Here at Georgians for a Healthy Future, we wish you and your families and happy and healthy Holiday Season and New Year! The Peach Pulse will return to its every-other-week format in the New Year. Happy Holidays!
What’s New in Georgia
Georgians for a Healthy Future Unveils Our 2011 Policy Priorities
Georgians for a Healthy Future formally unveiled our 2011 policy priorities last week. The priorities were developed with broad input from community stakeholders, and we look forward to working with our coalition partners to advance them in the coming year. Our advocacy efforts will be focused on five core issues:
1) Support Consumer-Friendly Implementation of the Affordable Care Act
2) Protect and Strengthen Quality Care for Medicaid and PeachCare Beneficiaries
3) Preserve Consumer Protections for Georgians in Private Health Insurance Plans
4) Strengthen Georgia’s Public Health System
5) Support a More Sustainable Revenue Structure, Including an Increase in the Tobacco Tax
Health Care Unscrambled: Recap
Last week, Georgians for a Healthy Future held our first annual policy breakfast, Health Care Unscrambled, to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2011 for health care policy. Anton Gunn, Regional Director for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), spoke about the Affordable Care Act and opportunities for collaboration and partnership between stakeholders and HHS as implementation of the law moves forward. Alan Weil, Executive Director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, spoke about key decision points facing states around implementation of the new law. Dr. Phaedra Corso from the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia presented Georgia-specific demographic and political information that policymakers and advocates should consider as they move forward on health reform. All three presentations are now available on our website. Our Executive Director, Cindy Zeldin, rounded out the breakfast by presenting Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 2011 policy priorities. We look forward to working with you in 2011 to advance these priorities, and we’ll keep you informed on developments and advocacy opportunities around these issues. Finally, we’d like to issue a special thank you to our sponsors as well as to all in attendance. We hope you will join us again next year!
Public Health Commission Releases Final Report and Recommendations
The Public Health Commission, charged by the Georgia Legislature to determine the most appropriate structure for the Division of Public Health, issued its final report to the Governor, Speaker, and Lieutenant Governor on December 1, 2010. The unanimous recommendation of the Commission is for the Division of Public Health to become an independent, cabinet-level state agency, with the Commissioner reporting directly to the Governor and serving as the state’s chief health officer. To download the Commission’s full report, click here. To learn more about how to become an advocate for public health, visit the Partner Up for Public Health campaign website.
New Department of Community Health Commissioner Named
Governor-Elect Deal has named David Cook, Executive Director of the Medical Association of Georgia, as the incoming Commissioner for the Department of Community Health. In January, he will replace Clyde Reese, who will transition to the role of Commissioner of the Department of Human Services. For more information, click here.
2011 Legislative Session Calendar
The 2011 Legislative Session is shaping up to be a busy one. With only 40 short days to get everything done, advocates needs to be well prepared and informed of important events and issues as they occur throughout the session. To that end, Georgians for a Healthy Future has created the 2011 Legislative Session Calendar. This calendar is a storehouse for upcoming advocacy events that impact the health and well being of Georgians. Check back often to see what’s happening and how to get involved. To have your event added to the calendar, please email Amanda Ptashkin.
Georgia Budget & Policy Institute Release 4 New Reports
Last week, the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute released four new reports that explore health and tax reform and what it means to the state and its residents. The first report, Tax Reform Facts: Sales Tax Exemption on Groceries, discusses alternatives for raising revenues other than shifting the burden to middle to low-income Georgians through a regressive grocery tax—a tactic that is feared to gain traction once session starts. The second report, Medicaid Expansion Facts: What’s in Store for Georgia’s Medicaid Enrollment?, explains how the new health law increases eligibility for Medicaid and provides states significant new funding to pay for the expansion and how the billions in new federal funding will help increase health coverage for nearly 500,000 Georgians without insurance. The third report, Georgia and the Federal Government Ensure Elderly and Newborns Have a Safety Net, explains how the Georgia works to protect its most vulnerable residents. This fact sheet provides an overview about who is served by the Medicaid program, how costs vary by population, and the income-eligibility criteria for Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare programs. The last report, New Federal Tax Credit Benefits 84% of Small Businesses in Georgia, examines the new tax credits that rise from the new health law and how they could help nearly 120,000 small businesses in Georgia better afford health coverage for their employees. For more information, visit the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute website.
The Affordable Care Act and You
State of Georgia Begins Work on Health Insurance Exchange Feasibility Study
Recently, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) was awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assess the feasibility of establishing a state run health benefit exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act, a health insurance exchange, or structured marketplace where individuals and small businesses can purchase affordable health insurance with federal tax credits, must be up and running in every state by 2014. States may set up their own exchange (either a single exchange for individuals and small groups or two separate exchanges) or rely on a federal fallback exchange that the Department of Health and Human Services would set up. With technical assistance from Georgia State University and the University of Georgia, OPB has been convening stakeholders over the past two months to examine these issues. Georgians for a Healthy Future and our coalition partners have been participating in these workgroups to ensure that the consumer and patient voice is at the table. The workgroups have been tasked with identifying the factors to consider, potential approaches, and the data needed for decision-making around several structural features of the exchange. The next meeting is January 14th. To get involved with one of the workgroups and for more information about upcoming meetings, click here. To learn more about health reform implementation in Georgia, see OPB’s new website at www.healthcarereform.ga.gov. For a detailed look through the consumer lens at the choices states face as they set up an exchange, click here. For a closer look at the population that would utilize the exchange, click here.
Update on Medical Loss Ratio Rules in Georgia
In November, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued interim final rules around medical loss ratio requirements. These rules require insurers operating in the individual health insurance market to spend 80 percent of premiums on medical services and were issued following a deliberative process by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which developed the model regulation, as charged to do under the health law. These requirements will encourage transparency and facilitate better value for consumers. However, this win for consumers is at risk in Georgia. Our Insurance Department has indicated it will seek an adjustment for Georgia insurers under a process laid out within the federal rules. States may apply for an adjustment if the rules will destabilize their insurance marketplace. To determine this, HHS will weigh five factors when considering adjustment requests: number of insurers likely to leave the market, number of individuals affected, availability of other coverage options, impact on premiums, and availability of brokers and agents. Once a request is made, public comment will be accepted for 10 days, and HHS has 30 days to consider the request. If you would like to join with Georgians for a Healthy Future as we develop our written comments, please contact us. For more information on this issue, click here.
New Resources Available
New Resources are being released daily to help states and consumers understand the new health law. Families USA has a new report dedicated to best practices states can take in implementing state health insurance exchanges and a new report on how health reform aims at improving the lives of seniors and people with disabilities. The Commonwealth Fund released a report examining how baby boomers will be impacted by the new law and found that boomers in Southern and Western states in particular will benefit from provisions in the law.
The National Academy for State Health Policy has updated their new State Refo(u)rum website with useful information on implementing the new health law from work plans and timelines to state-specific analyses. The Kaiser Family Foundation has also released a new issue brief entitled the Impact of Health Reform on Women’s Access to Coverage and Care. The issue brief reviews how the new law is expected to affect access to care and affordability of health coverage for women and explains the provisions in the new law related to preventive screening services, reproductive health, maternity care and women on Medicare.
Child Nutrition Bill Signed by President
This week, President Obama signed the The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. The passage of this bill marks an important success in the fight against child hunger and childhood obesity, as it will expand access to healthy school meals and will establish higher nutritional standards for school lunches. A summary of the Act’s key provisions, prepared by the Food Research and Action Center, can be found here. To read a recent Washington Post article highlighting 12 of the key changes in the new law, click here.