Contact your House member, Health care waivers, 2019 Health Advocates Guide

Happening now: Cover Georgia Day at the Capitol

Tell your elected officials to take action today!

Cover Georgia Day at the Capitol is happening now! Health advocates are at the state Capitol today speaking with legislators about the need to build a pathway to health insurance coverage for all Georgians. We need you to raise your voice with them!

Advocates will be speaking to their state representatives about SB 106, the Patients First Act, which passed the Senate earlier this week. This legislation, as written, falls short of the promise to put a health insurance card in the pockets of all Georgians because it leaves out thousands who would be covered under a full Medicaid expansion (or a similar 1115 waiver) and will likely cost the state more to cover fewer people. Additionally, the bill allows the Governor to make potentially seismic changes to private health insurance in Georgia through 1332 waivers with little accountability. The good news is that it’s not too late for House members to make a few changes that would allow this legislation to benefit more Georgians at a lower cost to the state.

Your state representatives need to hear from you today! Call or send an email to your elected officials today and encourage them to get the best deal that will ensure all Georgians have coverage!


 

New releases!

New fact sheets put waivers in context

On Tuesday, the Senate passed SB 106, the Patients First Act. The bill allows Georgia’s Governor to pursue two kinds of health care waivers that could make significant changes to health coverage for Georgia consumers: an 1115 Medicaid waiver and 1332 State Innovation waivers. GHF’s partner, Georgia Watch, together with other Cover Georgia coalition partners, has released a fact sheet to help you understand 1115 waivers and how they relate to Georgia’s current debate about Medicaid expansion. Additionally, GHF released a sister fact sheet to help you understand 1332 waivers and how they may impact private health insurance plans in Georgia. Download both today!

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Updated for 2019: A Consumer Health Advocates Guide to the Georgia Legislative Session

GHF’s annual Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide is your map for navigating the Georgia legislative session. This annual booklet provides information about Georgia’s legislative process, legislators, and committees, key agency officials, advocate contacts, and more. Experienced advocates and new volunteers will find their way around Georgia’s Capitol more easily with the information provided in this year’s guide.

(Interested in a hard copy? Contact Michelle Conde.)


Medicaid helps seniors too

Maintaining independence for seniors

Charlie Ellison is 87 years old and a long time resident of Dalton, Georgia. Charlie is one of over half a million seniors and people with disabilities in Georgia who depend on Medicaid and Medicare to live with dignity in their communities. Charlie’s Medicaid coverage allows him to visit RossWoods Adult Day Services each day and reduces the costs of his medications so that he remains as healthy and independent as possible. For 168,000 seniors like Charlie who typically rely on low, fixed incomes, Medicaid makes the difference. Read more of Charlie’s story and see how sharing your story can make an impact!


GHF in the news

Momentum builds to seek waiver to cover more Georgians under Medicaid
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | February 5, 2019


What is Certificate of Need? Explaining a Likely Health Care Fight at the Gold Dome
WABE | February 5, 2019


Kemp to seek Medicaid, Obamacare waivers for Georgia
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | February 8, 2019


What’s in the funding deal for health care
Politico Pulse | February 14, 2019


Lawmakers, Advocates Skeptical of Kemp’s Medicaid Waiver Plan
WABE | February 15, 2019


Senate panel backs waiver bill to insure more Georgians
Gwinnett Daily Post | February 20, 2019


Georgia Senate committee approves Medicaid waiver proposal
Athens Banner-Herald | February 20, 2019


Health care waiver bill passes out of committee. Here’s what it could mean for your family
The Georgia Sun | February 20, 2019


Georgia Senate committee approves Gov. Kemp’s Medicaid waiver proposal
FOX 5 Atlanta | February 20, 2019


Under the Gold Dome, lobbyists are sparring over your health care costs
The Georgia Sun | February 22, 2019


Stalemate or solution? Legislative fight over surprise billing renewed
Georgia Health News | February 22, 2019


Georgia legislative fight over surprise billing renewed
Athens Banner-Herald | February 25, 2019


Surprise hospital bills under review
Statesboro Herald | February 25, 2019

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Peach Pulse | January 2019

 

 

 

GHF kicks off 2019 legislative session with Health Care Unscrambled breakfast

Thanks to you, this year’s Health Care Unscrambled breakfast was a big success! We were thrilled to have a room packed with advocates, policy makers, and others who joined us for this year’s event. This year’s program began with a personal story from consumer Lori Murdock, who shared her experience struggling to manage a chronic disease without health insurance because she was caught in Georgia’s coverage gap. Our knowledgeable legislative panel then provided valuable insights into the health policy issues they plan to tackle during the 2019 legislative session and in the following months. Afterwards, Dr. David Blumenthal, President of the Commonwealth Fund, brought a wealth of knowledge and insight to our conversation about how innovations in health care and coverage can help us achieve better health outcomes for all Georgians.

You can read the highlights of breakfast on our blog, and be sure to check out our Facebook album to see photos of the event!

Don’t forget! GHF has you covered for the 2019 legislative session. You will receive weekly updates about the health debates at the State capitol, can track health-related legislation on our website, and more.


Save the date
Cover Georgia Day at the Capitol!

Please join us at the state capitol on Thursday, February 28th from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm for Cover Georgia Day! We will be asking state legislators to put insurance cards in the pockets of low-income Georgians who cannot get affordable health care coverage under current law. This is your opportunity to speak to your elected officials and let them know that you support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.

Be on the lookout for further details. An RSVP link will be available soon.

 


In case you missed it

GHF releases 2019 policy priorities

Georgians for a Healthy Future released its 2019 policy priorities at this year’s annual Health Care Unscrambled legislative breakfast. These annual priorities outline the issues that GHF believes are most pressing for Georgia consumers and are best addressed by the state legislature. GHF will work to move all of these issues forward by engaging state policy makers, consumers, and coalition partners throughout the legislative session and the remainder of the year.

  • Increase the number of Georgians with health insurance.
  • Stabilize Georgia’s health insurance Marketplace
  • Ensure access to care and financial protections for consumers purchasing private health insurance.
  • Set and enforce standards that provide for equitable coverage of mental health and substance use treatment services by health plans.
  • Prevent nicotine use and addiction by young Georgians
  • Support partners in integrating health and equity in the policies across every sector to address social determinants of health that prevent equitable access to care and equitable health status.

Get to know Georgia’s Project Aware

Georgia’s state leadership has made serious efforts to improve Georgia’s system of care through the infusion of additional dollars for children’s mental health services in the state budget and through innovative programs like Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience Education (AWARE). Georgia Project AWARE is a youth mental health initiative focused on improving the experiences of school-aged youth in Georgia. You can begin to learn about Georgia’s Project Aware on our blog and be on the lookout for Getting to know Project AWARE: Part II, where we’ll learn more about Youth Mental Health First Aid and how it helps educators meet the social and emotional needs of their students.


GHF in the news

Health care could have ‘big year’ in Georgia’s legislature
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | January 11, 2019


Health care agenda: Will longtime disputes be resolved in the legislature?
Gwinnett Daily Post | January 11, 2019


Health issues face state Legislators CON law, surprise billing, medical marijuana will draw lawmakers’ attention
Albany Herald | January 12, 2019


NAIC Names 2019 Consumer Liaison Representatives
National Association of Insurance Commissioners | January 15, 2019


Georgians for a Healthy Future encourages stakeholders to become Medicaid advocates 
Making a Difference magazine | January 17, 2019


‘Waiver’ on the way? Kemp signals a plan to increase coverage 
Georgia Health News | January 17, 2019


Democrat Trammell says fiscal analysis proves case for Medicaid expansion
Gwinnett Daily Post | January 23, 2019

 

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November Peach Pulse: Open enrollment ends soon, “New Release November”, #10for10

 

Open enrollment ends soon
Enroll in health insurance before December 15th!

If you or someone you know needs health insurance in 2019, now is your chance to enroll! If you are not covered by Medicaid or job-based insurance, you can shop for coverage and find out if you qualify for financial help. You have until December 15, 2018 to sign up in one of these three ways:

  • Online through healthcare.gov,
  • Over the phone by calling 1-800-318-2596, or
  • In person by visiting localhelp.healthcare.gov to find a list of enrollment assisters, insurance agents, and brokers in your area.

Mark your calendar to make sure that you are covered in 2019!

Already covered?

Help us spread the word about open enrollment on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn. Make sure your family and friends know that now is the time to enroll in health insurance, they may qualify for financial help, and enrollment help is available.


Health Care Unscrambled 2019

Keynote speaker announced!

GHF is excited to welcome Dr. David Blumenthal, President of the Commonwealth Fund, as the keynote speaker for this year’s Health Care Unscrambled legislative policy breakfast! Dr. Blumenthal will bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to our conversation about how innovations in health care and coverage can help us achieve better health outcomes for all Georgians.

We invite you to join Georgians for a Healthy Future for our ninth annual Health Care Unscrambled on Thursday, January 10, 2019 at the Georgia Freight Depot. This annual event brings together legislators, advocates, and national thought leaders to discuss the health care issues facing Georgians and solutions to address them. RSVP today so you can be part of this exciting event!

Sponsorship opportunities are available.


New release November

GHF has two new Medicaid resources!

GHF’s new story book and fact sheet bring attention to the difference Medicaid makes in the lives of Georgians every day and the potential it has to serve those who are currently uninsured. The Medicaid Matters to Georgia storybook shares the real health care stories of Georgia children and families. Our new Medicaid Matters for Georgia fact sheet outlines the basics about Medicaid in Georgia. We hope these new resources help policymakers, advocates, and consumers better understand the importance of ensuring all Georgians have access to quality, affordable healthcare. We invite you to read and share both with your friends, colleagues, and partners.


Getting Georgia Covered 2018

With just weeks left in this year’s open enrollment, Georgians for a Healthy Future releases its annual Getting Georgia Covered report. The annual publication tells the story of how Georgia individuals and families are faring in Georgia’s health insurance marketplace. This report examines how last year’s open enrollment period differed from the preceding four, examines enrollment and cost data, assesses the consumer experience, and identifies policy opportunities to increase enrollment, ensure access to care, address affordability, and protect consumers.


In case you missed it

Donors choose GHF on Georgia Gives Day!

Georgia Gives Day was Tuesday, November 27th and many of you generously chose to support GHF with your donations. THANK YOU!

Don’t worry if you missed it! You can still donate to GHF through our #10for10 giving campaign in celebration of our tenth anniversary! Become a monthly donor today!

Yes I will give $10 donation button


GHF in the news

How midterm elections may impact Obamacare, Medicaid coverage in Georgia 
Gainesville Times | November 12, 2018

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October Peach Pulse: Health care voter day, new release, and Health Care Unscrambled

 

 

#HealthCareVoter
Got plans this Saturday?

