Struggling Georgians Deserve Better Health Care Options

By Cindy Zeldin


This piece originally appeared in the Macon Telegraph.


In these difficult economic times, the loss of a job is frequently compounded by the loss of the health insurance that had been tied to it. With unemployment rates hovering near 10 percent, more and more Georgians are facing this dual predicament.



For many recently unemployed Georgians, a popular program that subsidizes the continuation of employer-sponsored coverage has served as a lifeline since it was enacted into law in early 2009.  Under the program, known as the COBRA subsidy, most workers laid off between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 were made eligible for a 9-month subsidy to ease the financial load of paying full freight to stay on their old plan.



In normal times, people losing their jobs can remain on their previous employment-based plan for 18 months by paying the entire premium, including the portion their former employer had previously contributed. For someone who has just lost his or her primary source of income, however, paying the entire premium can be cost prohibitive. To address this challenge, the subsidy puts COBRA coverage in reach for many Georgians:  according to a study recently released by Families USA, monthly premiums for subsidized COBRA coverage average $369 in Georgia, while the average monthly premium without the subsidy is $1,053.

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Covering More Georgians through Medicaid

By Cindy Zeldin


The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s Tim Sweeney makes a compelling case for expanding Medicaid to cover more Georgians in today’s AJC as part of a pro/con piece on the opinion page. Read it here.


Health Care Reform Will Help Georgia Residents Find Coverage

This post originally appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on December 8, 2009.


By Cindy Zeldin


Our nation is on the cusp of historic public policy change. In the next several weeks, the most sweeping health reform legislation in 40 years will likely become law. Despite the heated town halls of August and the steady stream of information coming from the legislative debates in Washington, many Georgians are still wondering: What does this mean for me?


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Georgia Wins if Medicaid Expands

By Cindy Zeldin

This post was originally published in the Savannah Morning News.


The health reform legislation being debated in Congress right now features a range of provisions aimed at increasing the number of Americans who have health insurance.


One of these elements is a significant expansion of Medicaid, the joint state-federal program that provides health insurance to low-income, uninsured families. Under the bill recently passed by the House, Medicaid would be available to individuals and families with incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level, or approximately $27,465 in annual income for a family of three.


This expansion would go into effect in 2013, with full federal financing in 2013 and 2014. After that, the federal government would pay for 91 percent of the cost of the newly eligible population, leaving the state to pay for the remaining nine percent beginning in 2015. The Georgia Department of Community Health recently estimated that Georgia’s share of this expansion would cost around $2.4 billion over the five-year period between 2015 and 2019.


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Grady Needs Public Support

Guest Blog By Benjamin Nanes

 

Grady Memorial Hospital’s decision to close its outpatient dialysis clinic has brought protesters to hospital board meetings, sparked a lawsuit, and generated headlines across the country. The clinic’s patients, mostly undocumented immigrants who cannot get regular care elsewhere, will be forced to leave Atlanta or to seek care through emergency rooms.

 

They will face delayed and inadequate treatment, spend more time in hospitals and die sooner.

 

It’s a dramatic story, but the closing of Grady’s dialysis clinic is only one symptom of a larger problem. Grady is in trouble, largely because the state and county governments, while claiming to support the services that Grady provides, have failed to support the hospital financially. That needs to change. Without adequate funding, Grady will be forced to cut more services, leaving even more people without the medical care they need.

 

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National Medicaid Expansion Is a Bargain for Georgia

By Tim Sweeney


Over at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, we’ve recently released a brief that shows why expanding Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands of low-income, uninsured Georgians is a bargain for the state. (Read the brief here.)


Instead of focusing on the small portion of the expansions costs that will be borne by the state (about 10 percent for newly eligible people), Georgia leaders should focus on the substantial social and economic benefits that the expansion and additional federal money would bring to Georgia.


Low-income Georgians already have far less access to employer-sponsored health insurance than higher income Georgians, and are seeing their limited access decline even more. Georgia had the 10th highest uninsured rate in the nation, on average, from 2006-2008, and because Medicaid eligibility thresholds here are pretty low, the state would benefit greatly from the national expansion.


Tim Sweeney

Sr. Healthcare Analyst

Georgia Budget & Policy Institute


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Changes are needed inside the state to help Georgians afford needed care

Guest Blog By Holly Lang

 

Each day, the crisis of affordable care grows for uninsured and underinsured Georgians.

 

An estimated one-third of all insured Georgians went without adequate health care coverage in 2007, a number that continues to grow each year. Increasingly so, many plans do not pay for preventative care, such as physicals and Pap smears, which are so important when it comes to health.

 

And for uninsured, the numbers are even worse.

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Be on the Move…

Guest Blog By Joann Yoon

 

In reading through an issue of The Economist earlier this year, I came across an obituary for Sir John Mortimer, an English barrister and well-known writer.  I didn’t know who he was prior to reading the article, but was impressed to learn about his life and his efforts to make social change through the practice of law and through his writing.  One of the quotes attributed to him that stuck out in my mind was the sentiment that offense makes society move. I often think about this notion, and link it to thoughts particularly as the battle wages on regarding whether or not to implement health reform.

 

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Barriers to Care at Grady: The Big Picture

By Benjamin Nanes, HealthSTAT


HealthSTAT previously reported concerns from students and health professionals that it is becoming more difficult for immigrants to access care in the Grady Health System, which includes Grady Memorial Hospital and its eight neighborhood health centers. Though this issue has not been widely reported, there have been similar worries in the community at large as well. Yolanda Hallas, Executive Director of the Hispanic Health Coalition of Georgia, has collected reports from immigrants who have been denied discounted care at Grady due to apparent changes in how the health system enforces its policies. Among them are unemployed patients and family members of Medicaid-eligible children, people who clearly cannot afford health care anywhere else. In order to understand what is happening, it is important to look at the big picture: how the Grady system delivers care to those who are unable to pay, and the financial and political pressures that system faces.


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Halloween Health Wonk Review

By Cindy Zeldin

Health Wonk Review is a biweekly roundup highlighting some of the most interesting health policy blog postings. Healthy Debate Georgia made its debut in the current issue (all decked out for Halloween). Give it a visit.


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