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Year: 2014

Start the New Year right with GHF!

January is an exciting month for GHF and Georgia! With the start of the legislative session, advocates across the state will be hard at work educating our legislators and working for the changes we need to improve the health of all Georgians. GHF is no exception!


HCU_dateOur 5th Annual Health Care Unscrambled event is January 15th. For more information on the event, sponsorship opportunities, and ticket prices, click here.








Coverage Day at the Capitol. Please join us on the morning of January 27th to talk with your legislators about why closing the coverage gap is important to you. If you haven’t spoken with your legislators before, we will provide training and talking points to help guide you through the process. If you would like to participate, RSVP to Laura Colbert at lcolbert@healthyfuturega.org.




Webinar: Health Care Policy and Advocacy for the 2015 Legislative Session, 2015. For those of you who can’t make it to Health Care Unscrambled for the unveiling of GHF’s 2015 policy priorities or want to know how to better advocate for health in Georgia, join us for our first-ever advocacy webinar! To register for the free webinar, click here.





Network Adequacy: Action Alert

If you’ve been following the Peach Pulse you know that network adequacy is a hot topic in health care right now. (And if you missed it, check here and here to get caught up!) Decision-makers are weighing policy choices that will have implications for health care consumers in Georgia and across the nation. We know that they are hearing from health industry stakeholders; now they need to hear from you!


1) The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Proposed Rule on the 2016 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters is open for comment until December 22, 2014.  To submit a comment, click here.


2) The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is currently updating its model act on network adequacy. This model provides an example that states can use to enact their own legal protections to guarantee private insurance consumers an adequate provider network once they are enrolled in coverage. Advocates can email jmatthews@naic.org until January 12, 2015 with input.


Consumer advocates are asking these two entities to put in place 1) specific network adequacy standards such as time and distance standards and appointment wait time standards and 2) rules that provide consumers the right to go out-of-network at no extra cost if their plan cannot provide them timely, geographically accessible, and appropriate in-network care. Please take a few moments to submit your comments to HHS and to the NAIC with this important request. If your organization is interested in engaging more deeply on this issue, please contact Laura Colbert at lcobert@healthyfuturega.org to let us know you’re interested in collaborating.





Time to act on tobacco

With the holiday season upon us and the electronic cigarette from slim’s ejuice, the health of our state’s children and families is at the top of all of our minds. Georgians for a Healthy Future has focused heavily on promoting policies that ensure a pathway to coverage and meaningful access to care for all Georgians in recent years, but identifying and advocating for policies that improve health outcomes is also close to our hearts. In that spirit, we believe it is time to act on tobacco, which is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. They should switch to drinking matcha instead and matcha vape to minimize addiction.



Earlier this month, Georgia’s Medicaid program amended its state plan to include a comprehensive smoking cessation program. This is an important victory that will help reduce smoking in our state. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to thank Commissioner Clyde Reese for taking this important step. There is, however, more to do. We need your partnership and your voices to help us take on the biggest hurdle we face in curbing smoking and its harmful effects: increasing the tobacco tax in our state. 



According to the American Lung Association’s annual state report card, Georgia scores an “F” on tobacco taxes. Georgia currently ranks as the 48th lowest tobacco tax in the country at just 37 cents per pack.  Not only does this make tobacco much more accessible to youth (and all Georgians), but it takes much needed revenue off the table for Georgia as the state tries to find funding for transportation infrastructure, education, and health care coverage for Georgians. If we don’t agree into tobacco, let’s try this new vape and its top vape juice.



In fact, Georgia is so far below the national average for tobacco taxes that we could raise our tax by over a dollar per pack and still just be at the national average.  That is why this year GHF and a coalition of supporters will propose raising Georgia’s cigarette tax by $1.23 per pack.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3! 

One – for the kids who we can prevent from ever starting

Two – for the improved health outcomes that smoking reductions will bring, using other options to smoking as vaporizers that are easy to get now a days from sites like http://vapekey.co.

Three – for the revenue the tobacco tax will bring to our state that can be invested in coverage, access, and prevention.