We invite you to join Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute on Saturday, October 27th at 11:30am at New Life Church in Decatur for Georgia Health Care Voter Day! Learn how Georgia can build healthier communities and a thriving future, and show state leaders that you’re a #HealthCareVoter! After the event, attendees living in DeKalb County can go together to vote early! The nearest early voting location is across the street at The Gallery at South DeKalb Mall. Register below!


Before you go to the polls!

Georgians across the state are being asked to decide how they will cast their votes in November. The decisions made by voters like you will directly impact consumer health issues in Georgia like access to health care, affordability of health insurance, the opioid crisis, and health disparities. Our Consumer Health Advocates Guide to the 2018elections blog series helps you understand the role that elected officials play in your health care and coverage. Read the series before you head to the polls:

*Georgians for a Healthy Future is a non-partisan, 501(c)3 organization. We do not endorse or support any candidates or political party.


Health Care Unscrambled 2019
RSVP today!

Please join Georgians for a Healthy Future for our ninth annual Health Care Unscrambled legislative policy breakfast on Thursday, January 10, 2019 at the Georgia Freight Depot. Each January, we bring together legislators, advocates, and national thought leaders to discuss the health care issues facing Georgians and solutions to address those issues. RSVP today so you can be part of this exciting event!

Sponsorship opportunities are available.


Coverage makes the difference for Georgians
New release: Medicaid Matters for Georgia

GHF has a new resource available to help Georgians get the facts on Medicaid. This fact sheet provides information about who is eligible for Medicaid in Georgia, what health services and supports are covered, and why Medicaid is a good investment for Georgia. Read and share the Medicaid Matters for Georgia fact sheet today.

Download Medicaid Matters for Georgia fact sheet

 


Stories from Georgia’s coverage gap: rural Georgians left behind

After suffering from a sudden stroke, Priscilla lost her job and her health insurance coverage, leaving her on the hook for all of the hospital costs that accumulated as she recovered. She remains unable to work or live alone but was fortunate enough to find a physician where she still receives the limited follow-up care she can afford. For rural Georgia residents like Priscilla, health coverage would open doors to the physicians and services that they need to stay employed or get back to work. Read more of Priscilla’s story and see how sharing your story can make an impact!

 

 


In case you missed it
#GHFcelebrates10

Georgians for a Healthy Future is celebrating ten years as the voice for Georgia health care consumers! We’re revisiting some of ourbiggest accomplishments from the past decade and we need your help to continue the celebration. Join us in celebrating our past successes and join our #10for10 giving campaign to help us accomplish a whole lot more in the next ten years!

Yes I will give $10 donation button

 


GHF in the news
How Medicaid has candidates divided on health care
Gainesville Times | October 17, 2018

How crowdfunding is a digital age answer for medical costs
Gainesville Times | October 4, 2018


Medicaid expansion would benefit rural Georgia
Albany Herald | September 27, 2018


Medicaid expansion would benefit rural areas the most, report says
Georgia Health News | September 26, 2018


Georgia’s rural communities would benefit most from Medicaid expansion, report says
The Telegraph | September 26, 2018


Closer Look: Advocates for Medicaid expansion in Ga.; Old Farmer’s Almanac Predictions; and more
WABE | September 10, 2018


Medicaid expansion question fuels Georgia governor’s race
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution | September 10, 2018

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August Peach Pulse: Questions for health care voters, children’s health, and #GHFcelebrates10

 

Before you go to the polls
What health care voters need to know

Georgians across the state are being asked to decide how they will cast their votes in November. The decisions made by voters like you will directly impact critical consumer health issues in Georgia like access to health care, affordability of health insurance, the opioid crisis, and health disparities.

To help you make decisions about the candidates on your ballot, we put together a list of eight questions to ask of candidates seeking your support.


 One week to get your tickets!
Join the celebration!

There’s just one week left to get your tickets to GHF’s fourth annual Consumer Health Impact Awards! Don’t miss your chance to celebrate the achievements of four amazing awardees who have made great contributions to building a healthier future for all Georgians. This event will also commemorate GHF’s ten-year anniversary as the voice for Georgia health care consumers! RSVP today to join the celebration!


GHF selected for Child Health Leadership Network
GHF’s Executive Director will participate in team from Georgia

GHF’s Executive Director, Laura Colbert, was one of four leaders from Georgia selected to participate in the Child Health Leadership Network. This leadership development program helps state-based teams of child health advocates improve the well-being of children and families in their state through policy change and effective leadership. The Child Health Leadership Network is funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the Atlantic Philanthropies. Read more about the Child Health Leadership Network and the Georgia team here.


In case you missed it
What you should know about GCAL

GCAL provides 24/7 online and telephone support for Georgians who are seeking services for or in crisis as a result of developmental disabilities, mental health, or substance use conditions. You can call 800-715-4225 or visit mygcal.com if you or someone they care for is facing a behavioral health crisis or in need of services. Get to know more about GCAL in GHF’s newest post from our Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies blog series.


GHF goes to Athens!

Georgians for a Healthy Future hosted a Georgia Voices for Medicaid training this month in partnership with Athens for Everyone. The Georgia Voices for Medicaid trainings are designed to give participants the knowledge and skills they need to advocate for timely, important health care issues impacting Georgians. If you were unable to attend, catch up on with our latest blog post. You can also join us for our next training event in Albany or contact Alyssa Green at agreen@healthyfuturega.org or 404-567-5016, ext. 2 to schedule a training in your community.


 GHF in the news

Atlanta-based organization to host Medicaid advocacy training in Athens

WUGA July 31, 2018

Ruling allows for purchase of cheaper insurance

Albany Herald August 3, 2018

Unusual but welcome: 2 health insurers opt to cut Ga. exchange rates

WABE August 24, 2018

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July Peach Pulse: New releases, celebrating 10, and more Medicaid

New release!
My Health Resource Guide

GHF has a new resource available to help consumers navigate the often confusing health care, health insurance, and social services systems. Included in the guide are sections about health insurance, finding a health care provider, and accessing mental health and substance use treatment services. The guide also points consumers to social services that fulfill other basic needs like transportation to and from health appointments, housing and food assistance, and legal support. A printable pdf version of the My Health Resource Guide is available below.


Celebrating 10!
Join us for GHF’s 10th anniversary celebration!

On September 6th, GHF will be kicking off our 10th anniversary celebration at the Consumer Health Impact Awards. In keeping with this very special occasion, we will be recognizing the work of four exceptional awardees who have made strides for countless Georgia consumers. We invite you to join us for this inspiring and festive evening! Don’t miss it!

Sponsorship opportunities are available


GHF welcomes new board member
Dr. Jean O’Connor joins GHF’s board of directors

Dr. Jean O’Connor is a consultant for the Task Force for Global Health on chronic and other non-communicable diseases, and previously served as the chronic disease prevention director and chief policy officer for the Georgia Department of Public Health. She brings to GHF an expertise in population health improvement, a passion for improving the systems and policies that influence health outcomes, and a deep resume of health policy accomplishments. Please join us in welcoming Dr. O’Connor to the GHF board of directors!


On GHF’s blog
Coverage saves lives

Queenesther recently underwent surgery to remove an ectopic pregnancy that was causing severe health issues and could have proved fatal. Thanks to her Medicaid coverage she received timely, quality care and has been able to focus on caring for her young family. Queenesther is fortunate compared to many low-income parents because the state legislature has so far refused to extend health coverage to most low-income parents. Read more of Queenesther’s story and see how sharing your story can make an impact!

 


GHF hosts new health advocacy training in Atlanta

Georgians for a Healthy Future hosted a Georgia Voices for Medicaid training this month in partnership with the Central Outreach & Advocacy Center.  The Georgia Voices for Medicaid trainings are designed to give participants the knowledge and skills they need to advocate for timely, important health care issues impacting Georgians. If you were unable to attend, catch up on with our latest blog post. You can also join us for our next training event in Athens or contact Alyssa Green at agreen@healthyfuturega.org or 404-567-5016, ext. 2 to schedule a training in your community.


GHF in the news

Federal funding for ACA ‘navigators’ to drop dramatically in Georgia 
Georgia Health News | July 12, 2018

 

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June Peach Pulse: Medicaid, advocacy trainings, and the Georgia Apex Program

Strengthening Medicaid for all Georgians
Georgians can’t afford to wait

Teresa is one of the 240,000 Georgians who fall in the coverage gap. Because she has been uninsured since 2009, Teresa has to find alternative treatments for a serious dental condition that she developed five years ago. Earlier this month, Virginia voted to extend health insurance coverage to people like Teresa. Georgia’s Governor and state legislature can follow suit and close our state’s coverage gap at any time. Read more about Teresa’s story and five other great reasons that Georgia should follow Virginia’s example on our blog.

 


 

Become a voice for Medicaid in Georgia

Georgians for a Healthy Future is partnering with community groups across the state to host a series of Georgia Voices for Medicaid trainings. You can attend if you are interested in learning more about Georgia’s Medicaid program, who it covers, how it benefits the state, and how you can be a strong health care advocate. Join us for one of these upcoming trainings:

  • Thursday, July 19th, 2:00 – 3:30 pm in downtown Atlanta
  • Friday, August 10, 9:30 am – 11:00 am at the Athens Clarke County Library in Athens, GA

Don’t see a training near you? Email Alyssa Green at agreen@healthyfuturega.org to schedule a training in your community.

 


 

Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies
Get to know the Georgia Apex Program

Some of the state’s recent $21.9 million investment in children’s mental health will fund an expansion of the Georgia Apex Program, a school-based mental health program that aims to improve early identification of, access to and coordination of behavioral health services for students who need them. The Apex Program has demonstrated strong, positive results in its initial two years. Get to know the Georgia Apex Program in GHF’s newest post from our Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies blog series.

 


 

#Protectourcare
Federal government continues to attack consumer health care and coverage

Threats to health coverage and consumer protections continue to emerge from the federal government. The Department of Health and Human Services has released a new rule to increase access to association health plans and is expected to release another shortly that expands short-term limited duration plans. Both rules put consumers at risk by increasing access to skimpy insurance plans without robust protections and pushing up premiums for those with pre-existing conditions who need more comprehensive coverage. The federal government’s actions in two court cases also threaten coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and for adults covered by Medicaid. GHF will continue to monitor these developments and will communicate how they may impact you and your family.

 


 

Powerhouse Policymaker Awardees Announced!
Help us celebrate these deserving policymakers!

The Powerhouse Policymaker Awards are given each year to local or state policymakers in Georgia who have exhibited excellence and courage in championing health issues in public policy. This year’s awardees are state Representative Bob Trammell and Georgia Department of Community Health Commissioner Frank Berry!  Read more about our award recipients here and stay tuned for more awardee announcements soon.

We hope you will join us on September 6th to celebrate these champions for health! Tickets and sponsorship opportunities are available.

 


 

GHF in the news

Trump administration rule allows cheaper, skimpier health plans 

Atlanta Journal Constitution  |  June 19, 2018

 

 

 

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Peach Pulse: May 2018

Save the date! 

