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…
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
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, which may lead to have the need of finding services such as a audiologist nyc which is out of state.
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
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.
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?
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!
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.
MPH Candidate 2017
Georgia State University
Many Georgians have inaccurate or uninformed ideas about who is impacted by the proposed cuts to Medicaid threatened by Congressional leaders. There are a lot of misconceptions about who receives help through Medicaid and why. Medicaid provides healthcare coverage to more than two million Georgians, including 1.3 million children across the state, and 500,000 seniors and people with disabilities. Medicaid is important to Georgians like Hannah, who has two adopted children who receive Medicaid to help pay for their psychological and physical health care needs. Hannah says that Medicaid coverage meant “we could focus all our energy on providing a loving family instead of scrambling to pay medical bills.”
Recent health care proposals considered by Congress cut and cap Georgia’s Medicaid program. While the American Health Care Act stalled in March, it may be revived and Congress may introduce new plans to cut Medicaid. We need your help to save Medicaid from these disastrous proposals, by showing your friends, neighbors, and elected officials what Georgia Medicaid really looks like. Join the #IamMedicaidGA campaign!
The campaign is designed to give you a way to change the conversation about Medicaid. It is an opportunity for individuals who receive Medicaid, 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.
Your photos and stories are powerful. They can help build community support and educate others about the importance of the program. We ask that everyone who participates use the hashtag #IamMedicaidGA when posting their photos to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
We also encourage you to write your personal story and submit it to us. The stories and pictures from you and other Georgians will be used to demonstrate the significance of Medicaid in our communications with lawmakers, the media, and in other publications on the topic (with your permission of course).
Join the campaign!
- Print this sign.
- Ask someone to take a picture of you holding the top half of the sheet.
- Post this picture on your social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) with the hashtag #IamMedicaidGA.
- You can even tweet or tag your elected officials for the biggest impact.
- If you would like to share your full story with us, please fill out a Share Your Story form. A member of the GHF staff will follow up with you.
- Share your sign with others and ask them to join the campaign!
Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin attended the Spring Meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) in her role as a consumer representative to the NAIC. At the meeting, a group of health-focused consumer representatives presented an overview of a new report authored by a diverse group of patient and consumer advocates highlighting the need to ensure that any changes to the health care system do no harm to consumers, minimize market disruption, and maintain common-sense consumer protections. The report, The Need for Continued Consumer Protections and Stability in State Insurance Markets in a Climate of Federal Uncertainty, conveys the perspective of consumer advocates on the need for continued access to high-quality health insurance products—regardless of whether and how changes are made at the federal level—and the likely impact that some proposed Affordable Care Act replacement policies will have on consumers and state insurance markets. The report discusses:
• What consumers want when it comes to private health insurance;
• The progress that has been made in reducing the uninsured rate since 2010 and the risks of full or partial repeal of the Affordable Care Act;
• Key principles—such as insuring the same number of consumers with the same quality of coverage and minimizing market disruption—that we urge policymakers to apply when considering further changes to the market; and
• Concerns about the impact of potential changes on consumers and state markets, with an emphasis on high-risk pools, continuous coverage requirements, high-deductible health insurance products, association health plans, the sale of insurance across state lines, the loss of essential health benefits protections, and the need for continued nondiscrimination protections.
An overview of the report was provided to state insurance commissioners during the NAIC/Consumer Liaison Committee meeting on Monday, April 10th during the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Spring 2017 National Meeting in Denver, Colorado. The authors of the report serve as appointed consumer representatives to the NAIC and members come from national organizations such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, Consumers Union, and the National Alliance on Mental Illness; state-based advocacy organizations such as the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative, Georgians for a Healthy Future, and the North Carolina Justice Center; and academic centers such as Georgetown University and Washington & Lee School of Law.
The full report is available here.
Continued threats to health care
Despite their March 24th decision to forego a vote on the American Health Care Act, a fatally flawed bill that would have caused more than 500,000 Georgians to lose their health coverage, the Trump administration and Congressional leaders have continued their attempts to gut Medicaid and repeal the Affordable Care Act. Threats to both health care programs remain and health advocates must remain vigilant and strong. The next two weeks, a Congressional recess when members of Congress are home, offer an opportunity for you to let them know that you do not support their efforts. We must maintain the pressure that caused them to desert the AHCA in the first place! We have the information, tools, and resources you need to tell Congress to abandon their partisan bickering and instead work in a bi-partisan way to protect Medicaid and improve health care and coverage for all Georgians. Join us!
