Laura Colbert, executive director of Georgians for Healthy Future said there are good provisions in the bill, but there are other things the bill didn’t address. “HB 769 nibbles around…
Established in 2008 to provide a unified voice, vision, and leadership for Georgia health care consumers, particularly vulnerable and underserved populations, Georgians for a Healthy Future has provided substantive health policy information to community leaders and organizations, individual consumers, and advocates throughout the state; offered Georgians the tools and information they need to become empowered health care consumers and strong advocates; successfully injected the consumer perspective into hundreds of health care stories in the media; and engaged with policymakers to spark policy change for a healthier Georgia.
Our organization celebrates its ten-year anniversary this year. Prompted by this milestone and the near-completion of a previous strategic plan, our leadership in 2016 launched a new strategic planning effort to chart a path forward for the next phase of our work. The process included an examination of the needs of Georgians with respect to health care and coverage, consideration of the federal and state public policy environments, engagement of organizational partners, stakeholders, and funders, scrutiny of GHF’s financial and non-financial resources, and input from the organization’s board of directors and staff.
The result is a new strategic plan that sets out what we must do to ensure continued progress towards GHF’s mission and vision and to secure the sustainability of our organization through another ten years. Success in these efforts will require the collective energy of all of GHF’s stakeholders—our board of directors and staff, coalition partners, donors, and Georgia consumers.
We are excited to share this plan with you. We hope that you will find inspiration within it to take an active role in helping us achieve the success we have envisioned.
Valerie is a mother of three children living in Lamar County. Medicaid covers all three of Valerie’s children, and they rely on the health coverage it provides for their varying health needs. Valerie sometimes has difficulty accessing the care and information the family needs because they live in a rural area, but acknowledges that Medicaid is a lifeline that makes it possible for her to focus on her family’s other needs. Without health insurance through Medicaid, Valerie would have to pay hefty medical bills to ensure her children receive the care they require.
Susie is the sole caretaker of her young granddaughter, but she has a hard time caring for herself because she is stuck in Georgia’s coverage gap. She makes more than $6300 annually, so she doesn’t qualify for Medicaid coverage as a caregiver, and she doesn’t make enough to receive financial help to buy health insurance through the Marketplace. Susie is currently undergoing treatment for cancer but because she lacks health coverage, Susie is only able to receive cancer treatments from a doctor that allows her to make low monthly payments. Susie has other chronic health issues that need to be managed but finds it difficult to receive consistent care without insurance. Because Georgia’s elected officials have not extended Medicaid to cover caregivers like Susie, she struggles to care for herself while working to ensure her young granddaughter receives the care and support she needs to grow up healthy and thrive.
Medicaid provides access to needed health care services for low-income soon-to-be-moms, new mothers, and very low-income parents of minor children. For moms like Valerie, Medicaid makes being a mom a little easier by ensuring that their children have access to the health care services they need to grow and stay healthy. For others, Medicaid would help them get or stay healthy so they can best fulfill the responsibilities of being a mothers or caregivers. Over 150,000 uninsured women like Susie would gain health insurance if Georgia’s decision makers extended Medicaid to cover low-income adults (those making less than $16,000 annually for an individual or $20,780 for a family of three).
Despite several missed opportunities to address consumer health concerns during this year’s state legislative session, the FY2019 budget includes several impactful investments. Last week, Governor Nathan Deal traveled through Georgia and held budget signing ceremonies in Atlanta, Acworth, Blue Ridge, Statesboro, and Tifton for the $26 billion spending plan which will begin on July 1 of this year through June 30, 2019. The infusion of dollars into children’s mental health is especially noteworthy and exciting because of the impact it is expected to have across the state.
Governor Deal has recently made children’s behavioral health one of his top health care priorities and this year included in his proposed budget $20.6 million to fund recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on Children’s Mental Health. During its consideration of the state budget, he legislature ultimately increased the funding dedicated to these recommendations to $21.4 million.
These funded recommendations include behavioral health crisis services, supported employment and education for young adults with behavioral health needs, provider training and telehealth, and opioid abuse prevention for youth. Funding for suicide prevention will in part go towards expanding the capacity of GCAL, the Georgia Crisis and Access Line, which provides 24/7 online and telephone support for people who are seeking services for developmental disabilities, mental health, or substance use issues. Some of the additional funding is also dedicated to Project Apex, a school-based mental health program that improves early identification, access to and coordination of needed behavioral health (BH) services for children with BH needs..
In the coming months, we will break down the Commission’s funded priorities and their impact on young Georgians. Look for our Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies blog mini-series.
Looking for more information on this topic? Georgians for a Healthy Future will be hosting an educational forum later this month during which we will explore the behavioral health needs of Georgia children and youth, Georgia’s publicly-supported behavioral health landscape, and successes and opportunities in the current system of care. Join us in person or via webcast for this exciting and important event!
Travis suffered from a series of strokes when he was 11 years old that left him with several physical disabilities. He is one of the approximately 250,000 Georgians with disabilities to be covered by Medicaid.