Celebrate our 10-year anniversary at this year’s Consumer Health Impact Awards

Mark your calendar for the fourth annual Consumer Health Impact Awards on Thursday, September 6th at the Venetian Room! We will celebrate GHF’s 10th year of advocating for Georgia’s health care consumers and spotlight the great work of health advocates and policymakers making a difference. Announcements about this year’s awardees will be made next month. Please plan to join us in September!

Sponsorship opportunities are available.


Strategic Plan 2018-2020

GHF adopts new strategic plan ahead of 10-year anniversary

Georgians for a Healthy Future celebrates its ten-year anniversary this year! Prompted in part by this milestone, our leadership launched a new strategic planning effort to chart a path forward for the next phase of GHF’s work. We are excited to share the results with you! We hope that you will find inspiration in our new strategic plan and we invite you to take and active role in helping us achieve the success we have envisioned. To read more about our 2018-2020 strategic plan, check out or newest blog post or download the plan today. 


 

Medicaid Matters for Moms
Two moms, two Medicaid stories

Thanks to Medicaid, Valerie can take care of the health care needs of her three children. Without Medicaid and left in Georgia’s coverage gap, Susie struggles to manage a cancer diagnosis and other health conditions, while caring for her granddaughter full time.

Mother’s Day might be over but Medicaid remains an important asset for some Georgia moms and their kids, while others remain uninsured because of Georgia’s inaction to extend the program. See the difference Medicaid makes in the lives of the extraordinary moms. Read more about Valerie and Susie’s experience on our blog or share their stories on Facebook or Twitter.


Your story is powerful! Share your health care story with us today!


In Case You Missed It
GHF hosts educational forum about children’s behavioral health

On Tuesday, May 15th, GHF hosted Strong Foundations: Building a System of Care to Address the Behavioral Health Needs of Georgia Children. The forum explored the behavioral health needs of Georgia children and youth, Georgia’s publicly-supported behavioral health landscape, and successes and opportunities in the current system of care. In conjunction with the event, GHF released a new behavioral health fact sheet titled Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, available for download here.

If you missed the event, a recording of the webcast is available here.

To see photos, review materials, and read more about our Strong Foundations event, please visit the event page.


Get Involved

Learn, engage, participate

GHF needs you to make a difference! Join us in shaping the landscape for a healthier Georgia. Your time, donations, and advocacy make the difference in mobilizing consumers for change and crafting policy that works for Georgia consumers. Volunteering with Georgians for a Healthy Future provides an opportunity to raise your voice, connect with like-minded people, and make a difference on the health issues that matter most to you. Inspired to take action? Volunteerdonateadvocate, or contact Michelle Conde at mconde@healthyfuturega.org.

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Peach Pulse: April 2018

The Fight to Prevent Youth Substance Use
Power of prevention: A new opportunity for providers to address youth substance use

As a result of sustained advocacy efforts by GHF and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, Georgia’s Medicaid agency has made an exciting change that will help prevent and identify substance use disorders among Georgia youth and others with Medicaid coverage. The change allows health care providers to use Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral of Treatment (SBIRT), an evidence-based, public health approach that is used to initiate conversations about substance use behaviors, guide follow-up counseling, and connect people to treatment if needed. Because Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids cover half of all Georgia youth, increasing access to SBIRT may significantly decrease substance use among young Georgians and help stem the tide of the opioid epidemic in the state. Read more about SBIRT and this beneficial policy change on our blog.

Are you a health care provider and want to know how you can use SBIRT in your practice? Check out our new fact sheet.


Upcoming Events
Strong Foundations: Building a System of Care to Address Behavioral Health Needs of Georgia Children

Please join GHF on Tuesday, May 15, 2018 from 8:30am – 12:00pm for a discussion of children’s behavioral health in Georgia. Presenters and panelists will provide a variety of perspectives and expertise to help attendees understand Georgia’s system of care, learn about services and programs available to young Georgians with behavioral health needs, and recognize opportunities to strengthen the system through collaboration. Join us in person or via webcast for this exciting and important event!

 


Why Medicaid Matters
For Travis, Medicaid means employment and giving back to the community

Travis suffered from a series of strokes when he was 11 years old that left him with several physical disabilities. Because he is one of the 250,000 Georgians with disabilities to be covered by Medicaid, Travis is able to work and be an advocate. Medicaid is essential to ensuring that people with disabilities, like Travis, are able to lead fulfilling, independent lives as active participants in their communities. Read more about Travis’s experience on our blog or share his story onFacebook or Twitter.

Your story is powerful! Share your health care story with us today!

 


In Case You Missed It
Webinar: Recap of the Georgia legislative session

The 2018 Georgia legislative session ended on March 29th and with it came changes to health care and coverage in Georgia. GHF partnered with the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute to provide you with a recap of what bills and resolutions passed and which didn’t during the session. In addition to successful legislation, we discussed this year’s relevant study committees, and examined the state budget, including important items for health advocates and consumers. If you missed the webinar, you can catch up by watching the archived recording here.

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Peach Pulse: March 2018

 

 COMMITTEE HOLDS HEARING ON CLOSING THE COVERAGE GAP
Appropriations Health Subcommittee Heard HB 669, Discussed Bi-partisan Desire to Increase Access to Care

Tuesday morning the House Appropriations Health Subcommittee met for a hearing about HB 669, a bill that would close Georgia’s coverage gap by extending health insurance to low-income Georgians as allowed by the Affordable Care Act. Minority Leader Bob Trammell presented the bill to the committee and outlined how the bill would bolster economic activity in rural Georgia, increase access to care for low-income Georgians, and be a smart investment of tax-payer dollars. Committee members asked questions about the bill’s impact on people with mental health conditions and the costs and savings of the bill, and all expressed a desire to find a common solution to Georgia’s high uninsured rate and barriers to health care. No vote was taken on HB 669, so the bill remains in the House Appropriations Health subcommittee.

We are hopeful that this hearing will prompt continued conversation about closing the coverage gap. You can help by thanking the members of the committee and asking them to ensure the conversation moves forward towards a solution. Contact them now!

Rep. Butch Parrish – Chairman
Phone:404.463.2247
Email: butch.parrish@house.ga.gov
Rep. Lee Hawkins – Vice Chair
Phone: 404.656.0213
Email: lee.hawkins@house.ga.gov
Rep. Pat Gardner
Phone: 404.656.0265
Email: pat@patgardner.org
Rep. Carolyn Hugley
Phone: 404.656.5058
Email: carolyn.hugley@house.ga.gov
Rep. Ron Stephens
Phone: 404.656.5115
Email: ron.stephens@house.ga.gov
Rep. Darlene Taylor
Phone: 404.656.7857
Email: darlene.taylor@house.ga.gov

For a more detailed account of the hearing make sure to check our latest blog post by clicking here.

LEGISLATIVES UPDATES: NEAR AND FAR

Georgia legislative session ends next week

 

Georgia’s state legislative session is winding down as Sine Die (the last day of the session) approaches on March 29th. With this deadline approaching, some health care bills have seen significant changes and others have been successfully passed. Check out the most recent developments by reading our latest legislative update here. In the final days of the 2018 session, expect to see continued debate over how to best address substance use and recovery, the behavioral health needs of students, surprise out of network medical bills, tobacco taxation and regulation, and more.

REGISTER NOW! Georgia Budget and Policy Institute and Georgians for a Healthy Future will be presenting “Changes in Health Care and Policy in the 2018 Georgia Legislative Session” on Thursday, April 19th at 10:00 AM. Register here.

 

Congressional debates over health care continue as part of spending negotiations

 

 

 

 

Over the last month or so, Congress has been focused on spending negotiations in order to pass a spending bill to fund the government for the remainder of the year and avoid a government shutdown. Health care continues to be a major topic in these conversations, especially in the Senate where activity surrounds efforts to stabilize the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance Marketplace. There is little agreement among Senate Republicans and Democrats about how to accomplish the shared goal of lowering health insurance premiums for health care consumers who purchase their coverage through the Marketplace; however, discussions are on-going.

Congress is scheduled to be on recess March 24-April 8.

UPCOMING EVENTS
 

GHF and Step Up Savannah co-host health advocacy training!

 

 

 

 

GHF and Step Up Savannah are partnering to host a health advocacy training on Tuesday, April 3rd. The event will be held at 6 pm at the United Way building at 428 Bull Street, Savannah, Ga. Participants will learn how they can participate and lead health advocacy efforts and recieve information about passing health advocacy issues in Georgia. Representatives from Healthy Savannah and Safety Net will also be in attendance to share local resources. If you live in and around Savannah and would like to attend the training, contact Robyn Wainner, Director at Step Up Savannah, 912.232.6747, rwainner@stepupsavannah.org.

Interested in hosting a similar training in your community? We want to partner with you to make that happen! Contact Alyssa Green at agreen@healthyfuturega.org for more information.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Michelle Conde joins GHF staff

 

 

GHF welcomed Michelle Conde as its new Communications & Special Projects Manager in early March. In this role, Michelle will manage GHF’S external communication channels (email, social media, earned media) and leverage social media for digital advocacy. She will also provide policy research support as needed and contribute to the organization’s policy analysis efforts. We are so pleased to have Michelle join the GHF team. For more on Michelle and for her contact information, click here.

GHF IN THE NEWS
Bill Would Let ‘Micro-Hospitals’ in Rural Georgia Counties

WABE  |  March 16, 2018


Nurse sponsors bill critics say would ease sales of tobacco in Georgia

Atlanta Journal Constitution  |  February 27, 2018

MORE >

Peach Pulse: January 2017

 


 

 THE 2017 GEORGIA LEGISLATIVE SESSION IS UNDERWAY!

Georgians for a Healthy Future will be at the Capitol throughout the forty-day session to monitor health-related legislation, serve as a voice for health care consumers, and keep you informed about opportunities to engage and take action. For the past four years, our top policy priority has been closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid. In the wake of 2016 elections, the national policy landscape has shifted considerably, knocking that off the table this year and placing existing coverage, care, and consumer protections at risk. Despite the backdrop of uncertainty and a critical need for federal advocacy, there will be important decisions made over the next three months at the state level that impact the health of individuals, families, and communities.

While it is early, here are the major health care issues that we expect legislators to tackle in 2017:
  • Renewal of the provider fee, commonly known as the “hospital tax” or “bed tax” to help fund Medicaid and keep hospital doors open
  • Development of a set of reforms to improve mental health services based on recommendations from a legislative study committee
  • Creation of a Health Reform Task Force to assess the impact of change to or repeal of the Affordable Care Act on Georgia
  • Addressing the practice of surprise medical billing, which can leave insured consumers with unexpected bills when a health care provider is out-of-network
  • Increasing reimbursement rates for primary care services for health care providers participating in Medicaid
  • Improving access to dental care for children, seniors, and people with disabilities

Georgians for a Healthy Future has several ways for you to stay up-to-date on what’s happening under the Gold Dome this year:

Stay tuned for updates throughout the Legislative Session!