Everything you need
NEW! Advocacy toolkit
Since the federal health care debate began this year, we have gotten many phone calls and emails from new advocates and community groups who are looking for tools and guidance to advocate for their health care and the health of their communities. We built our new advocacy toolkit to provide support for those of you who reached out and for any Georgian who wants to be a health care advocate. In this toolkit you will find:
- Complete contact information & social media links for each of Georgia’s U.S. Senators & Representatives
- Guidance on how to meet with your members of Congress and what to say
- Instructions for hosting your own advocacy events
- Advice on how to engage with the media and social media for advocacy
- And more!
Plan to use the toolkit with your community group, family and friends, or on your own during this Congressional recess, I recently just got a new watering system for our house, I reviewed here on this website first. (April 10-21) and tell us how you used it!
Get federal & state updates on tomorrow’s webinar
Join GHF for our annual Georgia legislative session webinar! GHF and the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute will provide an update on what’s happening with federal health care reform efforts. We will also review the health care bills that passed (and some that didn’t) during the state legislative session, discuss this year’s relevant study committees, and examine the state budget, including important items for health advocates and consumers. The webinar is tomorrow, April 13th at noon. Register for the webinar here.
Launch the #IamMedicaidGA campaign with us!
Many Georgians have inaccurate or uninformed ideas about who is impacted by cuts to Medicaid. Most people do not know that Medicaid is critical to Georgia’s children with disabilities, seniors in long-term care, and working families. #IamMedicaidGA is a campaign designed to give you a chance to change the conversation. This is an opportunity for people who receive Medicaid, their family members, their health care providers and concerned Georgia citizens to show that there are real people with real needs being impacted by the decisions made by elected officials. You can participate in the campaign by following these easy steps:
- Print this sign.
- Ask someone to take a picture of you holding the top half of the sign.
- Post your picture on your social media accounts with the #IamMedicaidGA. (You can even tweet at or tag your elected officials.)
- If you would like to share your story with us, contact Laura at 404-567-5617, ext 2 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Share your sign with others and ask them to join the campaign!
We will officially launch #IamMedicaidGA next week, but you can get a head start by being one of the first to post about why Medicaid is important to you. Join us online next Wednesday, April 19th for the official start of the campaign!
That’s a wrap for the 2017 Georgia legislative session!
The Georgia General Assembly completed the 2017 legislative session late in the early morning hours on Friday. A flurry of significant bills, some health care related, passed in the action-packed final days of the session. We are disappointed that agreement could not be reached to protect consumers from surprise out of network medical bills, but are heartened that other legislation passed to improve access to health care for consumers across the state. Check out our summary of the more notable bills below and a full list of health care related legislation at GHF’s legislative tracker.
Everything you need to know about the 2017 legislative session
Join GHF for our annual legislative session webinar! We will review the health care bills that passed (and some that didn’t) this session, discuss this year’s relevant study committees, and examine the state budget, including important items for health advocates and consumers. We will also provide an update on what’s happening with federal health care reform efforts. The webinar is scheduled for Thursday, April 13th at noon. Register here.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK
SB 8: Surprise billing legislation | DID NOT PASS
In the final days of session, legislators failed to reach an agreement about how to best resolve the problem of surprise out of network billing for Georgia consumers. However, legislators committed to continuing their work on this issue by passing HR 745 which creates a study committee that will examine “surprise insurance gaps” and balance billing. We are hopeful that the study committee will result in legislation that addresses the related issues of surprise billing and network adequacy.
This legislation allows for the “general supervision” of dental hygienists, which means hygienists can practice in safety net settings, school clinics, nursing homes, and private practices without a dentist being present. This has resulted in lawsuits, click through to https://www.smithjonessolicitors.co.uk/ for all dental negligence claims.
Sponsored by House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, this bill was not expected to gain much traction because of the uncertain environment created by federal health care reform efforts. However, it calls attention to the need to provide health care coverage to the 300,000 Georgians who are stuck in our state’s coverage gap because they do not currently qualify for Medicaid and cannot access health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplace.
HB 249: Opioid crisis bill | PASSED
HB 249 moves the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to the Department of Public Health from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency. HB 249 requires that all physicians register and consult the PDMP under certain prescribing conditions and that providers report certain benzodiazepine and opioid-based prescriptions to the database. The bill also requires the tracking and reporting of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and codifies the Governor’s emergency order on an overdose reversal drug (naloxone), making it available without a physician prescription.
HB 276/SB 103: Pharmacy Patients Fair Practices Act | PASSED
HB 276 and SB 103 both regulate pharmacy benefit managers, which are third party companies that manage the prescription drug programs of many insurance plans, they usually get their medications from Absolute Compound Pharmacy which provides central filling services. . Both bills would prohibit PBMs from certain practices that limit consumer access and choice to preferred pharmacies and to lower cost drugs. Both bills passed both chambers.