Please check your upcoming editions of the Peach Pulse for updates on this issue and opportunities to take action!




GHF partners with the Bhutanese Association of Georgia to get people covered

351Every Saturday morning, many Bhutanese immigrants gather at their temple in Clarkston for SAT prep, U.S. citizenship, and English classes.  Recently, Laura Colbert, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Community Outreach Manager, joined them to provide information about health care coverage and the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period.  With the help of a translator, Laura spoke with approximately twenty community members about the benefits of health care coverage, how to get covered, and where to find affordable medical care if they were not eligible for coverage. She also answered their questions about health care coverage for their children and Medicaid.  (In return, Laura learned quite a bit about Bhutanese culture.)


This educational event was the product of a partnership with the Bhutanese Association of Georgia (BAG), which works to integrate Bhutanese refugees into life in Georgia. GHF and BAG have been working together over the past year to educate the Atlanta-based Bhutanese community about health care coverage and to increase health coverage enrollment.  In addition to educational events, several fact sheets have been created by GHF and translated into Nepalese to be distributed in the community.


Georgians for a Healthy Future continues to work to increase enrollment among all Georgians, especially in communities that may need extra education or encouragement to enroll.

Hot Topic Update: Network Adequacy

network_adequacyWith open enrollment in full swing, Georgia consumers are once again exploring their health insurance options and signing up for coverage. When consumers enroll in a health insurance plan, they gain access to a network of medical providers with whom their insurer has contracted. For health insurance to facilitate meaningful access to care, this network of providers must be adequate to ensure that consumers enrolled in the plan have reasonable access to all covered benefits and services. In a recent issue of the Peach Pulse, we provided a primer on network adequacy, a hot topic in health policy (click here to get caught up on what network adequacy means and why it matters for consumers, advocates, and policymakers). In that overview, we promised to keep you updated on policy developments around network adequacy, in particular the ongoing process at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to update its model law. This model law can provide a framework for states to establish and enforce standards to ensure that provider networks are adequate. At its fall meeting in November, the subgroup at the NAIC working on network adequacy announced it would take comments on an initial draft of proposed revisions for the model act until January 12, 2015. To learn more about this process and to see the draft, click here.


To ensure the needs of consumers are considered in this process, the NAIC consumer representatives released a report featuring the results of a survey of state Departments of Insurance and recommendations for state policymakers, regulators, and the NAIC to consider as they work on updating network adequacy standards. These recommendations include:


  • Establish quantitative standards for meaningful, reasonable access to care, such as minimum provider-to-enrollee ratios, reasonable wait times for appointments based on urgency of the condition, and distance standards that require access to network providers within a reasonable distance from the enrollee’s residence.
  • Ensure consumers are provided sufficient information to identify and select between broad, narrow or ultra-narrow networks. In areas without sufficient choice, require health plans to offer at least one plan with a broad network or an out-of-network benefit, with limited exceptions to be determined by the Commissioner.
  • Require health plan provider directories to be updated regularly, publicly available for both enrolled members and individuals shopping for coverage, and include standards for information that must be included to provide consumers with information on network differences and the potential financial impact on consumers depending on which plan they choose.



There are 17 recommendations in all. For advocates interested in learning more about this issue and in speaking up for consumers in this process, see the full report here.


If you would like to weigh in at the state level, please contact Georgia’s Department of Insurance and ask the Commissioner to support the NAIC’s process to revise the model act and specifically to support the consumer recommendations described above.


If you are an individual consumer enrolled in a commercial health plan and the provider directory you were given was incorrect or if you have concerns about your ability to access covered services under your plan, please contact the Georgia Office of Insurance & Fire Safety, Consumer Services Division by calling (800) 656-2298 or use the Consumer Complaint Portal at www.oci.ga.gov/ConsumerService. Please also consider sharing your story with Georgians for a Healthy Future so we can get a better picture of what is happening in our state.