 

 

 

 

COMING SOON: WEBINAR

Join us for a webinar previewing state & national health policy in 2017
It’s a time of uncertainty for health care. Congressional leaders have already begun the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act. With the legislative session already underway, state leaders have acknowledged that something must be done about Georga’s high number of uninsured, the state’s struggling rural health care system, and impending funding cuts to hospitals. With so much uncertainty and change, it may be hard to keep track of what’s going on in health policy.

We will help sort out the confusion, and discuss expected & proposed changes at both the state and national levels. Join us for a look ahead at health policy 2017.

 

 

 

 

TAKE ACTION TO #PROTECTOURCARE

Coverage, care, and consumer protections hang in the balance for millions of Georgians as Congress considers major changes to health care policy. If the Affordable Care Act is repealed without an adequate replacement, one million Georgians would lose coverage and more than70,000 jobs would be lost in Georgia. Learn more by downloading our new fact sheet here and contact Senators Isakson and Perdue today!

 

 

 

 

 

LAST CHANCE TO GET YOUR TICKETS!

Tickets to Health Care Unscrambled are still available but time is running out. This annual event provides a special opportunity for health care advocates and stakeholders to hear from state policy makers about what they plan to address in the year ahead. We’ll also take a step back and look at the national context. We’ll have a conversation with our panel of national advocates about what is ahead and what advocates should be thinking about in this time of change for health care consumers. Join us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMUNITY FOUNDATION FOR GREATER ATLANTA AT GHF BOARD MEETING

 

We previously announced that GHF has been awarded a grant from the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta. The Foundation works to connect the passions of philanthropists with the purpose of nonprofits. GHF’s board welcomed Kathy Palumbo of the CFGA at the December board meeting to recognize and celebrate the award. Thank you to the CFGA for this opportunity and your partnership.

 

 


 

GHF IN THE NEWS

Interstate health insurance sales had tryout in Georgia
Georgia Health News |  December 7, 2016


Georgia Lawmakers, Advocates, Uninsured Await Healthcare Changes
WABE | December 9, 2016


With its future cloudy, ACA continues to draw rising enrollment
Georgia Health News | December 21, 2016


Signing up for Obamacare in a time of change
GBP | December 29, 2016

 

 

 

 

MORE >

Peach Pulse: November, 2016

SHARE YOUR HEALTH CARE COVERAGE STORY!

Recently released HHS numbersenrollment-pic show that health insurance enrollment in Georgia and across the country is going strong. The Affordable Care Act is what has made these coverage gains possible, yet Congress has prioritized repealing this landmark legislation without clarifying what would replace it. We need your stories and your voice to ensure our policymakers understand the consequences of repealing the law. Please consider submitting your story, or the stories of the people that you serve, of how the ACA has benefited you. Whether it’s being able to afford coverage through the availability of tax credits, not being denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition, or being able to stay on a parent’s plan until age 26 – we need to hear from you!


ANNUAL HEALTH CARE UNSCRAMBLED

Looking forward to 2017 

HCU-2017-IconPlease join us for our 7th annual Health Care Unscrambled policy breakfast. We are excited to host former CMS Deputy Administrator and nationally renowned Medicaid expert, Cindy Mann. As our keynote speaker, she’ll walk through what advocates need to know about how the proposed changes to health care programs like Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and Marketplace coverage being discussed in Washington could impact Georgians, their families, and community. As always, our featured speaker will follow a bipartisan panel of legislators at the forefront of Georgia’s health care debates. Tickets are $50 (and could make a great holiday present!). We hope to see you there!

RSVP


GHF ADDRESSES SOCIAL DETERMINANTS OF HEALTH

hbhcHealth Beyond Health Care

In November GHF convened experts and advocates from a range of sectors including housing, criminal justice reform, education, and transportation for a discussion about social determinants and how we can break down silos to advance health. In conjunction with the convening, we released a new publication, Health Beyond Health Care: Opportunities to Advance Health by AddressingSocial Determinants.

You can find photos from the forum on our Facebook page.


RECORD BREAKING GEORGIA GIVES DAY!

new-piktochart_548_3b837d17a37d2ac745157ef82475385c13503dd0GHF raised $4,380 on Georgia Gives Day! 

We are overwhelmed by the over 70 donors who gave so generously on Georgia Gives Day. This year, the health care stakes are higher than ever, and many of the gains we have made over the past several years in health care coverage and access to care are at risk. We will continue to fight for quality, affordable health care for you, your friends and family, and all Georgians. Thank you for supporting our work!


ICYMI: GHF’S POST-ELECTION BLOG POST

If you unplugged post-election you might have missed our post-election analysis, What’s Next for Health Care Consumers.

The election results have the potential to dramatically shift the health care landscape nationally and here in Georgia. It’s still too soon to know precisely what policy changes will occur and what their impact will be, but advocacy at both the state and federal levels on behalf of Georgians who need access to quality, affordable health care has never been more important. Read more…


SUPPORT GHF WHILE YOU SHOP FOR THE HOLIDAYS!

amazon-smile-pngDid you know that you can support GHF throughout the holiday season? Amazon Smile allows you to select a nonprofit to support. If you choose GHF, every time you shop through Amazon Smile a portion of your purchase goes to support our mission. Signing up is easy! Thank you for your continued support!


GHF IN THE NEWS

Exchange sign-ups in Georgia higher than last year’s 
Georgia Health News | November 30, 2016


2016 elections already influencing Georgia policy
Augusta Chronicle | November 13, 2016


Georgia Republican could be at center of effort to undo Obamacare
AJC | November 10, 2016


How will a Trump presidency affect health care in Georgia?
Georgia Health News | November 9, 2016

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: October 2016

NEW PUBLICATION

CollaboratingWithConsumers-2Collaborating for Consumers 

This August, GHF invited both advocates and enrollment assisters to the second annual Getting Georgia Covered summit. Bringing these two groups together was the first step in fostering ongoing conversations and partnerships to ensure that health coverage translates into meaningful access to care for Georgians. Through the summit, GHF collected feedback and input for a report that highlights how assisters and advocates can team up for consumers. We invite you to read and share Collaborating for Consumers: How Assisters and Advocates Can Inform Policy, in which you will find opportunities and best practices for collaboration to achieve our shared goals.


GHF RECEIVES COMPETITIVE GRANT AWARD

communityfoundationlogoWe are proud to announce that GHF has been awarded a grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. The Foundation works to connect the passions of philanthropists with the purposes of nonprofits. Awards were given through a highly competitive process and we are excited about this partnership as we continue to work to ensure quality, affordable health care for all Georgians. Read the Foundation’s press release.


DID YOU KNOW…

kcmnbmeaiClosing the Coverage Gap Means More Breast Cancer Screenings for Women

Uninsured, low-income women often face financial barriers to receiving recommended screenings for breast and cervical cancer, and in Georgia, minority women face additional breast cancer disparities. Women who live in expansion states are 25 percent more likely to get screened. Read more.


UPCOMING EVENTS

healthinallpolicies-CopyHealth Beyond Health Care: A Starting Point for Addressing the Social Determinants of Health Through State Policy

There is a growing recognition that factors outside the formal health care system such as safe and affordable housing, access to transportation, and criminal justice reform also impact the health of individuals, families, and communities. Join GHF to discuss how health intersects with these sectors and how advocates from across sectors can work together for policy change.

Go to event page.


HCU-2017-IconHealth Care Unscrambled 2017

Please join us for our seventh annual Health Care Unscrambled breakfast. Each January we bring together legislators and advocates to discuss the health care issues facing Georgians and how this legislative session might address them. This year’s event includes special national speaker, Cindy Mann, former Deputy Administrator and Director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and a discussion of the upcoming session with a bi-partisan panel of legislators. This event will be held at the Georgia Freight Depot; tickets are $50. Sponsorship opportunities are available.

Go to event page.


A CONVERSATION WITH AUTHOR DANIEL DAWES
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We truly enjoyed hosting author Daniel Dawes and all who attended this month’s book conversation. Dawes is a nationally recognized leader in the health equity movement who was instrumental in shaping the Affordable Care Act. Those experiences, as well as the complex history of health reform in America, can be found in his compelling book, 150 Years of Obamacare. We hope you’ll join us for our next event!
More pictures are up on our Facebook page!


GEORGIA GIVES DAY IS JUST A FEW WEEKS AWAY!

screenshot_2
Click here to learn more!


TODAY IS THE START OF OPEN ENROLLMENT!

Resources for Consumers and Enrollment Assisters
Open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace has begun! Do you need help shopping for a new plan or figuring out how to find a plan that suits your needs? Are you an enrollment assister helping people enroll? Be sure to check out our newly updated “Get Insured. Stay Insured.” toolkit. If you need in-person help, you can go to localhelp.healthcare.gov.


UPCOMING PUBLICATION

healthcarecostsMarket Changes
Approximately half a million Georgians secure health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace or on the individual market because they don’t have access to coverage at work. As this market matures, policymakers at the state and national levels are engaged in discussions about how to ensure the market remains competitive and premiums are affordable. How is the Marketplace shaping up in Georgia 2017? Stay tuned for our primer coming out this November. It will explain some of the features of the marketplaces that ensure affordability, factors shaping the current landscape, how they factors impact Georgians who shop for plans, and ways in which the marketplaces can be improved at the state level.
MORE >

The Peach Pulse: September 2016

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER: THE 2016 CONSUMER HEALTH IMPACT AWARDS 

photo-grid

Thank you to everyone who joined us!

Last week’s 2016 Consumer Health Impact Awards was a truly wonderful event. We enjoyed celebrating Linda Smith Lowe Health Advocacy Award winner Tim Sweeney who flew in from Oregon for the event. Carole Maddux reminded us what selflessness really is. And both Senator P.K. Martin and Representative Stacey Abrams showed us what can happen when our policymakers work together for the benefit of all Georgians.

You can find the rest of the photos on our Facebook page and see if your tweet made our Storify story of the night here.


DID YOU KNOW…

13_adult-workers…that the majority of Georgians in the coverage gap are working?

They’re working in some of Georgia’s most important economic sectors, such as construction, transportation, education, and retail. Lower-wage workers are less likely to have access to affordable health coverage through their jobs than workers at higher-wage jobs. Closing the coverage gap will increase health coverage for hundreds of thousands of workers without job-based coverage and is a smart investment in hard-working people who enable Georgia to prosper. Share this infographic to spread the word!


FOR NOW…

some-georgians

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

As we approach the 2017 legislative session, we have the opportunity to close the coverage gap and ensure that some becomes all. Check out our new video about the Georgians stuck in the coverage gap and our opportunity to close it.

We’re asking that you be a part of the movement and contribute $25 to our campaign to close the coverage gap. Your contribution will allow us to travel across the state, meeting with and raising up the voices of Georgians in the gap. It will fund our media efforts so that everyone, from Blue Ridge to Bainbridge, will know that these people can’t wait. The time to close the coverage gap is now.