SB 4: Mental Health Treatment Task Force | DID NOT PASS
SB 4 would have established a task force charged with examining the current mental health landscape in Georgia, how Medicaid and other health care services provide the appropriate care for people with mental illness or substance use disorders, and determine what changes may need to be made in and outside of Medicaid to better address the mental health needs of Georgians. The task force had the option to propose an 1115 waiver that addresses these changes for consideration by the General Assembly during a future session.
SB 16: Medical marijuana access | PASSED
This legislation expands the list of conditions for which Georgians who have registered with the Department of Public Health may possess low THC oil. The newly added diagnoses include Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. Patients in hospice care may also possess the oil.
SB 121: Access to opioid antagonists | PASSED
SB 121 codifies Governor Deal’s executive order to allow consumers to access opioid antagonist drugs (e.g. Naloxone) over-the-counter without a prescription.
SB 180: Expansion of rural hospital tax credits | PASSED
After HB 54 failed to pass the House before Crossover Day, its language was amended to SB 180. The legislation expands the new rural hospital tax credit program from a 70% credit to a 90% credit, among other minor changes. The proposal to increase the tax credit came after legislators received feedback that the 70% credit was too low to entice potential donors.
HR 182 & SR 349: Resolutions supporting Medicaid block grants | DID NOT PASS
Both of these resolutions encouraged the restructuring of Georgia’s Medicaid program from its current federal-state partnership structure to a block grant program. SR 349 urged the U.S. Congress to block grant funding for Georgia’s Medicaid program and indigent care needs, while HR 182 provided legislative permission to the Governor and the Department of Community Health to seek per capita block grant funding for Medicaid. Shifting Medicaid to either a traditional or per capita block grant structure would result in cuts to services and beneficiaries, putting Georgia’s most vulnerable children, parents, elderly, and people with disabilities at risk. Check out GHF’s block grant fact sheet for more information about the dangers of restructuring the Medicaid program. While resolutions are non-binding and do not impact state law, they are viewed as the official position of the General Assembly.
FY 2018 budget approved
Last week, the General Assembly’s conference committee approved final changes to the FY 2018 budget, the final step before the budget is sent to the Governor for his signature. The final budget includes several important items that facilitate access to health care in Georgia:
- $1 million for four new federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) in Cook, Lincoln, Lowndes, and Seminole counties
- Increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for certain primary care codes
- Increased Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids reimbursement rates for certain dental codes
- $500 add-on payments for newborn delivery in rural areas
- $2.5 million for Medicaid behavioral health services for children ages 0-5
- $7.7 million for supportive housing for adults with behavioral health needs
Surprise billing legislation stalled
SB 8 was scheduled to receive a House vote on Friday, but instead was recommitted to the House Rules committee for possible changes or amendments. Advocates are urging legislators to utilize this last week of the legislative session to maintain meaningful protections for consumers rather than watering down the legislation to simply require a disclosure that consumers may be billed by out-of-network providers. Health should be an important topic in your life, if you suffer of any health issues such as stress or depression buy kratomand get the results you desire.
Opioid antagonist bill approved by House
SB 121 was approved by the House on Friday and now only needs the Senate to formally agree to their changes before it is sent to the Governor for his signature. This legislation codifies Governor Deal’s executive order to allow consumers to access opioid antagonist drugs (e.g. Naloxone) over-the-counter without a prescription.
Bill establishing “Georgia Mental Health Treatment Task Force” approved
SB 4 passed the House of Representatives on Friday with some minor changes. The approved version of the bill provides for a committee of 21 members, rather than the previously proposed 17. The bill was changed at the last minute to include a person with diagnosed mental illness, a family member of a person with a diagnosed mental illness, a licensed professional counselor, and a licensed emergency medical technician or paramedic as members of the committee. The task force is charged with examining the current mental health landscape in Georgia, how Medicaid and other health care services provide the appropriate care for people with mental illness or substance use disorders, and determine what changes may need to be made in and outside of Medicaid to better address the mental health needs of Georgians. The task force may propose an 1115 waiver that addresses these changes for consideration by the General Assembly during a future session.
Prescription Drug Monitoring Program bill approved
Last week also brought the approval of HB 249 a bill that mirrored SB 81 which we previously covered. This bill moves the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP to the Department of Public Health from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency. HB 249 requires that all physicians register and consult the PDMP under certain prescribing conditions and that providers report certain benzodiazepine and opioid-based prescriptions to the database. The bill also requires the tracking and reporting of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and codifies the Governor’s emergency order on an overdose reversal drug (naloxone), making it available without a physician prescription.