The future of prevention and recovery in 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.)


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Secrets, secrets are no fun…

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.)


1 degree of separation

Just like any actor is no more than 6 degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, you

Anthony & Nicholas are covered by Medicaid

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
    Katherine is starting her own photography business

    reduce the amount of financial assistance available for those buying insurance on their own.

  • A child or adult with a developmental or physical disability—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
    Joshua can attend college because of Medicaid’s community-based supports

    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 veteran50,000 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!


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GHF welcomes two graduate students

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.


Threats to Medicaid loom large in House-passed health bill

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.

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.
  • 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.

GHF hosts educational forum in Savannah

Georgians for a Healthy Future partnered with Women Advocating for Georgians (WAG) to host a public education forum on Wednesday, May 17th about health care in Georgia. GHF’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin kicked off the forum with an overview of the Affordable Care Act, its impact on Georgia, and a discussion of the proposed changes in the American Health Care Act, the health care bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this month. Following that, a panel of local stakeholders discussed health coverage and access in the Savannah region. J. Brandon Gaffney introduced participants to the J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center and the important role that it plays in providing health care to Savannahns experiencing homeless, those with low-incomes, and uninsured or under-insured people in the Savannah region. Sarah Sessoms of Insure Georgia illuminated the role of enrollment assisters in helping people enroll in and use their health coverage. Leigh Rich of Armstrong University’s Department of Health Sciences moderated the discussion and brought an important public health perspective to the conversation. The afternoon wrapped up with a one-on-one conversation with State Representative Jesse Petrea (District 166, Savannah). Rep. Petrea and GHF’s Laura Colbert discussed the 2017 Georgia legislative session, Georgia’s Medicaid program, and possible solutions for issues facing Georgia health care consumers. The afternoon produced engaging discussions and useful information about the federal health care debate happening in Washington, D.C., the health care landscape in Georgia, and the experiences of Georgia’s consumers. We look forward to visiting Savannah again soon to build on these important conversations!

Photos courtesy of Sheila Grossman


House passes the American Health Care Act

Today the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed the American Health Care Act, a disappointment for health care consumers across Georgia. At a minimum, we know that the bill decimates Georgia’s Medicaid program, cutting more than $4 billion over 10 years, and would result in at least 560,000 more uninsured Georgians within a decade. Through unconscionable cuts and a restructuring of Medicaid, it will put many of our most vulnerable Georgians at risk, including children, people with disabilities and pregnant women. Children from low-income families could be denied critical preventive services including screenings for vision and hearing, immunizations and treatment for mental health issues. People battling cancer or addiction could lose coverage and access to life-saving treatment. Georgia’s budget would be put under severe pressure, which could lead to sharp cuts in the services older adults and persons with disabilities need to remain in their own homes.

Furthermore, the AHCA does nothing to improve affordability or quality of care for Georgia consumers. Instead, it opens the door to discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, skimpier insurance coverage for everyone and higher health care costs for Georgians. The bill even turns back the clock to a time when insurers could deny coverage for life-saving treatments by imposing annual and lifetime caps.

Should it become law, the American Health Care Act will have a devastating effect on Georgia,” says Cindy Zeldin, Executive Director. “It will cause more than half a million Georgians to lose their coverage entirely while doing nothing to improve affordability or quality of care. This hastily thought out legislation will lead to higher deductibles while stripping consumers of critical protections. It will force unconscionable cuts in health care services for vulnerable children, people with disabilities, and seniors who rely on Medicaid for their most basic health needs. We urge Senators Isakson and Perdue to weigh the impact this legislation will have on people all across Georgia whose basic access to care hangs in the balance and to reject this harmful legislation.”

As this bill moves to the Senate, we call on Senators Isakson and Perdue to stand up for Georgia’s children, seniors, people with disabilities, pregnant women, families and those with pre-existing conditions who will pay a dangerous price if this ill-conceived bill becomes law. They should reject this bill and any bill that cuts coverage, reduces protections, and raises costs for Georgians.

We need you to #ProtectOurCare

We know how hard you all have worked over the last several weeks to defeat the AHCA. We want to thank you for your time and advocacy, but our work continues. It is imperative that Senator Isakson and Senator Perdue hear a swift and powerful message from their constituents–you! Call them today to tell them to reject the American Health Care Act.

Senator Isakson: 770-661-0999

Senator Perdue: 404-865-0087


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3 things you can do to #ProtectOurCare

Help us stop the American Health Care Act   

Congressional leaders worked overtime last weekend to convince their colleagues to vote for the increasingly harmful American Health Care Act, legislation that would dismantle Medicaid and threaten the coverage of millions of Americans. There is many healthcare jobs that you can perform in order to help others. They are publicly saying they are close to having the votes they need to pass this bill and we should take them seriously. We need your help to tell Congress again that the AHCA is bad for Georgians. There are three things you can do.


If you  have two minutes

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.

Don’t know what to say? Here’s some help.


If you have five minutes 

First call your members of Congress (see above). Then tell your friends, family, and social media networks that you made the 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 social media campaign! Policymakers need to know that real Georgians will be impacted by their vote on the AHCA. Get started here!


If you have 15 minutes 

First call your members of Congress (see above). Then write a letter to the editor (LTE) and send it to your local newspaper. LTEs allow you to reach a broader audience and educate your community about local impacts. Plus, members of Congress monitor their local papers to track what issues are important to their constituents. Our grassroots toolkit has several example LTEs to help you get started  and you can submit your letter through this page on our website.


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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