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GHF legislative update: FEBRUARY 6

Legislative update: Week 4

The GHF team loves bringing you these weekly legislative updates, and you have told us that you enjoy reading them! Our team works hard to deliver this service to you in a complete and accurate way every week of Georgia’s legislative session. If you rely on these updates to keep you connected to the health happenings under the Gold Dome, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you very much!

In this week’s update:

  • New bill on network adequacy! 
  • Budget updates
  • New legislation on tobacco, vaping, and moving to a state-run ACA marketplace
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

ENSURING GEORGIANS ACCESS TO QUALITY HEALTH CARE!

The CATCH Act aims to protect Georgians from high health care costs

SB 20 has been introduced by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick and is titled the Consumer Access to Contracted Healthcare (CATCH) Act. The CATCH Act revises Georgia’s Surprise Billing legislation to set network adequacy standards for insurers and provides protections for when consumers are forced to go out of a health plan’s network of providers for care.

Network adequacy measures a health plan’s ability to deliver reasonable and timely access to the health care services needed by their members. This includes primary care, specialty, and mental health providers. In order for health plans to have adequate provider networks, they must have enough in-network providers and benefits to offer access to all medically necessary services within a reasonable time.

When health plans do not have adequate networks, they do not have a sufficient number of contracted health care providers. That forces members to wait or travel long distances for critical health care services. In many cases, they are forced to see out-of-network providers and pay more for their care. When consumers face these kinds of barriers, they may delay or skip necessary medical care.

The CATCH Act aims to address this issue by updating Georgia’s network adequacy standards. Georgia’s current standards are almost 30 years old and give health insurers a lot of flexibility. The CATCH Act would require insurers to meet specific requirements for network adequacy, including maximum wait times for appointments. The CATCH Act also creates a number of consumer protections for instances when health plans do not meet the new requirements and consumers are forced to go out of network for care. For example, insurers would have to cover out-of-network services at in-network prices when the plan does not have the needed type of provider available in-network.

The CATCH Act has been referred to the Senate Insurance Committee.

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GHF legislative update: January 30

Legislative update: Week 3

The GHF team loves bringing you these weekly legislative updates, and you have told us that you enjoy reading them! Our team works hard to deliver this service to you in a complete and accurate way every week of Georgia’s legislative session. If you rely on these updates to keep you connected to the health happenings under the Gold Dome, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you very much!

In this week’s update:

Image of the Georgia capitol
  • Governor Kemp’s State of the State address
  • Legislation GHF is keeping up with! 
  • The General Assembly 2023 calendar
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

GOVERNOR KEMP TALKS HEALTH CAREIN STATE OF THE STATE ADDRESS

Governor Kemp addresses legislators in the State of State address

On Wednesday, Governor Kemp addressed the General Assembly in his annual State of the State address. Per tradition, he used the opportunity to point to important items in his proposed budget and lay out his priorities for 2023. While much of the speech was focused on addressing crime and public safety, he did devote a portion to health care.

Towards the end of his address, Governor Kemp promoted his Pathways to Coverage program (aka “Pathways”), which is a partial Medicaid expansion. He confirmed that the program will begin July 1, 2023. Georgians between the age of 19-64 with incomes at or below the poverty level will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid if they meet stringent work and premium requirements. According to the Governor’s office, 345,000 Georgians could qualify for coverage under Pathways, but estimates by his own Department of Community Health say less than 90,000 people will gain coverage. 

Gov. Kemp also described the improvements that Georgia has seen in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace over the last several years. Since 2019, the number of Georgians enrolled in ACA coverage has more than doubled and the choice of insurance companies has expanded from four to ten. These successes are the result of several factors: the additional financial help approved by Congress in 2019 and 2022 to lower premiums for ACA consumers; the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2021 decision to uphold the ACA for the third time; insurers’ subsequent confidence that the ACA would remain the law of the land; and Georgia’s reinsurance program to lower premiums (and re-assure insurers) starting in 2022.

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GHF legislative update: January 23



LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: WEEK 2

The 2023 legislative session has begun

The Georgia General Assembly convened Monday, Jan. 9th to officially kick off the 40-day legislative session. 

The following day, as Georgians celebrated UGA’s national football championship win, GHF held Health Care Unscrambled 2023 and released our 2023-2024 policy priorities. Thank you to those who attended HCU! To revisit HCU 2023 or see what you missed, check out our recap and materials here.

The General Assembly reconvened Wednesday through Friday, completing the first four days of the session. Days 1-4 sped by quickly. Members were sworn in and legislative leaders hammered out the schedule for this year’s session which you can access here. (It’s rare–and very helpful!–for the full calendar to be set so early in session.)  Despite being new in their roles, Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and Speaker Burns wasted no time in putting their stamps on the Senate and House respectively as they re-shaped committees and re-assigned committee leaders. For more information about the new committees and committee leaders, scroll down to New Leaders, New Committees.

On Friday, January 13th, Governor Kemp released his proposals for the current state budget (FY 2023 Amended) and next year’s budget (FY 2024 General). We featured some highlights for you below.

Last week began with Martin Luther King Jr. Day and continued as “budget week”. House and Senate Appropriations Committee members held joint hearings during which state agency leaders presented their budget requests and reviewed agency spending. 

The General Assembly will reconvene today, Jan. 23rd for the fifth official day of legislative session. 

