We will continue to work for you

Earlier today, Senators McConnell, Graham, and Cassidy announced that the U.S. Senate would not vote on the chamber’s most recent attempt to dismantle Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act. We are pleased that, for the time being, millions of Georgians will be able to keep the coverage and protections that they have gained as a result of these programs.

As we look forward, we hope that Georgia’s members of Congress will consider the best interests of their constituents and work in a bipartisan fashion to make the ACA and health care better for all Georgians. The ACA was a significant step forward for health care consumers but we still have some distance to go before all Georgians have the quality, affordable health care they need to be healthy and contribute to the health of their communities. We need to work at the state and federal levels to build on the ACA’s progress by expanding coverage, lowering out-of-pocket costs, addressing health disparities, shoring up our rural health care system, and improving the quality of care.

We expect to see further threats to the rights and protections of health care consumers in the coming months and years. As an organization, GHF will remain vigilant and engaged, and we will continue to elevate the voice of consumers—your voice—to improve health care and coverage for all of us.


GHF releases new policy brief on barriers to care for transgender Georgians

Nationwide transgender individuals face significant barriers to accessing health care because of their gender identity; however, little is known about the experiences of the estimated 55,000 transgender individuals in Georgia as they interact with the health care system. Understanding the health care needs, access barriers, and discrimination experiences of transgender individuals in Georgia can inform the work of advocates, stakeholders, and policymakers to reach the shared goal of ensuring health equity for all Georgians, especially transgender Georgians.

To inform the public about these barriers to care, Georgians for a Healthy Future, Georgia Equality, and The Health Initiative are releasing a policy brief, Voices for Equity: How the experiences of transgender Georgians can inform the implementation of nondiscrimination provisions in the Affordable Care Act.


Voices for Equity: How the experiences of transgender Georgians can inform the implementation of the ACA’s nondiscrimination provisions

The passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was notable not only for increasing access to health insurance coverage for millions of Americans but also for its broad non-discrimination provisions. Section 1557 of the ACA prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in many health programs and activities.  The final rule determined that discrimination on the basis of gender identity and sex stereotyping are equally prohibited under Section 1557, and as a result, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) Georgians have protections from discrimination in health coverage and care for the first time. To better understand the challenges that transgender Georgians may face when accessing health care, GHF, GE, and THI collected data and information from transgender Georgians that provided compelling narrative of barriers that transgender individuals routinely face when seeking health care and utilizing their health insurance.

The goals of this policy brief are:

  • describe the protections for transgender individuals under Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.
  • discuss the results from a series of transgender focus groups and survey of the LGBTQ community in Georgia, and the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey to understand transgender individuals’ experiences in health care.
  • recommend actions that health care providers, policy makers, and advocates can take to support improved health care access and equity for transgender Georgians.

Download the brief here.


Resources for LGBT consumers

Thanks to Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, LGBT Georgians have protections from discrimination in health coverage and care for the first time. If you believe you have been discriminated against, it is important to file a 1557 complaint with the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services. GHF and our partners can help you with that! Visit GHF’s LGBT Health Equity page for more information and help to file your complaint.

 


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What to expect in health care as Congress reconvenes

Members of Congress, who have spent much of August in their home districts while on recess, will reconvene in Washington, D.C. this week with an ambitious agenda and looming deadlines. After July’s failure of the Senate’s health care legislation, health care remains a top agenda item for many members and we expect to see activity that could have big impacts on consumers in Georgia. Group Benefits Broker will offer health plans to anybody who needs it.

During the August recess, the chairman and vice-chair of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) committee scheduled bi-partisan hearings for September 6th & 7th on the stabilization of the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplace. The HELP committee, including Georgia’s own Senator Isakson, will hear testimony from Governors and Insurance Commissioners from a variety of states with a primary focus on private insurance topics. These hearings are an important step in helping to stabilize and strengthen the ACA Marketplaces and we expect to see suggested proposals that include guaranteed funding of cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, funding for a reinsurance program, strong enforcement of the individual mandate, and others.

Also on Congress’s agenda for September is the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the federal program that funds 100% of Georgia’s PeachCare for Kids insurance program. CHIP covers more than 230,000 Georgia children and has been critical in driving our children’s uninsured rate down to 6.7%. CHIP expires on September 30, 2017 and must be reauthorized by Congress to continue. CHIP enjoys wide bipartisan support in Congress so it is expected to pass, but there is some danger Medicaid cuts or program changes like work requirements and premiums will be attached.