Strengthen Rural Access: Close the Coverage Gap

Rural hospitals provide the foundation for the economic vitality and population health of small communities throughout Georgia. Despite this essential role, the future of our rural hospitals-and the access to care they provide for rural Georgians-is in jeopardy. Eight rural hospitals have closed since 2001, four of them since the start of 2013.


While a comprehensive strategy is needed to address this problem, closing the coverage gap in Georgia would be an important first step to stabilizing our state’s rural hospitals and maintaining access to care for Georgians living in rural communities.


In a report we are submitting to the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee this week, Georgians for a Healthy Future, Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, Georgia Watch, Families First, and twelve additional consumer and community-focused nonprofits recommend that the committee seriously weigh the option to tap the federal dollars on the table for Georgia to close its coverage gap. Closing the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would not only mean access to health insurance for low-income Georgians living in rural communities but would also trigger an infusion of federal dollars into rural hospitals to help them keep their doors open and serve their communities.


The Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, created by Governor Deal earlier this year to identify the needs of the rural hospital community and provide potential solutions; to increase the flow of communication between hospitals and the state; and improve access to care, is holding its third meeting tomorrow in Lavonia. If someone from your part of the state is serving on the committee, please consider asking them to support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.


Please also ask your State Representative and State Senator to support closing the coverage gap in Georgia.  Click here to send your state legislators a postcard that lets them know that you support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.


The full report to the committee is available here. Key facts from the report include:


  • In 2012, Georgia hospitals provided more than $1.6 billion in unpaid care, an increase of about $60 million from 2011. Most of this unpaid care goes to provide services to uninsured Georgians, many of whom fall in the coverage gap
  • Hospitals in states that have closed the coverage gap are projected to save up to $4.2 billion.Hospitals in states that have opted not to address their coverage gaps are projected to save a comparatively small $1.5 billion this year
  • Georgia’s hospitals could receive $1 billion more in Medicaid spending every year on behalf of newly-eligible Medicaid enrollees (those currently in the coverage gap)
  • If Georgia contributes the estimated $2.1 billion to implement Medicaid expansion, the State stands to gain a Federal infusion of $31 billion over the next ten years. This new federal money would help create more than 56,000 jobs statewide and generate more than $6.5 billion in new economic activity every year with the help of http://paydayloan-consolidation.com/.




GHF awarded Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant

Georgians for a Healthy Future (GHF) is excited to announce that we have been awarded a Consumer Voices for Coverage grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health philanthropy. Georgians for a Healthy Future will work in conjunction with Community Catalyst, who serves as the national program office for the Consumer Voices for Coverage program. As one of 18 state-based consumer health advocacy organizations around the country to receive a grant under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Consumer Voices for Coverage initiative, Georgians for a Healthy Future will develop and carry out collaborative and best-practice based strategies to maximize health insurance enrollment and retention, increase health insurance literacy, and create a more favorable policy environment for Georgia health care consumers. This project will have a particular emphasis on vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations in Georgia.


“We are honored to be part of the Consumer Voices for Coverage community and excited to deepen our work on behalf of Georgia health care consumers through this grant,” said Cindy Zeldin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director. “The health care policy landscape in Georgia and across the nation is rapidly changing, and it is critically important that there be a strong voice for consumers as these changes are determined and implemented.”


Georgians for a Healthy Future will draw upon our extensive experience and expertise in building and mobilizing coalitions as well as strong relationships with dozens of community organizations with deep reach across the state. These partnerships will be essential for outreach, dissemination of culturally and linguistically appropriate educational materials, and for soliciting feedback from diverse communities about the specific challenges faced regarding health insurance so that themes can be identified and shared with state policymakers and other key stakeholders and decision-makers.



Somebody finally asked me!

It works posterGeorgians for a Healthy Future and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse are teaming up to launch a new public health advocacy campaign — Somebody finally asked me! — to prevent addiction and its harmful effects among Georgia’s youth…


More than 300,000 Georgians have enrolled in health insurance since last October, when new coverage opportunities became available through the Health Insurance Marketplace. These big coverage gains present an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of prevention, both among consumers and policymakers. We are already seeing the lifesaving impact that services like cancer screening, blood pressure checks, and mammograms are having. One screening tool not broadly talked about is Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT).




