s leading consumer health advocacy organization, and we are grateful for her vision, dedication, and hard work over the past eight years,” said GHF Board Chair Allyson Burroughs. “This is an exciting time for Cindy, and we wish her well as she works to positively impact the lives of Georgia health care consumers in a new way.”
Laura Colbert is currently the Director of Outreach & Partnerships at GHF and has been with the organization since 2014. She provides leadership for a number of GHF’s coalition-based efforts, including the Protect Our Care Georgia campaign, and has helped raise GHF’s profile around the state over the past three years. “Laura’s commitment to Georgians for a Healthy Future’s mission, strong relationships in the health care policy and advocacy community, and leadership experience will position her well as she takes the reins at GHF,” said Burroughs. Prior to joining GHF, Laura managed community partnerships and outreach for the Strong4Life program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Laura has an MPH from Emory University and a B.S.Ed. from the University of Georgia.
We know that helping people with substance use disorders get into recovery is hard and requires a lot of resources—a strong support system, the will to recover, and access to necessary health care services and supports. The prevention of substance use disorders in the first place can take just as much work and requires similar resources.
We also know that the health care bill being considered by the Senate this week, puts recovery and prevention efforts at risk for millions of people, including thousands of Georgians.
The Senate’s proposed legislation would undermine guarantees that private insurance cover treatment for substance use disorders and mental illness. The bill’s $2.5 billion cut to Georgia’s Medicaid program would mean youth in low-income families could be denied critical preventive health services like screenings for depression or substance use disorders or even something as simple as immunizations. People who need treatment services could lose coverage and access to life-saving treatment.
Congress is trying to mask the damage they are doing to our communities by setting up an emergency opioid response fund as part of the health care bill. This fund is insufficient and is no replacement for reliable health care coverage. This proposed “opioid fund” would not make up for deep cuts in Medicaid and a return to private insurance policies that discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, including substance use disorders. We can’t afford to return to a time when many state Medicaid programs and private insurers covered only short-term, minimal treatment for substance use disorders, if they covered it at all.
The Senate is set to vote on their health care bill this week and Georgia’s senators need to hear from you. Call Senator Johnny Isakson today! Tell him to oppose the legislation because it would harm people in treatment and recovery, handicap prevention efforts that avoid addiction in the first place, and decimate Georgia’s ability to respond to the ongoing opioid crisis.
Call 202-224-3643 today!
(Don’t know what to say when you call? Here’s some help.)
Behind closed doors, the Senate is planning to strip health care from millions of people. The floor debate and vote are expected next week.
If you spend time with children, you may know the rhyme, “Secrets, secrets are no fun. Secrets, secrets hurt someone.” There’s no more appropriate statement about the health care bill being negotiated secretly by the Senate right now. To date, there have been no hearings, no expert testimony, no consumer input, and no transparency.
Just like the children’s rhyme, we know that the secret health care bill will hurt all Georgians. We know that the bill will gut Georgia’s Medicaid program, leaving 2 million Georgia children, seniors, people with disabilities, and pregnant women without the care and services that they need. We know the bill will allow insurance companies to shift costs to consumers and reduce financial assistance for those purchasing individual insurance, putting more pressure on Georgians’ wallets. We know that this bill will remove protections that ensure insurance companies provide the essential health services people count on when they purchase coverage. We know that these changes will strain our state’s struggling health care system and the state budget.
We need your help!
Your voice can make a difference. The Senate is planning to debate and vote on their health care bill next week! The time to call your Senators is now! Senator Isakson needs to hear from you today with two requests:
- We ask that Senator Isakson commit that before a health care bill comes to the floor that he will provide his constituents—you!—with enough time to see the final language of the bill, understand how the bill will impact coverage and costs for Georgians, and the opportunity to give input about how the bill will impact all Georgians.
- We also ask that Senator Isakson oppose any bill or measure that 1) reduces coverage for Georgians; 2) cuts and caps the Medicaid program; or 3) makes individual coverage less affordable for low- and moderate-income Georgians.
Senator Isakson needs to hear from you today! Call 202-224-3643 now! (Don’t know what to say? Here’s some help.)
Just like any actor is no more than 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, you
are probably no more than 1 degree of separation from someone who would be impacted by Congress’s ongoing attempts to gut Georgia’s Medicaid program and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Are you or do you know any of these people?
- A child—half of Georgia’s children are covered by Medicaid, so even if the child in your life has some other kind of coverage, her best friend or classmates probably have Medicaid coverage
- A senior who already does or may soon need long term care or supports—Medicaid is the primary payer for 75% of nursing home stays in Georgia. For seniors aging in their homes, Medicaid provides home health aides and supports home modifications that allow older Georgians to age in the homes they know and love.
- A person who runs their own business—you may know a graphic designer, general contractor, photographer, or farmer who runs their own business. These entrepreneurs generally must purchase their own health insurance and many do through the health insurance Marketplace. For those just starting out, they probably receive financial assistance to help lower their premiums and reduce out of pocket costs. The AHCA proposes to significantly
reduce the amount of financial assistance available for those buying insurance on their own.