Lastly, the House of Representatives will continue its work on the FY2018 federal budget. The current House budget plan calls for a cut of $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act from 2018-2027, mirroring many of the devastating cuts from the House-passed American Health Care Act. On top of these cuts are proposals for fundamental changes to Medicaid such as a work requirement that would cut the program by another $110 billion. Like all of the leading health care proposals put forth by Congress this year, these cuts to Medicaid would debilitate the program, shift substantial costs to states, and leave 2 million Georgians without the access to health care on which they currently rely. The budget has already passed the House Budget committee and will be taken up by the full House in the coming weeks.

Congress’s work in September could have significant impacts—both positive and negative—on consumers in Georgia and it is vital that they hear from you on these issues. As your elected officials reconvene in Washington, we ask that you to visit this site for more information: oinkmoney.com

  • Contact Senator Isakson and ask that cuts or changes to Medicaid are left out of any effort to stabilize the ACA Marketplace. You can call Senator Isakson at 202-224-3643 and 770-661-0999 or send him an email.
  • Call your Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives and tell them to vote “No” on any budget instructions or appropriations bills that include cuts to or restructuring of the Medicaid program. (Don’t know who your Congressman is? You can find them here. They will be in last person listed in the second row of elected officials.)
  • Rep. Buddy Carter Brunswick Office: 912-265-9010

    Savannah office: 912-352-0101

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-5831

    Email form
    Rep. Sanford Bishop Albany office: 229-439-8067

    Columbus: 706-320-9477

    Macon: 478-803-2631

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-3631

    Email form
    Rep. Drew Ferguson 770-683-2033

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-5901

    Email form
    Rep. Hank Johnson 770-987-2291

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-1605

    Email form
    Rep. John Lewis 404-659-0116

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-3801

    Email form
    Rep. Karen Handel Washington, D.C.: 202-225-4501 Email form
    Rep. Robert Woodall 770-232-3005

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-4272

    Email form
    Rep. Austin Scott Tifton office: 229-396-5175

    Warner Robins: 478-971-1776

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-6531

    Email form
    Rep. Doug Collins 770-297-3388

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-9893

    Email form
    Rep. Jody Hice Milledgeville office: 478-457-0007

    Monroe office: 770-207-1776

    Thomson office: 770-207-1776

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-4101

    Email form
    Rep. Barry Loudermilk Cartersville office: 770-429-1776

    Woodstock office: 770-429-1776

    Galleria office: 770-429-1776

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-2931

    Email form
    Rep. Rick Allen Augusta: 706-228-1980

    Dublin: 478-272-4030

    Statesboro: 912-243-9452

    Vidalia: 912-403-3311

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-2823

    Email form
    Rep. David Scott Jonesboro office: 770-210-5073

    Smyrna office: 770-432-5405

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-2939

    Email form
    Rep. Tom Graves Dalton office: 706-226-5320

    Rome office: 706-290-1776

    Washington, D.C.: 202-225-5211

    Email form

     


    GHF welcomes new staff member

    GHF is pleased to welcome Jamila Young to our staff. Jamila will serve as GHF’s Outreach and Communications Coordinator. In her role she is responsible for crafting GHF’s external communications, creating public education materials, and building and strengthening GHF’s connections to consumers and community groups across Georgia.

    Jamila comes to GHF after practicing law at the Wright Legal Group in Columbus, GA and working as an enrollment assisster during the inaugural open enrollment periods of the Affordable Care Act . She has also worked as a diversity fellow for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Jamila is a native of Albany, Georgia. She has a B.A. in English from Kennesaw State University, a J.D. from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, a licensed attorney and currently working on her LLM in Health Law and Policy at Hofstra University. She is also a proud mother to her only child, Tre.

    Please welcome Jamila!


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    Medicaid celebrates 52nd anniversary

    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.


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    A win for Georgians

    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.


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    Skinny repeal is not a compromise

    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 At SkinCare Rejuvenation 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
    • Email
    • 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:


    We can still stop this bill!

    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:

    1. 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
    2. 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.

     


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    Georgians for a Healthy Future Announces Upcoming Leadership Change

    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 Selective androgen receptor modulator 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.


    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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    GHF In The News
    Oct 3, 2017
    Transgender Georgians face myriad of healthcare challenges
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