Several years ago, Travis started volunteering with DisabilityLINK because he believes in the power of community and he likes being able to help others. Since then, he was hired as a Independent Living Specialist at the organization, where he connects people with disabilities to community-based resources and assists in coordinating various events at the DisabilityLINK office. He also works alongside other activists on issues such as housing, accessibility and self advocacy.
Travis recognizes that Medicaid is the reason he is able to financially support himself and work for an advocacy organization. Without the support Medicaid provides, Travis explains, he would not be able to help others the way he has been able to through his work at DisabilityLINK. When asked what he wanted others to know about him being able to receive affordable health insurance he replied, “With me working I am able to be a tax paying citizen.”
Medicaid is essential to ensuring that people with disabilities, like Travis, are able to lead fulfilling, independent lives as active participants in their communities. Georgia’s Medicaid program provides almost 2 million low-income children, people with disabilities, seniors, pregnant women, and very low-income parents with access to the health care services that they wouldn’t have otherwise.
Your story is powerful! Stories help to put a human face to health care issues in Georgia. When you share your story, you help others understand the issue, its impact on Georgia, and its importance.
Your health care story is valuable because the reader may be your neighbor, friend, someone in your congregation, or your legislator. It may inspire others to share their stories or to become advocates. It is an opportunity for individuals who receive Medicaid or fall into the coverage gap, 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.
Share your story here!
Georgians for a Healthy future partnered with Step Up Savannah to host a health advocacy training on Tuesday, April 3rd. Advocates learned how they could participate and lead health advocacy efforts in their own community and received information about pressing health advocacy issues in Georgia. Representatives from Healthy Savannah and the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council were also in attendance to share local resources.
The significance of Medicaid was highlighted throughout the event. Participants learned that Medicaid primarily covers low-income children, people with disabilities, seniors, and pregnant women, including 40,000 of Chatham County residents. Alyssa Green, GHF’s Outreach & Education Manager, discussed Georgia’s opportunity close the coverage gap so that 240,000 more Georgians would have access to health insurance coverage. Alyssa shared the story of a Georgia woman who works part-time at DisabilityLINK but is stuck in the coverage gap and, as a result, has trouble managing her high blood pressure.
GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert introduced ways that people can advocate for the health care issues that matter most to them, like increased access to healthcare, bringing down health care costs, and protecting the Medicaid program. She explained how to build a relationship with legislator, communicate support or opposition for significant bills, and other forms of advocacy.
The training concluded with presentations from the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council and Healthy Savannah. The two Savannah-based organizations provided participants with information and resources to promote and build a healthy local community.
If you are interested in hosting a training like this in your community, please contact Alyssa Green at email@example.com or 404-567-5016 x 2 for more information.
On February 15th, the Cover Georgia coalition, including Georgians for a Healthy Future, hosted Cover Georgia Day at the Capitol in order to ask state law makers to close Georgia’s coverage gap by extending health insurance to low-income Georgians.
The event began at Atlanta City Hall where GHF welcomed participants including advocates, nurses, medical students and community members. During the morning welcome Representatives Sam Park and Kim Schofield spoke to participants encouraging them to continue working to close Georgia’s coverage gap and Rep. Park shared a personal account of how Medicaid helped to save his mother’s life. Following that, GHF provided a short briefing about the need to close Georgia’s coverage gap and how to be an effective advocate.
At the end of the morning session, participants joined more than 100 advocates from the American Cancer Society at the Georgia Capitol where participants lobbied “on the ropes”. When speaking with their legislators, advocates emphasized the urgency of the issue and the need for every person in Georgia to have health care coverage. They also provided state lawmakers with a new tool called An Insurance Card for Every Georgian.
After talking with their legislators, advocates attended a large press conference in the South Rotunda featuring Neil Campbell of Georgia Council on Substance Abuse; Dr. Mitzi Rubin, a family physician and leader at the Georgia Association of Family Physicians; and Andy Freeman of the American Cancer Society. Ms. Campbell pointed out that providing more Georgians with health insurance is the most significant step our state could take towards addressing the opioid crisis. Dr. Rubin described how a lack of access to health insurance impacts her patients and their health. Mr. Freeman discussed the dual benefits of increasing Georgia’s tobacco tax: 1) reduced numbers of people smoking; 2) the increase in revenue from a tobacco tax would provide more than enough funding to pay for health insurance for low-income Georgians.
Cover Georgia Day was incredibly successful due to the partnership of Cover Georgia coalition partners, health care providers, and grassroots advocates, all of whom are committed to closing Georgia’s coverage gap. Thanks to all who participated.
If you missed Cover Georgia Day at the Capitol, it’s not too late to contact your state legislators to ask them to put a health insurance card in the wallet of every Georgian. Take action today!
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.
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:
- 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
- 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.
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 or avoid seasonal affective disorder with the Best SAD Lamps from SadLampsUSA. 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.)