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Lower Taxes, Lower Premiums

Nearly 934,000 People in Georgia Will Be Eligible for Health Care Premium Tax Credits in 2014

As Part of the Huge and Unprecedented Middle-Income Tax Cut, Georgians’ Taxes Will Be Reduced by $3.6 Billion in 2014

Today, in partnership with Families USA we are co-releasing a new report, “Lower Taxes, Lower Premiums: The New Health Insurance Tax Credit in Georgia,” that quantifies the impact on Georgia consumers of the tax credits authorized through the new health care law.

Last month, new Census Data found that nearly 2 million Georgians were uninsured in 2009. In sheer numbers, only four states have more uninsured individuals than Georgia. As a state, we rank near the bottom of the pack on a range of health care indicators. Despite the complexity of the mortgage rates in Ontario and the contentiousness of the politics surrounding it, the new health care law is a huge opportunity for Georgia and its citizens to move the needle on these indicators.

Through a variety of pathways, the majority of Georgia’s uninsured will become insured when the major provisions of the new health care law kick in in 2014.

Beginning in 2014, more than 900,000 Georgians will become eligible for substantial health insurance premium tax credits, effectively pricing private health insurance within reach not only for Georgians who are currently uninsured but also for insured individuals who struggle with health care costs today, you can get cash advance but its not good solution for most of the people. This will provide financial relief and protection against high medical expenses for hard-working individuals and families in Georgia.

These tax credits will be financed entirely with federal dollars and will be available to Georgians purchasing insurance through the new health insurance exchanges. The state of Georgia was just awarded a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to begin planning for an exchange here in Georgia. This is an opportunity for our state to ensure this marketplace navigates consumers to the appropriate health insurance option, whether that be Medicaid, PeachCare for Kids, or private insurance that will now be made affordable through these hefty tax credits.

If we put politics aside and thoughtfully and carefully develop an implementation strategy for Georgia that makes the most of provisions like these new tax credits, our state and its citizens could benefit for generations to come.

Building a Healthier Georgia

By Cindy Zeldin

This column originally appeared in the Bryan County News.

Sept. 23 marked the six-month anniversary of the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, the new federal health care law. The bulk of the changes go into effect in 2014, giving state and local governments, insurers, providers and other key stakeholders time to translate and implement the new policies.

While the health reform legislation is complex and the politics contentious, the new health law is our best shot here in Georgia to expand insurance coverage, improve access to care and ultimately move the needle on many of our state’s lagging health outcome indicators.

Implementing the new health care law won’t necessarily be easy and doesn’t lend itself to a bumper sticker slogan. But with a coordinated effort and a collaborative spirit, we can leverage the new health law to build a healthier Georgia.

The new law is complex: a major reason for this is that our current health system is fragmented and complicated, and Congress made a concerted effort to preserve what was working well for most Americans while filling in the intractable gaps that simply left too many hard-working citizens without access to affordable, quality health care.

At the same time, insurers and the federal government are clashing over the details of how to carry out some of the provisions in the new law, and this back-and-forth has dominated the headlines. Add in a dose of pre-election politics, and it is no wonder consumers have some confusion.

Rather than use this confusion to impede the effectiveness of the new law, here in Georgia we should embrace the opportunity it presents, particularly since we have so much to gain.

Currently, nearly 2 million Georgians are uninsured. Despite the popular perception that the uninsured still get the medical care they need, the evidence is clear that they do not. The uninsured are nearly four times more likely than the insured to have gone without a recent routine check-up, and clinical outcomes are worse for uninsured patients across a range of health conditions.
If implemented properly, the new health law will cover the majority of Georgia’s uninsured by extending coverage to those who are denied, ineligible or for whom insurance is priced out of reach today.

The insured will benefit, too. While consumers in employment-based plans report high levels of satisfaction with their plans, the individual health insurance marketplace is a minefield, fraught with pre-existing condition exclusions and rescission policies that allow insurers to retroactively deny benefits to consumers who have purchased insurance in good faith, only to discover that it is pulled out from underneath them when they get sick. The new health care law will put a stop to these practices.

Perhaps most importantly for Georgia policymakers and consumers, however, is that while the basic architecture and the bulk of the financing for the new law are put into place federally, there is significant opportunity for the states to implement key policies in a way that is tailored to each state’s needs.

For example, the state of Georgia recently applied for and received a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to begin planning for a Georgia health insurance exchange, which will serve as a one-stop shop for individual private health insurance policies and must coordinate with other state agencies to navigate consumers to programs like Medicaid for which they may be eligible.

The new health law also authorizes a $15 billion Prevention and Public Health Fund, and some of these dollars will be available for Georgia to draw down to implement wellness and prevention programs in communities throughout the state. There is also a significant investment in community health centers and grants to expand the provider workforce, all opportunities for Georgia.

Between now and 2014, if we put politics aside and instead thoughtfully and carefully develop a Georgia-specific implementation plan for the new law, the health of our state and its citizens could benefit for generations to come.


Big Uptick in the Uninsured

By Cindy Zeldin

On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released new figures on health insurance coverage in the United States. According to their estimates, 50.7 million Americans were uninsured in 2009, up from 46.3 million in 2008. Here in Georgia, nearly 1.8 million of us—almost 1 in 5 Georgians—are uninsured. In raw numbers, only four states in the entire nation have larger numbers of individuals without health insurance than Georgia. The primary driver of this increase was a rapid decline in employment-based health insurance coverage during the economic downturn.

