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Legislative Update January 19, 2016

The 2016 Legislative Session is underway! At GHF, we are working on issues that are important to Georgia’s health care consumers. As these issues come up during the legislative session, we will bring you weekly updates.

WHAT HAPPENED THIS WEEK
Improving Provider Directories

Georgians for a Healthy Future has identified provider directory accuracy and usability as important health care consumer issues. Without accurate information about which providers are in-network and accepting new patients, consumers face challenges selecting the health plan that best fits their needs. Provider directories are also an important tool when consumers go to access care: without accurate information, consumers risk ending up out-of-network or not being able to access the care they need. We expect to see legislation introduced in this area and we look forward to working with legislators on its passage.  As soon as we have a bill number, we’ll pass the information along to you. Be on the lookout for an action alert soon!

 

Network Adequacy 
Georgians for a Healthy Future supports updating Georgia’s network adequacy standards to ensure that consumers can access an in-network provider for all covered benefits in their plan. This past fall, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners updated its model act on network adequacy. Shortly thereafter, Georgia’s Consumer and Provider Protection Act Study Committee recommended a multi-stakeholder review of the model act to determine how Georgia should proceed on this important issue. While there hasn’t been any movement on network adequacy yet this legislative session, it’s an issue we’re closely watching. You can check out the network adequacy page on our website for background materials, videos, and news articles on network adequacy.

 

Surprise Out-of-Network Billing 
Sometimes consumers end up with out-of-network bills despite making the effort to stay in network or because inadequate provider networks require them to go out of network to get the care that they need. These surprise bills can be hazardous to consumers’ finances. Here’s a fact sheet from Consumers Union on this issue.
In both the House and Senate we are hearing strong interest in addressing surprise out-of-network billing. It is probable that we will soon see a bill that addresses this issue and we will keep you updated with any such developments.

 

Closing Georgia’s Coverage Gap
Last week’s Health Care Unscrambled featured a bipartisan legislative panel. Senators Greg Kirk and Emanuel Jones and Representatives Lee Hawkins and Debbie Buckner addressed the coverage gap at length. While they all agreed that there were too many Georgians without access to care, they differed on how to cover those people. You can read Georgia Health News’s coverage of the panel here.
Additionally, House democrats dropped a bill to close the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid. You can read about that here.

 

Governor Deal Proposes a Budget
This week, Governor Deal released his budget proposal for the 2016 legislative session. This budget will take effect in July 2016 and run through the end of June 2017. We are just beginning to parse through the budget but we have already identified two items to watch:
  • In the FY 2016 budget, the legislature included $23 million for partialMedicaid payment parity, with the understanding that full parity may be achievable over the next several budget years. The Governor’s budget maintains last year’s partial parity, but does not add any more funding. We will encourage the legislature to increase the funding for payment parity as they make their budget changes.
  • Under the proposed budget, monthly insurance premiums for non-certified public school personnel (like bus drivers, cafeteria workers, etc.) will increase in January 2017. You can read more about these changes here.

 

Responding to the State of the State
Cindy_01GHF’s Executive Director, Cindy Zeldin responds to Governor Deal’s State of the State.
“Individuals, families, and communities are stronger and healthier when people have coverage. The decline in our state’s uninsured rate has had positive benefits not only for the people who have gained coverage but also for our local health systems, communities, and the economy. Yet there are still a large number of Georgians who are stuck in a coverage gap because we haven’t expanded Medicaid. While policymakers have an important responsibility to look at costs, it is also important to look at what we are getting as a state for our investments. The overwhelming evidence we are seeing from other states shows that expanding Medicaid is a sound investment: it improves access to care for the people who gain coverage, strengthens local health systems, and bolsters the economy. We hope that our state leaders will look comprehensively at this important issue and consider steps this Legislative Session to close the coverage gap here in Georgia.”

Introducing CHAT: Consumer Health Advocacy Today
Throughout the legislative session, GHF will be filming legislators and advocates at the Gold Dome to bring you a window into the Georgia legislative session. We kicked the video series off with interviews from some of our speakers from Health Care Unscrambled. Check them out below!

 

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Senator Greg Kirk on his health priority for the legislative session: keeping rural hospitals open.

 

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Representative Lee Hawkins’s thinks consumer health literacy is the most important issue for Georgia health care consumers.
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Representative Debbie Buckner on her health priorities this session. The top of her list? Medicaid expansion.
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Lynn Quincy from Consumer’s Union spoke at our second panel: What’s Next? Emerging Issues from Health Advocates. Her focus? Health value.

Looking for a full list of bills relating to consumer health care?  
GHF is monitoring legislative activity that could impact Georgia consumers. We are tracking bills as they move through the legislative process. Stay updated with our legislative tracker here.

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