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ENROLLMENT UPDATES

GHF & Consumer Assistance

Although we are primarily a health advocacy organization, GHF has provided direct enrollment services to Georgians in the last three open enrollment periods. Last year, GHF primarily focused on more complex consumer cases such as resolving coverage issues with the Marketplace and insurance providers, payment issues, tax filing and reconciliation issues, and issues with supplemental documents. How did it go? Read more in Pranay’s blog.

Partnering with Enroll America

GHF is now several weeks into our training partnership with Enroll America. GHF was selected as the first organization, nationally, to participate this year in the Leadership Academy in a train-the-trainer model. Read more about what we’re doing here.


UPCOMING EVENTS

150-years-of-obamacareA Conversation with Author Daniel Dawes
October 25, 2016, 6:00 – 8:00 PM
RiRa, 1080 Peachtree St. NE

For a second installment in our book discussion and networking series, we’re meeting with Daniel Dawes, author of 150 Years of Obamacare.

Attorney Daniel Dawes is a nationally recognized leader in the health equity movement and has led numerous efforts to address health policy issues impacting vulnerable, underserved, and marginalized populations. Dawes was instrumental in shaping the Affordable Care Act and through that experience has come to write 150 Years of Obamacare. The book provides a comprehensive and unprecedented review of the health equity movement and little-known leadership efforts that were crucial to passing important public policies.

Go to event page.


HCU-2017-IconHealth Care Unscrambled 2017
January 12, 2017 7:30 – 11:00 AM
The Freight Depot

It is that time of year! We hope you’ll join us again for Health Care Unscrambled as we look ahead at the 2017 legislative session. Stay tuned for more about our speakers and panelists!

Go to event page.


GHF PRESENTS AT COMMUNITY CATALYST’S ANNUAL SOUTHERN HEALTH PARTNERS CONVENING

img_5085GHF Policy Analyst Meredith Gonsahn presents on accurate provider directories

This September, Meredith was asked to present at Community Catalyst’s Southern Health Partners convening. She covered the passage of SB 302, a bill passed in the 2016 legislative session requiring, among other things, that health insurance provider directories be accurate. Wondering how it happened? Check out our new video, How A Bill Becomes Law (For Real).


IN THE NEWS

Augusta hospitals, clinics providing better care
The Augusta Chronicle | September 27

Georgia again ranks high in rate of uninsured
Georgia Health News | September 13

Hall residents lose insurance options as providers pull out of Affordable Care Act
Gainesville Times | September 12

Georgia’s big business key to health care challenge
Marietta Daily Journal | September 7

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: August 2016

GEORGIA CHAMBER RELEASES OPTIONS TO EXPAND COVERAGE
We are heartened that business leaders and health care industry stakeholders recognize the important role that coverage plays in a healthy and productive Georgia. We believe a coverage solution is one that extends coverage to all those Georgians caught in the coverage gap, does not erect unnecessary barriers to care, and maximizes the federal dollars set aside for Georgia. The Chamber’s proposal is an important step in this direction. Read more about the proposals and GHF’s position here.

 

Recent news articles about the task force proposals:

Task force unveils options to cover uninsured in Georgia | Georgia Health News
Georgia Chamber pitches conservative-friendly blueprint for Medicaid expansion | AJC
Ga. Chamber Releases Plan for Expanding Health Care Access | WABE


DID YOU KNOW…

05_who-gets-medicaidDid you know that not everyone with a low income qualifies for Medicaid in Georgia today? Georgia has very restrictive Medicaid eligibility guidelines; adults without dependent children do not qualify for Medicaid, regardless of their income. Here’s who qualifies:

  • Elderly, blind, and disabled people with incomes below 75% of the federal poverty line (FPL) – $13,200 for an elderly couple
  • Parents with minor children with annual incomes below 38% FPL or $7,600 for a family of three
  • Pregnant women with incomes below 225% FPL, or $26,500 for an individual
  • Children are eligible for Medicaid and Peachcare at varying incomes levels as they age, and one in two Georiga kids is covered by those programs

If that was new information for you, share the infographic to the left on social media to spread the word.


POSTCARDS FOR COVERAGE

Who doesn’t love to get mail? 

and age, but it still holds a lot of meaning to most people. If someone took the time to write you a letter to ask you to do something, wouldn’t that get your attention? Now imagine if you got multiple letters asking you to do something for your family, friends, and neighbors. That’s exactly what happened for a majority of Georgia’s state Senate and House members. In July, we mailed out over 1,100 postcards asking our legislators to close Georgia’s coverage gap. Read more about the postcard project here. If you haven’t signed the petition yet, it’s not too late! You can add your name here.

postcards rep-stacey-abrams1 sen-david-lucas


LEGISLATIVE UPDATE – STUDY COMMITTEES

policy-prioritiesStudy committees are right around the corner!

Some of the most pressing and contentious health and insurance issues facing Georgians will be front and center during legislative study committee meetings this fall. Below are the committees in which GHF will be actively engaged on the advocacy and policy fronts:

Senate Study Committee on Surprise Billing Practices (SR 974)
This study committee is charged with assessing laws to protect consumers against surprise billing.

Senate Study Committee on Premium Assistance(SR 1056)
The committee will closely examine models and policies for premium assistance programs as an alternative to Medicaid expansion and is anticipated to be a forum for a robust discussion about policy options to close the coverage gap.

Senate Study Committee on Opioid Abuse (SR 1165)
This study committee will look at legislative approaches Georgia can take to stem the rise of opioid addiction and related overdose deaths.

For more on these and other study committees, check out Meredith’s blog post.


GHF PRESENTS AT THE NAIC SUMMER MEETING

naicGHF’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin attended the summer meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) last week in her capacity as a consumer representative to the NAIC. Cindy presented information on Georgia’s provider directory legislation (SB 302) on a panel during the meeting’s Consumer Liaison session. The consumer representatives as a group also released a new policy paper on prescription drug access and affordability, Promoting Access to Affordable Prescription Drugs: Policy Analysis and Consumer Recommendations for State Policymakes, ConsuemrAdvocates, and Health Care Stakeholders. Read more about the meeting and report in Cindy’s blog.


GET TO KNOW OUR AWARDEES

Tim Sweeney

For more than 10 years Tim set the standard for reliable and responsible health policy analysis in Georgia. His insights and analysis equipped Georgia’s health advocacy community with the information needed to be a strong voice for consumers. Tim will be awarded the Linda Smith Lowe Health Advocacy Award. More.

Carole Maddux

Carole lives and breathes health care access through her work leading Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center in Pickens County. She provides a clear, moral voice for systemic change in health care, speaking out on behalf of Medicaid expansion and other important public policies. Carole will receive the Community Impact Award.More.

Rep. Stacey Abrams

As Minority Leader, Rep. Abrams leads her caucus in its efforts to enact legislation across a range of complex issues, always making time for health care. A tireless champion of Medicaid expansion, Rep. Abrams will receive the Powerhouse Policymaker Award. More.

Sen. P.K. Martin

Sen. Martin’s SB 302 is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that sets basic standards for provider directories and protections for consumers who rely on them. A second term legislator who isn’t afraid to take on complicated issues, Sen. Martin will receive the Powerhouse Policymaker Award. More.

abrams-standard-twitter-size-headshot carole-maddux-headhot martin-standar-twitter-size-headshot sweeney-standard-twitter-size-headshot

Tickets are now available! RSVP here.


GEORGIA’S EMERGING OPPORTUNITY TO TURN THE TIDE ON SUBSTANCE USE

SBIRT_CranberrySubstance use prevention should be at the forefront of the minds of Georgia policymakers as they convene the Opioid Abuse Senate study committee (SR 1165) to identify strategies to address the opioid epidemic in the upcoming months. Substance use can oftentimes be prevented and reduced through a public health approach such as SBIRT – screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment. As part of our advocacy and policy efforts to make the case for greater use of SBIRT, GHF and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse commissioned a fiscal analysis of the costs and benefits of supporting SBIRT through Medicaid. Stay tuned for the release of the full report and white paper outlining key findings.


PARTNERING TO COVER KIDS

chidlrenshealthcoverageDespite a sharp drop in the rate of uninsured children since 2014, Georgia still has 189,000 uninsured children. Their families are without the financial protection that comes with coverage. To address this need, people who regularly work with children need to be aware of the importance of health coverage to children and have the resources they need to connect kids and families with coverage quickly and easily.

That’s why GHF partnered with the Georgia Departments of Education and Public Health to conduct a webinar called “Covering Kids.” Read more about the webinar and the CEU credits available for nurses.


ENROLLMENT UPDATE

EnrollmentBrief2016imageNew Policy Report Released

This month, GHF released our new enrollment report, Getting Georgia Covered: What We Can Learn from Consumer and Assister Experiences During the Third Open Enrollment Period. Inside the report you’ll find:

  • Key themes in consumer and assister experiences during the 2016 open enrollment period
  • Best practices for outreach, enrollment, and reaching eligible Georgians who remain uninsured
  • Policy opportunities to increase enrollment, improve access to care, and address affordability issues

Read more.

DSC_0299Getting Georgia Covered

Health advocates, service providers, and enrollment assisters combined forces this month for a day of learning, sharing and planning at our second annual Getting Georgia Covered summit. From more about the event and speakers, click here. For event photos, check out our Facebook photo album!


MEDIA COVERAGE

Task force unveils options to cover uninsured in Georgia
Georgia Health News | August 31, 2016


Blue Cross To Be Sole Obamacare Insurer In Most Ga. Counties
WABE | August 30, 2016


State accepts new hike in Blue Cross exchange premiums
Georgia Health News | August 23, 2016


Blue Cross may bump up rates on Georgia insurance exchange
Georgia Health News | August 19, 2016


Aetna Latest Insurer To Leave Georgia’s Insurance Exchange
WABE | August 17, 2016


Another big defection from Georgia insurance exchange
Georgia Health News | August 16, 2016


Aetna pulls out of Obamacare exchanges in Georgia, 10 other states
Georgia Report | August 16, 2016

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: July 2016

HOW WE THINK ABOUT HEALTH

healthinallpoliciesThe complex factors that contribute to health

At GHF, we have historically spent much of our time and energy on ‘traditional’ issues in health care – health insurance, access to care, costs to consumers, and health care quality and value. But we all know there’s so much more to health than that. Factors like education, housing, criminal justice and corrections, and transportation all impact our health and well-being. These factors are called social determinants of health.

This year, GHF is launching a new project to bring together stakeholders and advocates from across sectors to identify promising policy initiatives that can address the social determinants of health. Read more about the project here.


ADVANCING HEALTH EQUITY FOR LGBT GEORGIANS

Georgians for a Healthy Future teams up with Georgia Equality and The Health Initiative

Together, we are working to help Georgians who have faced discrimination in health care report it so we can help stop it from happening again. Learn more about this project and initiative here.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint online with the Office for Civil Rights. Please also tell us about your experience so we can help you navigate the complaint process and identify systemic issues that should be addressed through public policy. Want to stay up-to-date on this project and issues impacting the health care of LGBT Georgians? Let Anna know and we’ll keep you posted!