- A child or adult with a developmental or physical disability, you are able to get what you want no matter the circumstances,—for Georgia’s children and adults living with disabilities, Medicaid is a lifeline that provides them with access to life-sustaining health services. It also supports home and community-based careso that they can live, study, and work with or near family, friends, and neighbors.
- A person of color—African Americans and Hispanics have seen historic declines in their uninsured rates since the ACA went into effect, helping to close historic disparities in insurance coverage. The proposed rollback of financial assistance for private insurance and Medicaid eligibility would have a disproportionate impact on people of color, especially children. The Medicaid changes alone are estimated to leave 70,000 black children and 40,000 Hispanic children in Georgia without coverage.
- A person with a chronic condition like diabetes, HIV, depression, or cancer—
under the ACA, people with pre-existing conditions are protected from being charged more or rejected when seeking health coverage. And insurance companies have to cover the essential health benefits meaning that the services people need for pre-existing conditions are covered too. The AHCA would allow states to waive this requirement under certain circumstances, sending people back to a time they could be priced out of coverage entirely.
- A veteran—50,000 Georgia veterans rely on Medicaid for access to health care, a 29% increase since 2013. Not all veterans qualify for care through the Veterans Administration (VA). Medicaid helps to fill the gap so that all of these brave men and women can access the care they need.
The American Health Care Act would dismantle Georgia’s Medicaid program and repeal the Affordable Care Act, threatening the coverage, protections, and supports that all of these people rely on every day. Think of the people in your life that fit into these categories–is it you? A parent or child? A close friend or colleague? Then take action to protect their health care.
Call Senator Isakson today and tell him about your friends, family, and neighbors who would be hurt because of the AHCA. Ask him to oppose any measure that 1) cuts and caps Medicaid, or 2) reduces coverage for Georgians. Call 202-224-3643 today!
Georgians for a Healthy Future regularly hosts graduate students from Georgia’s universities to help train and support the state’s future health advocates. This summer, GHF is hosting two Master of Public Health students who will be working on projects that promote GHF’s policy and advocacy priorities. We welcome both Danielle and Tanisha, and look forward to our work together this summer.
Tanisha Lawler is a second year Master in Public Health student at Georgia State University with a concentration in health management and policy. She also currently works as a registered nurse at Emory Johns Creek Hospital. As a nurse, Tanisha has gained significant experience in what it means to be a patient advocate, but through her time at Georgians for a Healthy Future, she hopes to improve her overall knowledge of health advocacy, primarily as it relates to health policy development and implementation, she really wants to improve health resources for those who are disable, she talks about how she wants to add Terry Lifts to public stores, school and hospitals for those in need. As GHF’s Health Advocacy Intern, Tanisha will be supporting the Protect Our Care Georgia campaign. She will also monitor legislative committee and state agency board meetings as needed.
Danielle McCoy is a current Mercer University Master of Public Health candidate for class of 2018. She is originally from the state of Michigan where she obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in Integrative Physiology and Health Science at Alma College in 2014. Her experience working in hospital settings, nursing homes, foster care, and rehabilitation clinics provide her with a unique perspective of public health concerns within the health care system. Danielle is interested in health advocacy and policy development, and will serve in the role of Health Policy Intern. In this position, she will be drafting the 2017 Getting Georgia Covered report which will examine Georgia’s health insurance Marketplace and consumer experiences in the 2016-2017 open enrollment periods (OE4). She will also conduct research on emerging state and national health policy concerns.
When the American Health Care Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month, the attention around the bill revolved around the rollback of protections for people with pre-existing conditions. These rollbacks and cost shifts from insurers to consumers are worrying and worthy of attention, but often overlooked in the health care bill are radical changes to Medicaid, the health program the covers our most vulnerable citizens. The AHCA contains cuts and caps that would eliminate the Medicaid program as we know it, gutting a program that covers 1.3 million Georgia children and hundreds of thousands of Georgians with disabilities and low-income seniors.
Last week’s Congressional Budget Office score demonstrated the harm that the AHCA would inflict on consumers across the country and in our state. 23 million people are expected to lose their coverage within a decade, and of those 14 million would lose the Medicaid coverage that they depend on for critical health care services and supports, and people need to cover their own expenses for other health issues as cosmetic treatments as for skin problems, some people just rather get an easy product like a cleansing brush for acne to help with this condition.
The U.S. Senate has begun drafting their version of a health care bill and many of the features of the AHCA are expected to remain, including the dismantling of Medicaid. This week, Senators are home for a week-long recess. Georgia’s Senators, Senator Johnny Isakson and Senator David Perdue, need to hear from you during this important time. They need to hear that Georgians want them to oppose any bill or measure that: 1) cuts and caps the Medicaid program or 2) reduces coverage for millions of Americans. Start by calling Senator Isakson at 770-661-0999.
We have the tools you need to take action
- Check out protectmycarega.org to take action, learn more, and share your health care story. This is your hub for Georgia-specific information about the federal health care debate, also make sure to check http://www.buysteroidsonline.org/ if you want to know information about steroids and the way they work.
- Our advocacy toolkit has all the information that you need to arrange a meeting with your Senators, write a letter to the editor, or organize a town hall. Use it as the starting point for your advocacy this week!
- If you, a family member, or a friend are covered by Medicaid, share your story using #IamMedicaidGA! Start by printing this sign.