Laura Colbert, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, said Monday that health care spending growth has been squeezing patients. “We hear from consumers that…
By Amanda Ptashkin
Just more than three months ago, the new federal health care law was signed by President Obama. Since that time, pundits and consumers across the country and here in Georgia have been racing to figure out how and when these reform measures will impact us. July 1, two pieces of reform went into effect, and as a result, more Georgians will have access to affordable and quality health care.
The first reform is a high-risk pool, known as the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP). For the first time, Georgians who have been without health insurance for the last six months and who have been denied coverage based on a medical condition will be eligible to enroll in the PCIP.
Guest Blog from the American Cancer Society
A new American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) poll of families affected by cancer shows that cancer patients, survivors and their families continue to struggle to afford health care and pay for other basic needs such as food and heat in the troubled economy. The findings suggest the need to implement the Affordable Care Act so that it benefits people with cancer.
By Jeff Cornett RN MSN
Director of Training, Research, & Advocacy
Hemophilia of Georgia
One of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, the new health insurance reform law, is the provision that allows young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Officially scheduled to be implemented on September 23, 2010, several insurers have put this benefit into effect early so that spring 2010 graduates can remain insured.
Georgia families covered by one of the largest insurers in our state have been surprised to find that this benefit is not available to them and won’t be unless Congress passes a law to make it so. These families are covered by TRICARE, the program that provides civilian health benefits for military personnel and their dependents. The Department of Defense controls all aspects of TRICARE and it is not affected by the Affordable Care Act. Therefore, military dependents will continue to be pushed out of TRICARE coverage at age 21 (or age 23 if they are full-time students). TRICARE maintains a webpage to explain this.
By Amanda Ptashkin
Two weeks ago, Georgians for a Healthy Future co-released a report with Families USA that quantified the number of Georgians who, absent health care reform, would be at risk of a denial of coverage based on their pre-existing health conditions. See our guest blog posting on Beyond the Tressle for more details about the findings of the report. However, this posting is not about the statistics–it is about the people behind them.
Guest Blog By Timothy Sweeney
Senior Healthcare Analyst for the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
Word comes today that the South Carolina Legislature has overridden a gubernatorial veto of a 50-cent increase in the state’s tobacco tax.
The Republican-controlled House and Senate found the two-thirds vote needed to pass the override, bringing South Carolina’s tax to 57-cents per pack and pushing Georgia’s 37-cent tax farther down in rankings – now 4th lowest tobacco tax in the nation and the lowest of any of our surrounding states. Even a state that prides itself on low taxes shouldn’t be proud of this ranking.
The 2010 Legislative Session is officially over in Georgia. We want to provide you a wrap-up of key pieces of health-related legislation and what they mean for Georgians across the state.
- HB 307 (which ultimately was attached to HB 1055) imposes a 1.45% bed tax on hospitals. It is estimated that HB 1055 will generate $300 million for the state.
- HB 317 (which was attached to HB 411) states that Georgians cannot be compelled to “participate in any health care system,” and that the purchase or sale of health insurance products and/or direct healthcare services could not be prohibited. This language is intended to exempt Georgians from the individual mandate to purchase health insurance that is included in the recently enacted national health reform law. Because federal law predominates, HB 317 is not expected to have much practical impact.
- HB 321 now brings Third Party Administrators under Georgia’s Prompt Pay statues, creating a more attractive practice environment for physicians within Georgia and creating more physician choice for Georgia’s consumers and effectively lowering costs through increased competition. The statute ensures that insurance providers pay medical claims within 15 to 18 working days.
- HB 866 permits state matching grants to organizations for doctors who move to rural areas. This legislation serves to enhance recruitment efforts in bringing physicians and specialists to underserved areas within the state thus allowing for greater health care options statewide.
- HB 1040 allows unlicensed caretakers to perform some home health care activities. This will enable trained, unlicensed care-partners or assistance personnel to provide some health maintenance activities under informed consent for people with disabilities and the written order of a physician, eliminating the ban on such services within the Nurse Practice Act and allowing or more affordable in-home health options.
- HB 1268 extends the 65% federal COBRA premium subsidy for people laid off by small firms.