A WIN FOR GEORGIA HEALTH CARE CONSUMERS

IconDepartment of Justice moves to block major health insurance mergers 

Two weeks ago, the DOJ announced they will file suit to block both the Aetna-Humana and Anthem-Cigna health insurance mergers. Earlier this month, GHF released a policy report, Proceed with Caution: Proposed Health Insurance Mergers Could Harm Georgia Consumers, which details Georgia’s current health insurance market and how these mergers could decrease competition and access to care while increasing prices. Read more about what this means and check out Georgia Health News’s coverage as well an interview with GHF Executive Director Cindy Zeldin on WABE’s A Closer Look


A GREAT CONVERSATION!

20160719_205414Thank you to those who joined us for “A Conversation with Author Mike King” 

We had a great time on July 19th with friends and advocates talking with Mike King, author of A Spirt of Charity: Restoring the Bond Between America and Its Public Hospitals! The conversation centered around the past, present, and future of health care in America and in Georgia. You can find pictures from the event here.


ICYMI: CONSUMER HEALTH IMPACT AWARDEES ANNOUNCED!

chia-awardees-stacey-pk-carole-tim2

Please join us in congratulating our four awardees!

We are thrilled to recognize this group of amazing consumer health care advocates! We encourage you to learn more about them, their commitment, and their impact. This year’s celebration will be on September 28th at Park Tavern. We hope you will join us as we honor their dedication and that of advocates across the state. RSVP


JOIN US FOR OUR 2ND ANNUAL ENROLLMENT SUMMIT

Enrollment-Summit-e1466617074424-150x150August 16, 2016 8:30 AM – 2:00 PM
Sloppy Floyd Building

Please join us for a half-day summit focusing on opportunities for collaboration between health care advocates, providers, policy experts, community-based nonprofit organizations, and enrollment assisters to better reach our shared goals of improving health care coverage and access to care in Georgia. Confirmed speakers include:

 

  • Dr. Pamela Roshell, Region IV Director, US Department of Health and Human Services
  • Dr. Bill Custer, Director of the Center for Health Services Research and Associate Professor, J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University
  • Heather Bates, Deputy Director, Enrollment Assister Network, Families USA
  • Sandy Anh, Associate Research Professor, Georgetown University Center on Health Insurance Reforms

This is a free event. Lunch will be provided. RSVP


ENROLL AMERICA

Enroll-AmericaWe are excited to announce that we have been selected to be a part of the Enroll America Get Covered Academy – Leadership Track! The Leadership Track will focus on expanding our knowledge of best practices for outreach, enrollment, and reaching the remaining uninsured. Additionally, GHF will be the only organization in the Academy that is participating in the “train-the-trainer” curriculum. This specialized training will allow GHF staff to be trained on Enroll America’s Get Covered Academy topics and best practices to ultimately impart this knowledge to enrollment assisters throughout the state. Stay tuned for further updates on how we will take advantage of this opportunity and thank you to Enroll America for your support!


IN THE NEWS

A Closer Look
Rose Scott and Jim Burress | WABE

As feds file suit over insurance deals, Georgia postpones hearing
Andy Miller | Georgia Health News

Invest in our state by closing the coverage gap 

Laura Colbert | Georgia Health News

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: June 2016

CLOSING THE COVERAGE GAP UPDATE

It’s been an exciting month for Close the Gap advocates!

We are pleased to see that several of Georgia’s leaders have expressed to the press that they are willing to take a second look at closing Georgia’s coverage gap. We hope to work with our state leaders in the coming months to build further support and to find a solution that works for all Georgians. Below you’ll find a few links to articles covering the conversation happening at the Gold Dome.

Louisiana’s expanding Medicaid, Georgia should too
Flagpole | June 22

Task force aims to reshape Georgia stance on health coverage
Georgia Health News | June 21

Why a Ga. GOP chair wants to ‘re-examine’ Medicaid expansion
WABE June 15

Read more here 


KEEP THE MOMENTUM GOING

1-000-and-counting

1,000 names is a strong showing – but we need more!

Share the above infographic with a message encouraging your social network to add their names! You can find the petition here.


DON’T MISS THESE UPCOMING EVENTS!

Final book cover-1A Conversation with Author Mike King

July 19 6:30 – 8:30 PM
The Warren City Club

Health care advocates and friends – please join us for a book signing and conversation with Atlanta journalist Mike King, author of A Spirt of Charity: Restoring the Bond Between America and its Public Hospitals. His new book explores the role of public hospitals in our health system, weaving Georgia’s history – and the history of Grady – into this national story. In advance of the event, our executive director, Cindy Zeldin sat down with King to talk about his book. Read their conversation here.

We will provide appetizers and there will be a cash bar. This is a free event. RSVP here.


Enrollment-Summit-e1466617074424-150x150Getting Georgia Covered: How Consumer and Assister Experiences can Increase Enrollment and Inform Policy

August 16 8:30 AM – 2:00 PM
Sloppy Floyd Building

Please join us for our second annual enrollment summit. This year we are focusing on strengthening relationships between the health policy community and the enrollment assistance community. The summit will include speakers from the Georgetown Center for Health Insurance Reforms, Families USA, and Region IV HHS. Learn more about the agenda and RSVP here.


CHIA 2015 Awards2016 Consumer Health Impact Awards

September 28 6:30 PM
Park Tavern

Tickets are now on sale for the 2016 Consumer Health Impact Awards! Three awards recipients have so far been revealed; join us in congratulating them!

  • Community Impact Award – Carole Maddux, Executive Director, CEO of the Good Samaritan Health & Wellness Center
  • Powerhouse Policymaker – Senator P.K. Martin
  • Powerhouse Policymaker – House Minority Leader, Representative Stacey Abrams

Only July 11th we’ll be revealing the recipient of the Linda Smith Lowe Health Advocate Award, so make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Twitter! You can preview some of the silent auction items here and RSVP here.


OUT AND ABOUT WITH GHF

Neil SUD 2016Keeping up the Drumbeat for Youth Substance Use Prevention

This June, we joined advocates from other states in Philadelphia for the Community Catalyst Substance Use Disorders Advocacy Convening. The three-day conference gave us valuable insight for the next phase of our advocacy and policy efforts to expand the use of Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) through the activation of Medicaid codes for youth. Activating Medicaid codes would allow providers to be reimbursed for the time they spend conducting SBIRT and would encourage greater use of the tool. Read more about this project and the convening here.


Peachtree CornersPeachtree Corners Festival 

Georgia’s many summer festivals provide a unique opportunity for GHF and our partners to get out in the community and talk with people about how health policy impacts their lives and how they can be advocates. On June 11th and 12th, we continued our summer festival outreach with an information and education booth at the Peachtree Corners Festival. Read more about the festival and our conversations with people in the coverage gap here.


EbenezerWomen’s Day at Ebenezer Baptist Church

Ebenezer Baptist Church is a cornerstone of advocacy and social justice in Atlanta. On June 20th, Laura Cobert, Director of Outreach & Partnerships, was invited to join their Women’s Season celebrations to talk about the importance fo closing Georgia’s coverage gap. She spoke to a crowd fo about 60 women on a day when the theme was health and self-care. To read more about the event and Laura’s presentation, click here.


IN THE NEWS

Task force aims to reshape Georgia stance on health coverage
Georgia Health News| June 21

SEE MORE

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: May 2016

HEALTH CARE UPDATES

healthequityAn Important Step Towards Health Equity

On May 13, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule implementing Section 1557 of the ACA, an important milestone in the movement towards health equity. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in all health programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance through HHS, are administered through HHS, or are established under Title 1 of the ACA. Notably, Section 1557 marks the first time that sex discrimination in health care is prohibited and clarifies that gender identity and sex stereotyping are included in this definition. For more check out this blog post.


networkadequacyYield for Consumers: Insurance Mergers in Georgia

The Georgia Department of Insurance will hold hearings this summer on proposed health insurance company mergers that, if approved as requested, could limit choice and increase costs for Georgia health care consumers. Georgia regulators have the opportunity through these hearings to assess the merits of these mergers and to place conditions on them that can mitigate negative outcomes for consumers, but advocacy is needed to accomplish this. Read on for more about mergers, how GHF plans to engage in the hearing process on behalf of Georgia health care consumers, and how you can weigh in.


share_OE4#Enrollment365

The weather is heating up and the official start of summer is just around the corner, but here at GHF we’re already looking ahead to one of the hallmarks of fall: open enrollment! Earlier this spring, new renewal policies and consumer shopping tools were announced and health insurance plans released their initial rate filings, giving us early insights into what we might expect in the upcoming open enrollment period: November 1, 2016 – January 31, 2017. But while we’re busy preparing for OE4, we also know that health insurance enrollment happens year-round. Read on for more about new rules for special enrollment periods, rate filings, and how to stay up to date on all things enrollment.


THE IMPACT OF THE CONSUMER VOICE

Does a strong consumer voice make a difference in health policy outcomes? At GHF, consumer engagement is woven into each of our initiatives to bring the needs and voices of Georgia health care consumers into the public policy process. Over the past two years, one of our top priorities has been maximizing health insurance enrollment and ensuring that once enrolled, consumers can access the care they need. Our work in this area, along with that of similar efforts in seventeen states, was recently evaluated by Mathematica. The evaluation focused on the activities and outcomes of the eighteen Consumer Voices for Coverage projects funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Learn more about the evaluation findings here.


COVER GEORGIA UPDATES

Spring SummitCover Georgia Spring Summit 

This month, members of the Cover Georgia Coalition met for a half-day meeting to discuss what advocates can do to make sure that Georgia closes its coverage gap in 2017. If your organization is interested in joining the coalition, reach out to Laura Colbert. If you are an individual advocate who’d like to join the movement here are three ways you can get involved:

  1. Share an infographic on social media about the coverage gap
  2. Sign the petition to close the coverage gap

Join the Georgia Health Action Network to receive updates on progress and prompts to reach out to legislators, engage on social media, and other quick actions


UPCOMING EVENTS

Final book cover-1A Conversation with Author Mike King

The Warren City Club
July 19, 2016
6:30 – 8:30 PM

Health care advocates and friends – please join GHF for a book signing and conversation with Atlanta journalist Mike King, author of A Spirit of Charity: Restoring the Bond Between America and Its Public Hospitals. His new book explores the role of public hospitals in our health system, weaving Georgia’s history – and the history of Grady – into this national story. You can read more about his book here. We look forward to an evening of lively conversation about the role of safety net hospitals here in Georgia and throughout America. We will provide a light dinner and there will be a cash bar. This is a free event. RSVP here.


CHIA 2015 AwardsConsumer Health Impact Awards 

Please join us for our second annual Consumer Health Impact Awards! This event shines a spotlight on advocates, community leaders, and state policymakers working to improve health in Georgia through service and advocacy. RSVP for the event here.