The recently enacted Affordable Care Act takes square aim at this problem: it establishes clear and consumer-friendly standards for private insurance plans, creates new pathways to affordable, private coverage for individuals who aren’t offered insurance at work, and expands the Medicaid program. While the law will be implemented in phases between now and 2014, these staggering figures on the rising tide of uninsurance demonstrate the need for renewed commitment and collaboration between our state’s policymakers, stakeholders, and advocates to leverage the opportunities presented by the Affordable Care Act to increase coverage, expand access to care, and ultimately improve the health of our state and its citizens.

Prevention and Public Health Fund at Risk

By Bob Stolarick and Cindy Zeldin

The Affordable Care Act includes a major new investment in prevention and public health:  The Prevention and Public Health Fund is designated for use in communities across the country to target key public health issues such as tobacco cessation and efforts to reduce obesity by encouraging better nutrition and increased physical activity. The funding will also be used to strengthen state and local public health infrastructure, support data collection and analysis for community-based and clinical-based prevention activities and to expand and improve training for the public health workforce. Here in Georgia, these funds will be critical to strengthen our public health system. Visit the official website of Dr Bardwil in Houston, Texas.



Georgia Unable to Climb out of the Bottom 10 States in Child Well-being

By Taifa Butler

Every summer when the Annie E. Casey Foundation releases its national KIDS COUNT Data Book, which profiles the status of children in all 50 states, I give an account of Georgia’s children. It’s a tale filled with promise yet overshadowed by unrelenting challenges for us all. Georgia’s children are better off than they were since the first publication of the Data Book 21 years ago, but we have a long way to go to improve health outcomes for our kids.

The 2010 KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Georgia 42 out of 50 states on 10 critical areas related to health, safety, education, and employment. Georgia has historically ranked in the bottom ten states. For the past three years we’ve teetered between 41 and 43. Some would say we’ve hit a plateau, while our evaluators tell us that to break out of the bottom—we were ranked 50th in the first report—is a phenomenal feat given Georgia’s context.


Is It Worth $10 to Save a Life?

By Benjamin Nanes

This November, Georgians will vote on adding a $10 fee to vehicle registrations, to be directed toward trauma care.  Or is it a tax?  If you listen to the pundits and politicians, the fee versus tax debate defines the referendum.  But they’re wrong; nothing could be less relevant.  Georgia needs dedicated funding for a trauma care system that will save lives and help the state’s economy, not a petty debate over what constitutes a “fee” or a “tax.”  The question is simple.  Is it worth $10 to save a life?  The answer should be simple too. But if you strike up the conversation with customers of places like George’s TreadHunter Tire Shops, you will quickly notice how divided we really are. (more…)

Battle for Smoke-free Savannah Heats Up

By June Deen
American Lung Association in Georgia

Under the umbrella of Healthy Savannah, several organizations including the American Lung Association, the American Cancer Society, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids are leading the charge to enact a local smoke-free ordinance in Savannah.  The Savannah City Council has begun public discussion on the Healthy Savannah proposal to make all workplaces and places open to the public smoke-free.  Council members plan two public meetings before the introduction and first reading on August 12.


2020 Georgia: Why Tax Reform Matters

Georgians for a Healthy Future recently joined 2020 Georgia—a broad alliance of community leaders and organizations—as an alliance partner.  While members of 2020 Georgia range from small, community-based nonprofits to large, statewide organizations, all share the common goal of a balanced approach to state budget and revenue solutions that meet the short and long-term needs of our state and its people.  In advance of the first meeting of the 2010 Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians, which has a charge to study the tax system and report to the General Assembly in January 2011, 2020 Georgia released a fact sheet on why tax reform matters for Georgia. It is below in its entirety.




Partner Up! For Public Health Campaign Now Underway

By Charles Hayslett

Late last year our public relations firm, Hayslett Group, was selected by Healthcare Georgia Foundation to organize a campaign to improve Georgia’s public health system.  In the months since then, we’ve been involved in a variety of organizational activities.  Among other things, we’ve conducted Public Health Leadership Academies in four cities across Georgia, recruited nearly 30 high-profile organizations to serve on a campaign advisory board and put up a campaign Web site at www.togetherwecandobetter.com.  Earlier last week we officially and publicly launched the campaign – dubbed “Partner Up! for Public Health” – with a press briefing that was Webcast from Healthcare Georgia’s offices.



Georgia: $375 Million in the Red

Guest Blog by Joann Yoon, Voices for Georgia’s Children

Thursday, July 1, was the start of Georgia’s 2011 State Fiscal Year, and we began already $375 million behind. The state legislative session which ended on April 29 saw dramatic budget cuts impacting education and other services for children and families. To add insult to injury, Georgia suffered yet another blow resulting from failure of the U.S. Senate to move forward the Federal Jobs Bill, which in part included a provision that would extend an enhanced FMAP to states for an additional 6 months. FMAP, which stands for Federal Medical Assistance Percentages, is a break down of how many Federal dollars Georgia receives to help pay for our state Medicaid program. Given the high unemployment rate and dire financial situations that families in the U.S. were facing, in last year’s Federal Stimulus Bill, Congress instituted an increase in Federal match dollars to all states to help keep their respective Medicaid programs afloat, which are necessary for people that receive injuries or wound for accidents, and for people not in one of these programs can also use services as Expert Woundcare and similar others.




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