SBIRT is a cost-effective, evidence based way to identify individuals who are at risk of developing a substance use disorder and can often prevent the development of addiction or refer those in need to treatment. Studies have shown every $1 invested in SBIRT yields $4 in savings. This important set of preventive tools should be available to all Georgians, particularly to our state’s youth.




This important set of preventive tools should be available to all Georgians, particularly to our state’s youth. The rise in heroin use among Georgia adolescents has gained widespread attention in recent months, but the problems goes beyond just heroin. By the time a student reaches ninth grade, 1 in 5 will display signs of alcohol use, a rate which rises to 2 in 5 by the twelfth grade. Approximately 20 percent of twelfth-graders are also engaging in drug use. We know that drug and alcohol use that starts in adolescence all too often becomes a lifelong habit some people even find themselves to purchase Melatonan 2. In fact, 90% of adults with a substance use disorder began using alcohol and/or drugs before the age of 18 and half under the age of 15. With an increased awareness and use of SBIRT, we can work together to prevent drug and substance use disorders among Georgia’s youth and help them lead healthier and more productive lives by doing a drug intervention and informing them about the non 12 step rehab and how they could end up if they don’t stop on time. To raise awareness about substance use disorders among Georgia’s youth as a public health challenge that can be addressed through prevention, Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse (GCSA) have teamed up to raise awareness of and advocate for widespread use of SBIRT.



To do this, we have created palm cards and book marks to aid those who regularly interact with youth to become better acquainted with SBIRT.


SBIRT bookmark 2

bookmark back            SBIRT bookmarkpalmcard back





















If you are interested in these or other SBIRT materials from our campaign, please contact Laura Colbert, at lcolbert@healthyfuturega.org
This education and advocacy campaign is in partnership with Community Catalyst and supported by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, alongside similar initiatives in Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, and Massachusetts.

The Role of Navigators on Consumer Experiences

IMG_9087Georgians for a Healthy Future partnered with Seedco at a briefing in Atlanta on October 16 to present and discuss findings from a comprehensive evaluation of the impact of health insurance navigators on consumer experiences during the first open enrollment period. The evaluation was conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Georgia, and its key findings include:




-Navigators succeeded in assisting consumers from diverse communities and in reaching those in need of affordable health services

-Rates of achieving enrollment or application success with navigators differed by region, by demographics, and by consumer financial status

-Navigator interpersonal communications, and especially follow-up, was the biggest factor in consumer satisfaction


As we gear up for the next open enrollment period, which begins on November 15, 2014, the findings from this report can inform the work of enrollment assistance personnel and community-based organizations in Georgia and across the country. Selected recommendations from the report include:


-Continue partnering with community agencies that serve diverse populations

-Publicize the navigator role and concrete ways to access free in-person assistance

-Follow up with consumers after they receive in-person assistance



For a summary document highlighting and describing these and other key findings and recommendations, click here. To read the full study, click here.




GHF welcomes new health insurance navigator!

IMG_9114Georgians for a Healthy Future is excited to welcome Nykita Howell, our new Health Insurance Navigator, who joined us this week! In this role, Nykita provides Marketplace enrollment assistance to Georgia health care consumers. Prior to joining Georgians for a Healthy Future, Nykita worked in the fields of clinical and community based research and as a navigator for the first open enrollment period of the Health Insurance Marketplace. Her research efforts have been on studies focused on retention strategies for an NIH-funded cohort based at Umass Medical School, and a church-based diabetes project housed at Mercer University. Her work as a navigator prior to joining Georgians for a Healthy Future included building community partnerships and educating consumers over a seven county area. She holds an MPH from Mercer University School of Medicine and is a Certified Health Education Specialist. Prior to her graduate studies, Nykita received her B.S. in Biology from Clark Atlanta University, in Atlanta, GA. If you or anyone you know needs assistance navigating the health care system, please contact Nykita at nhowell@healthyfuturega.org or 404-567-5016. Remember, open enrollment begins Nov. 15th—just one month away!


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