We will be announcing 2016 awardees in the coming weeks – look out for that announcement!


IN THE NEWS

Some rates in Georgia insurance exchange could soar in 2017
Andy Miller, Georgia Health News

Ruling against Obamacare a win for GOP, but impact for Georgia on hold
Tamar Hallerman, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: April 2016

GHF IN THE COMMUNITY

PWP Studio photographers specialize in corporate event photography, decor, details, incentive travel, conventions, and on-location photography in Atlanta, GeorgiaGHF Presents at Connections 2016

GHF’s Cindy Zeldin and Laura Colbert presented at the Healthcare Georgia Foundation’s 2016 Connections conference. They shared GHF organizational strengths that foster and support the development of strategic partnerships and cooperation. Check out Laura’s blog post about the conference for resources and more!

 

Whitney LWV 4.16GHF joins League of Women Voters for Annual Meeting

On Saturday, April 21st, GHF’s Whitney Griggs spoke to the Fulton County League of Women Voters about health care issues addressed in the 2016 legislative session. She highlighted bills focused on health care disparities and the coverage gap.

 

 


GOVERNOR DEAL SIGNS BIPARTISAN PROVIDER DIRECTORY LEGISLATION

IMG_8559GHF and partners attend signing of SB 302 

Last week, Governor Deal signed SB 302 into law! GHF advocated throughout the Legislative Session for this bipartisan bill to improve the accuracy and usability of provider directories. SB 302 is an important step towards making provider directories the accurate and functional tool that consumers need to make the best health care decisions for themselves and their families. Georgia’s proactive move is being noted by national partners – check out the coverage!

Consumers Union – Consumers Score Victory with Georgia Provider Directory Legislation Signed into Law

Families USA – How States Are Improving Consumers’ Access to In-Network Health Care Providers

Community Catalyst – Protecting Health Care Consumers in the Peach State

For more information and resources on provider directories, check out our blog post.


NEW AT HEALTHYFUTUREGA.ORG

Rural-Georgians-Coverage-GapInfographics page 

We know you care about advocating for a healthy future – it’s why you signed up for our emails! We also know you’re busy. So we’ve been working on ways you can learn, engage, and participate in the way that works best for you! One such avenue is through our infographics page. There you’ll find infographics on the issues you care about and easy buttons to share them on social media! If you’re on Pinterest, you can also follow our infographics board.

 


APRIL EVENTS

Inman Park Festival 2016Inman Park Festival – GHF goes to the community

This past weekend, GHF had a table at the Inman Park Festival. Whitney and Laura were on hand to talk about the coverage gap and other GHF priorities. We collected dozens of close the gap postcards and gave out goodies to those that stopped by! Thank you to our partners at Feminist Women’s Health Center for joining us at the festival!

 

 

policy-prioritiesPost Legislative Session Webinar 

If you weren’t able to attend our April 5th webinar, Changes in health Care and Policy in the 2016 Georgia Legislative Session, don’t worry, you can watch it here. The webinar reviews bills, resolutions, and budgetary items discussed during the 2016 Legislative Session that may impact Georgia’s health care system and health care consumers. Have questions that didn’t get answered? Email Laura!

 


PARTNER HIGHLIGHT

Dibeties team

American Diabetes Association – Georgia Chapter

GHF is excited to partner with the Georgia chapter of the American Diabetes Association to support health advocacy work that can improve the lives of people affected by diabetes. Advocacy collaborations involve participation in the effort to pass SB 302, expansion of the American Diabetes Association’s Safe at School training program, and a Diabetes Advocacy Day at the Capitol in 2017. For information on involvement with the American Diabetes Association please contact Rebecca Drake.

The mission of the Georgia chapter of the American Diabetes Association is to prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes in the state.


SAVE THE DATE: SEPTEMBER 28, 2016

Photo Sep 09, 9 13 38 PMJoin us for the 2nd annual Consumer Health Impact Awards!

We had a blast celebrating advocacy and health advances in Georgia with you last year and we can’t wait to do it again! Voting is now open for the Linda S. Lowe Health Advocacy Award and for the Community Impact Award. Know a person or organization whose work deserves to be recognized? Nominate them today! If you’re interested in sponsoring you can learn more here. RSVP here.


GHF WELCOMES NEW BOARD MEMBERS

DeepShah_headshotDeep Shah

Dr. Deep Shah, MD, MSc is a senior internal medicine resident at Emory University School of Medicine/Grady Memorial Hospital. He graduated summa cum laude from the University of Georgia, where he won a Rhodes Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in comparative social policy at Oxford. Deep then went to Harvard for medical school. He has worked as a policy fellow for Senator Johnny Isakson and Governor Sonny Perdue. He serves on the American College of Physicians’ Medical Practice and Quality Committee and Committee and Council of Resident/Fellow Members. After residency, he plans to marry his interests in primary care, health administration, and public policy.

 

porter-head-shot-608x1024Melanie Porter

Melanie recently retired from John Deere, where she worked in several diverse capacities, including Director and then Vice President of the Agri Services division of the company. Melanie led HR teams in Mergers and Acquisitions, integrating new businesses into John Deere, and was then appointed to lead a newly created HR area of Change Management, where she and her team designed and developed processes and tools that enabled aligned teamwork and supported individual and team performance improvement. She then returned to HR Operations, leading a team providing HR expertise and leadership to all the corporate functional areas of the company. Melanie also served as a Master Coach at John Deere, guiding leaders in their career objectives. She was proud to serve six years as Vice Chair of the Board for Community Health Care, Inc., an organization that provides excellent, affordable in-patient medical, dental and behavioral health care to over 35,000 patients annually.

 


IN THE NEWS

Study says United exit will hurt some exchange enrollees
April 19 | Georgia Health News


State document hints at downside to insurance mergers in Georgia
April 13 | Georgia Health News

Read More.

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: March 2016

The 2016 Legislative Session has Ended

Moving Forward

policy-prioritiesThe 2016 Legislative Session has come and gone. If you’re still catching up on everything that happened, check out our legislative tracking page to see what passed, what didn’t, and what’s been signed by the Governor thus far. You can also find our video series, Consumer Health Advocacy Today (CHAT), on ourYouTube page.

Click here to read a letter from our Executive Director, Cindy Zeldin, as she reflects on the session and what’s ahead for Georgia’s health care consumers.

If you missed our webinar earlier today on changes in health care policy in the 2016 legislative session, join the Georgia Health Action Network to receive the recording.


Closing Georgia’s Coverage Gap

Tracy-Screenshot

Working together to close the coverage gap

GHF and the Cover Georgia Coalition are gathering stories and signatures! Stories like Tracy’s help to put a human face to Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid. If you fall into the coverage gap, your story can make a difference in convincing our lawmakers to close the gap. To share your story, email Whitney.

If you’d like to show your support for closing the gap you can sign this petition to close the coverage gap and share it with your friends, family, and social network.

In addition to the petition, GHF & Cover Georgia are collecting post cards, like the one above, to show lawmakers that their constituents support closing the gap. If your organization would like hard copies of postcards, like the one above, to help collect signatures in your outreach, let us know! We’re also available to give presentations on the coverage gap and what it means for all Georgians. For more information about presentations, email Laura.


Save the Date!

slider_CHIA_savethedate

The Consumer Health Impact Awards are back!

After an amazing first year, we are thrilled to announce the date for the second annual Consumer Health Impact Awards! Nominations for this year’s awardees start soon and now is the time to start thinking about who should take home the 2016 Linda Smith Lowe Advocacy and the Community Impact Award! Already know you want to go? You can RSVP here. Sponsorship opportunities can be found here.


GHF Welcomes New Staff Member

Dobra-HeadshotSarah Dobra – Director of Development & Operations

GHF is excited to welcome Sarah to the GHF team! In her role she will provide operational, development, planning and evaluation, and editorial support to ensure that we’re functioning well across programs and projects. Prior to joining GHF, Sarah was the Disparities Manager and Cancer Care Delivery Research Program Coordinator at a community cancer center in Savannah, Georgia. In this position Sarah successfully leveraged community  partners to support cancer prevention and screening activities to address cancer disparities as part of a larger community network. Sarah obtained her law and master’s in Public Health degrees at Tulane University and holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon. Sarah can be reached at sdobra@healthyfuturega.org – join us in welcoming her!


GHF in the News

Bill aims to erase errors in insurers’ medical directories 
by Andy Miller, Georgia Health News

“Directory errors can be common. For example, a “secret shopper” survey done by Georgians for a Healthy Future found numerous errors in four “silver-level” HMOs in Atlanta that the consumer group examined. The survey found that one in five primary care doctors listed as participating in a plan’s network were not actually in that network, Cindy Zeldin, executive director of the consumer group, told GHN on Wednesday…” Read more.

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: February 2016

Getting What You Pay For

groupGHF and Georgia Watch host policy forum on network adequacy, surprise out-of-network billing, and provider directory accuracy.

Early in February, GHF and Georgia Watch partnered to host policymakers, stakeholders, and advocates at a policy panel on important health insurance consumer protections. The event opened with remarks from Senator Dean Burke and included presentations from Consumers Union’s Julie Silas, Georgia Watch’s Beth Stephens, and GHF’s Meredith Gonsahn. If you missed the event, you can find presentations and materials below!

Julie Silas’s presentation: Finding Policy Solutions for Provider Directories and Surprise Medical Bills

Meredith Gonsahn’s presentation: Improving Network Adequacy and Provider Directory Standards in Georgia

Video interviews with Julie Silas on network adequacy and provider directories

Who was there? Check out the photo album.


New Policy Briefs

network-adequacy-briefEnsuring Access to Care: Setting and Enforcing Network Adequacy Standards 

When consumers enroll in a health insurance plan, they gain access to a network of medical providers. This network must be adequate to ensure that consumers enrolled in the plan have reasonable access to all covered benefits. The goals of this policy brief are to:

-explain the importance of network adequacy for access to care

-outline current network adequacy standards in Georgia

-summarize recent policy activity around network adequacy

-set forth consumer-oriented principles for network adequacy standards in Georgia

-provide policy recommendations to achieve network adequacy in Georgia.

Download the brief.

provider-directory-briefEnsuring Access to Care: Improving Provider Directory Accuracy and Usability

Provider directories are the primary tool available to consumers to determine whether the plan they are selecting has a narrow or broad network and to identify which providers are in their plan. As such,these directories should be accurate, up-to-date, and should truly function as a tool. The Georgia Legislature has taken the first steps to addressing these issues through SB 302, the Provider Directory Improvement Act. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and is now in the House Insurance Committee for consideration.The goals of this policy brief are to:

-explain the role provider directories play as a tool for consumer decision-making

-describe current provider directory provision in Georgia

-describe common problems with provider directories

-outline recent policy activity around provider directories

-highlight other state examples of provider directory improvments

Download the brief.


Legislative Updates

Mental.Health.Day_Jan.2016_edittedGHF and partners take to the Gold Dome! 