- HB 1407 provides for a single administrator for dental services for Medicaid recipients and PeachCare for Kids participants thus effectively removing the administrative “middle man” in accessing dental care. Just Click here for more information.
- SB 316 will make Medigap policies available to Georgians who are living with a disability and receiving Medicare benefits, allowing for fewer chronically ill Georgians to be stuck within the Medicare donut hole or avoid other underpayment issues.
- SB 360 and HB 23 deal with cellular phone use while driving. The Senate bill bans texting by all drivers and the House bill bans class D drivers, mostly teenagers, from talking on their cell phones while on the road.
- SB 367 expands the list of persons who may consent to treatment on behalf of another and provides for medical consent guardians.
- SB 458 will require pickup drivers to join the rest of the state’s motorists in wearing seat belts. Pickups used on farms and other agricultural jobs are exempt.
- SR 277 asks voters to approve a $10 fee for license plates to fund trauma services.
Two bills that we closely monitored throughout the Legislative Session, SB 407 and HB 1184, ultimately did not pass. We had major concerns about the impact of these bills on Georgia’s consumers, as they would have circumvented essential health insurance benefit mandates and eroded consumer protections for health care consumers by authorizing out-of-state insurers to sell health insurance plans to Georgians.
One issue that we were following throughout the session, the tobacco tax increase, failed to make it through in the final hours of session. Despite being a win for public health, a win for tobacco prevention and a win for the state coffers, the tobacco tax was left behind for the year. Hopefully next year it will be back on the table for negotiation.
As for the budget:
On the 40th day of the session, the FY 2011 budget was adopted. The Medicaid and PeachCare programs were largely protected from cuts because the state is operating under maintenance of eligibility requirements tied to the enhanced rate of federal matching funds (FMAP) Georgia is receiving from the federal government as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. However, the state budget does include increases to PeachCare premiums. Outside the Medicaid and PeachCare programs, there were other health care budget cuts, including cuts to health department grant-in-aid, Babies Born Healthy prenatal care, and Area Health Education Centers. For a more detailed breakdown of the budget and its implications on health care, please see the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s reports.
Though the session is over, the hard work is far from over. Over the next couple of months Georgians for a Healthy Future will be monitoring the implementation of the new national health reform law to ensure that Georgia is prepared to meet the needs of its citizens. We will continue to keep you updated on issues that affect the health and welfare of all Georgians and we will look to you for support as we forge ahead.
The major overhaul of our health care system is now over a month old but it is now that the hard work really begins. Over the next few months and even years, groups like Georgians for a Healthy Future and others will be deciphering the most complex parts of the law and translating them in to real-time useful information for you and your family. While we’re doing that, we will try to provide you with a handful of resources that can help! Here’s the first installment of useful tools that will help you understand the massive change that our health care system is undergoing.
Guest Blog by Holly Lang, Georgia Watch
In a March ruling that could hold implications for all nonprofit hospitals, the Illinois Supreme Court stripped not-for-profit Provena Covenant Medical Center of its exemption from property tax, stating that the hospital did not provide enough charity care to justify that exemption.
A hospital earns its tax-exempt status through the benefits it provides to the community, the most of which being the free or reduced-cost care for those eligible for such assistance. Such care is deemed indigent or charity care.
Guest Blog By Timothy Sweeney
Senior Healthcare Analyst, GBPI
As we approach the final seven legislative days for 2010, there’s still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding both the schedule the General Assembly will set for themselves, as well as with the policy-related results of the session.
Still the most important task before the House and Senate – really the only thing the Legislature HAS to accomplish during the session – is the FY 2011 budget. Currently, House appropriations subcommittees are scheduled for April 12, which means we could see subcommittee budget recommendations next week and passage of the FY 2011 budget by the House later in the week.
We are now in the 28th day of the legislative session and as cross-over day approaches, things are heating under the gold dome. By midnight on Thursday, bills must clear their chamber of origin if they are to pass this term unless they are attached to another eligible measure. Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to monitor legislation that will impact the health and welfare of all Georgians and work towards providing access to affordable and quality health care.