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Strategic goal  #4: Strengthening our public health system

In July 2022, GHF’s Board of Directors and staff launched our 2022-2026 strategic plan–an ambitious blueprint for our next four years as an organization. Guided by this living document, GHF will deepen our focus on health equity; champion community-led change; build a healthy, resilient organization; and lead advocacy to strengthen Georgia’s public health systems and workforce.

This is the final blog in a four-blog series from GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert spotlighting each of our new strategic goals. If you missed the previous blogs, you can read about our goals related to health equity, community-led change, and building a resilient organization on our blogs.

Strategic goal #4: Strengthen public health infrastructure in Georgia by advocating for increased state funding, workforce capacity, and effective action by public health agencies. 

(Don’t miss GHF’s Say “Yes” for Public Health petition to show your support for public health workers, programs, and agencies here in Georgia!)

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New federal fix expands the number of Georgia families who qualify for affordable health coverage

Thanks to a move by the Biden administration, 206,000 more Georgia families will qualify for financial help to purchase health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare). The “family glitch” has plagued working families whose jobs offer affordable coverage for the worker but not for their family members. With the new federal fix, the family glitch will no longer stand between Georgia’s working families and the affordable health coverage and care they deserve.

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Strategic goal #3: Building a resilient & equitable organization

In July, GHF’s Board of Directors and staff launched our new 2022-2026 strategic plan–an ambitious blueprint for our next four years as an organization. Guided by this living document, GHF will deepen our focus on health equity; champion community-led change; build a healthy, resilient organization; and lead advocacy to strengthen Georgia’s public health systems and workforce.

In a series of four blogs, GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert spotlights each of our new strategic goals. If you missed her first two blogs, you can read about our goals related to health equity here and community-led change here. 

Strategic Goal #3: The people and programs that make up GHF have the financial resources and supporting policies/practices to be sustainable and resilient in the face of change. 

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What the Health, Georgia?

GHF releases illustrated book to help state leaders understand the health and health care issues facing Georgians

​​Every person who calls Georgia home deserves to live healthy and thrive. While Georgia has made recent strides to improve the health of our residents, we haven’t yet reached that goal according to Georgians themselves and our state’s health data.

To help state and community leaders make effective and informed decisions about the health and well-being of Georgians, Georgians for a Healthy Future created the illustrated What the health, Georgia guide. This publication is intended to be a reference that decision makers can go back to again and again as they consider new health laws and policies and determine how to invest public funds in health care and public health.

Download a copy of What the Health, Georgia here! 

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Strategic goal #2: GHF as a champion of community-led change

In July, GHF’s Board of Directors and staff launched our new 2022-2026 strategic plan–an ambitious blueprint for our next four years as an organization. Guided by this living document, GHF will deepen our focus on health equity; champion community-led change; build a healthy, resilient organization; and lead advocacy to strengthen Georgia’s public health systems and workforce.

In a series of four blogs, GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert spotlights each of our new strategic goals. If you missed her first blog on GHF’s health equity goals, you can catch up here.

Strategic Goal #2: GHF meaningfully and consistently engages with communities and individuals in ways that amplify their voices and experiences to achieve policy change. 

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Strategic Goal #1: GHF as a health equity champion

Last month, GHF’s Board of Directors and staff launched our new 2022-2026 strategic plan–an ambitious blue print for our next four years as an organization. Guided by this living document, GHF will deepen our focus on health equity; champion community-led change; build a healthy, resilient organization; and lead advocacy to strengthen Georgia’s public health systems and workforce.

In a series of four blogs, GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert spotlights each of our new strategic goals. First up: health equity!

Strategic Goal #1: GHF is recognized as a leading statewide organization working to advance health equity.

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Community Benefit and Economic Stability (CBES) Project

Since 2021, Georgia WatchGeorgians for a Healthy Future (GHF), and SOWEGA Rising have worked to protect consumers in Southwest Georgia from unaffordable medical bills and debt through the Community Benefit and Economic Stability – Georgia (CBES-GA) project with support from leading health advocacy organization, Community Catalyst. Southwest Georgia experiences medical debt at a higher rate than the rest of Georgia and the country, particularly in communities of color. Southwest Georgia also has some of the highest insurance premiums in the country due primarily to the lack of competition among providers and insurers. This level of consolidation leaves consumers with little choice about where to seek care and incentivizes predatory medical billing practices. In Dougherty County, 25% of black residents have a medical bill in collections, compared to 21% in Georgia and 17% nationally (Urban Institute, 2020), creating significant barriers to care and trapping already cash-strapped Georgians into a cycle of poverty.  

“The medical debt burden disproportionately impacts black and brown people due to unfair and discriminatory barriers to health coverage and economic security, noted Sherrell Byrd, Executive Director of SOWEGA Rising. “Particularly in rural Georgia, you will see the highest rates of medical bills which drives up insurance costs, creating barriers to people who have to choose between paying bills and seeking necessary medical care.” 

Leveraging the policy expertise of Georgia Watch and GHF, as well as the local knowledge and community trust of SOWEGA Rising, the CBES-GA team has aimed to protect consumers in Southwest Georgia from unaffordable medical bills and debts so that all Georgians can afford the care they need. As this phase of the project winds down in the summer of 2022, we are reflecting upon all we have accomplished and how we will continue the work.

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GHF In The News

Feb 14, 2024
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