"The most damaging has been the rhetoric and confusion," said Laura Colbert, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future, an advocacy group. "Overall, this could be a bellwether for…
This commentary originally appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
As the 2010 legislative session opened, Georgia faced a dilemma: With a sluggish economy and unemployment hovering over 10 percent, there is a spike in the need for safety net services at the very time that state revenues are sagging.
Severe budget deficits threaten essential services such as Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, which serve as lifelines to low-income families who might otherwise be uninsured in this difficult economic climate.
One potential solution is an increase in the state’s tobacco tax, currently one of the lowest in the nation, which could have the dual effect of reducing smoking rates and generating revenue to preserve necessary health services.
By Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities
The national health reform legislation moving through Congress includes provisions that would impact people with disabilities. The CLASS Act, for example, is incorporated in the current legislation. What would the CLASS Act do? The Community Living Assistance Services and Supports Act (CLASS Act) would offer a meaningful non-means-tested complement to the Medicaid program with a focus on helping individuals overcome barriers to independence that they may confront due to severe functional impairments. It would create a new national insurance program to help adults who have or develop severe functional impairments to remain independent, employed, and stay a part of their community. Financed through modest voluntary payroll deductions (with opt-out enrollment like Medicare Part B), this legislation would help remove barriers to choice and independence (e.g., housing modification, assistive technologies, personal assistance services, transportation) that can be overwhelmingly costly, by providing a cash benefit to those individuals who need support for basic functions. The large risk pool to be created by this approach would make added coverage affordable. It would give individuals added choice and access to supports without requiring them to become impoverished to qualify for Medicaid. You can learn more about the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities’ health care agenda here.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Sr. Healthcare Analyst
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.
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.