Whitney and Laura have been spending extra time at the Capitol lately with our coalition partners. Many organizations host lobby days during the legislative session when grassroots advocates can come to the Capitol to make legislators aware of issues that they care about and advocate for relevant legislation. Our partner organizations have invited GHF to attend many lobby days to talk to their attendees about closing Georgia’s coverage gap and other items on our policy agenda. Whitney and Laura have also provided coverage gap lapel stickers so this issue is visible to all people in the Capitol, especially legislators. Thank you to all our partners for sharing your lobby days with us and helping to foster new coverage gap advocates!

Consumer Health Care at the Capitol
Throughout the session we’ve been sending weekly legislative updates about the issues we’re following at the Capitol, such as the Provider Directory Improvement Act, proposals to close the coverage gap, and other bills that could impact your health care. If you missed an email, you can find all updates here. You can also see all the bills we’re tracking here.


GEAR Update: Special Enrollment Period Changes 

We want to hear from you – new SEP rules! 
At the beginning of last year’s open enrollment period, GHF created GEAR, the Georgia Enrollment Assister Resource Network (GEAR). GEAR is a coalition of enrollment assisters and those closely involved in the enrollment process. Now the open enrollment is passed, GEAR is turning to tax time and special enrollment periods (SEPs). Last month, CMS announced the new special enrollment confirmation process. Georgians will now be required to provide sufficient proof to the marketplace to determine their SEP eligibility. Failure to provide supporting documents may lead to the denial of coverage. At GHF we advocate for policies that make enrollment in health insurance more inclusive and  fight policies that put up unnecessary barriers. We want to hear from you about this! If you’re an enrollment assister and are experiencing trouble enrolling consumers during a special enrollment period, let us know! If you’d like to join the GEAR network, you can do that here.


GHF Welcomes New Board Members

Haque-aliyyaAliyya Haque
Aliyya Haque is an associate in Alston & Bird’s Products Liability group. She represents industry in scientifically-complex matters, typically involving toxic tort, product liability, ad consumer fraud allegations. Aliyya specializes in working with experts to communicate the client’s scientific case to a non-technical audience. Representative industries include telecommunications, food and beverage, chemicals and minerals, automotive and home construction products. Aliyya received her J.D. from Emory University School of Law. Prior to attending law school, she obtained a M.P.H in health systems management from Tulane University and a B.A. in human biology and a minor in art history from Stanford University.

Caley_headshot_2014-300x300-1Sylvia Caley

Sylvia returns to the GHF’s board of directors. She is an associate clinical professor at Georgia State University and is director of the Health Law Partnership (HeLP), a medical-legal community collaboration among Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and the College of Law at Georgia State. Caley has extensive experience in health care, health law and policy, and poverty law, and her work-related interests have centered on the intersection of health and poverty. She is a member of the Grady Health System Ethics Committee and the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Bioethics and public Affairs Committee. Caley teaches courses on health policy and legislation and clinical skills. She also lectures extensively on legal issues affecting child health and well-being

 


GHF in the News

Closer Look – WABE
59:18: Cindy Zeldin, executive directory og GHF, expamines current state legislation related to healthcare and health policy.


A small, surprising step toward a big change in health coverage? – Georgia Health News
“The bill may not get very far this year, with time running out in the General Assembly session and without the fiscal impact yet studied. But a Senate health committee broke new ground by holding a legislative hearing on a proposal, SB 368, that would create a Medicaid expansion alternative in Georgia…”


ACA enrollment tops 587,000 in Ga., but insurers nervous over sign up rules – Georgia Health News
“More than 580,000 Georgians signed up for coverage in the insurance exchange during the third open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act…”


Bipartisan Cooperation on Health Care in Georgia, But Not Medicaid Expansion – Atlanta Progressive News
“Medicaid expansion may be dead for the year, but there appears to be bipartisan cooperation on other health policy issues..”

 

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: January 2016

INTRODUCING THE GEORGIA HEALTH ACTION NETWORK (GHAN)

What is GHAN? 

GHAN is your way to keep up with and take action on the health care policy issues you care about. By signing up to be a part of GHAN you’ll receive action alerts with things you can do, like sign a petition, share an infographic with your social network, or contact your legislator to raise awareness and advocate for important consumer health issues. To join GHAN, email Anna.


LEGISLATIVE UPDATES

policy-prioritiesThe Georgia Legislative Session is in full swing

It is a short session this year and it’s amazing we’re already almost a month in! GHF is at the Capitol every day, advocating for consumer health care protections. To see a list of the bills we’re tracking,click here. We’re very excited that Senator P.K. Martin has introduced a bill, SB 302, that would increase transparency and the usability of health insurance provider directories. The bill has strong bipartisan support and is scheduled for a hearing Monday, so stay tuned for that update! Conversations also continue around surprise medical bills, network adequacy, and closing the coverage gap.

Read the Week One update.

Read the Week Two update.

Read the Week Three update.

If you’re more of a visual person, you might want to check out our video series, CHAT (or Consumer Health Advocacy Today) where we talk to policy makers and experts about what’s going on under the Gold Dome.


OPEN ENROLLMENT ENDS

Pranaya Outreach 10.15GHF helped over 100 people get covered

Open enrollment formally concluded on January 31, 2016 and 587,845 Georgians enrolled in the Marketplace (healthcare.gov).

Throughout open enrollment, GHF worked to get Georgians enrolled through direct service and the creation of GEAR (or the Georgia Enrollment Assister Resource Network). GEAR is the new central hub of resources for Georgia’s enrollment assisters and community partners who work with consumers to educate them on their health and health care coverage options. If you are interested in learning more about GEAR or want to sign up for the newsletter, email Whitney. Additionally, during this open enrollment period we have provided enrollment assistance to 78 applicants and their families, totaling 141 Georgians. Of those, 91%  received financial assistance.


WHY THE COVERAGE GAP MATTERS

Henry.-Savannah-GA-1.16On January 19th, GHF’s Outreach and Engagement Manager, Whitney Griggs, was in Savannah talking to people who fell into the coverage gap. One of them was Henry. Henry had been working as a super heavy hauler, but had to stop working in 2008 to take care of his diabetes and other health issues. He intended to return to driving once his health problems were under control, but he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and could not return to driving or working. He is currently managing several severe health issues, including diabetes, blood clots in his lungs and legs, thryroid cancer, and COPD. Although, he is able to get some of his care from St. Mary’s, he has many unpaid medical bills. He must rely on his elderly mother to help pay some of his costs, which he says is difficult because she lives on a fixed income.  Stories like Henry’s highlight the need for Georgia to close its coverage gap to make sure all Georgians are able to get the care they need. If you or someone you know has a story of being uninsured that you would like to share, please contact Whitney.


6TH ANNUAL HEALTH CARE UNSCRAMBLED

Health Care Unscrambled 2016

Starting the Year Off Right 

There’s something wonderful about a room full of people talking about how to improve Georgians’ access to quality, affordable health care. No matter the path we advocate for, the end goal is the same. This year we hosted a bipartisan legislative panel that included Reps. Lee Hawkins and Debbie Buckner and Sens. Greg Kirk and Emanuel Jones. Following the legislative panel, two national experts, Sue Polis from Trust for America’s Health and Lynn Quincy from Consumers Union, spoke on emerging trends in health care policy. Check out this blog to see pictures from the event, read the media’s write up, and watch interviews with the panelists.


GHF IN THE NEWS

Last Call to Enroll for 2016 Insurance Under the Affordable Care Act 
New York Times | January 29, 2016

Read full article.

Legislative panel reflects divide on Medicaid expansion 
Georgia Health News | January 14, 2016

Read full article.

Rare metal: Where are the Platinum plans?
Georgia Health News | January 4, 2016

Read full article.

MORE >

The Peach Pulse: December 2015

The holidays are behind us and the legislative session is here! Here’s what you need to know about December before we get too far into January!


Upcoming Events

STDHealth Care Unscrambled 2016

It’s not too late to register! Health Care Unscrambled, GHF’s signature event, is this Thursday. Join us for breakfast and conversation with a bipartisan panel of legislators who are focusing on health policy issues under the Gold Dome this session. Then stick around for a deep dive on emerging issues for health advocates with Lynn Quincy of Consumers Union and Sue Polis from Trust for America’s Health.

RSVP

 

Legislative-Webinar-4-15-2Webinar: A Look Ahead at Health Care Policy in the 2016 Georgia Legislative Session

Can’t make it to Health Care Unscrambled? You can still get the information you need to advocate on health care policy issues in the 2016 legislative session by attending our upcoming webinar. We will preview expected health care legislation,present GHF’s policy priorities, and let you know how you can get involved. The webinar is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 21st, noon to 1 pm.

Register Here

 

Getting What You Pay For: Consumer Protections for Network Adequacy, Surprise Medical Bills, and Provider Directories

February 2, 2016 – 8am
Freight Depot, Blue Room

Join us and Georgia Watch for a policy forum featuring an in-depth panel discussion on network adequacy, surprise medical bills and provider directories. Panelists will speak on how these issues are impacting consumers in Georgia and across the nation, policy implications, current legislative work and how you can get involved in supporting advocacy efforts. The panel will feature:

  • Senator Dean Burke, District 11
  • Julie Silas, Consumer Union
  • Meredith Gonsahn, Georgians for a Healthy Future
  • Beth Stephens, Georgia Watch

RSVP


Policy Updates
Study committee work has finished, reports trickle in

Georgia legislative study committees meet during the off-session to study and make recommendations for the General Assembly around specific policy issues. GHF has been following and participating in the study committees focused on health issues impacting consumers. Read our Health Policy Analyst Meredith Gonsahn’s blog for a run-down of committees that have published their reports, the issues they investigated, and report recommendations.

Read blog.

GHF releases our policy priorities

Policy_Priority_ThumbnailThe 2016 Legislative Session has officially begun and at GHF we have released our 2016 policy priorities. You can download the PDF below or you can watch the one minute video by clicking on the image to the right for a quick run-down!

Download our 2016 policy priorities


ACA Implementation Research Network

Dec18.2015forumIn December, the ACA Implementation Research Network released its Georgia state report at a policy forum held at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin participated in a discussion with advocates, policymakers, and stakeholders to reflect on the report’s findings. The conversation ranged from health insurance enrollment best practices to health system reform to what it will take to close the coverage gap in Georgia.

Download the Report


Enrollment Update

Parker & Sharda Tankoo_enrolled 2016 (3)By the 9th week of Open Enrollment 3, more than 8.6 million consumers nationally and 517,000 in Georgia have enrolled in health care coverage through the Marketplace. In addition to GHF’s collaborative work with the enrollment assistance community, we also help individuals and families enroll in health insurance! We have assisted more than 70 individuals and families with enrollment and post enrollment related services, and enrolled 60 consumers into Marketplace plans during OE3. GHF continues to provide enrollment and post enrollment assistance to consumers through its main office in downtown Atlanta, its weekly enrollment site at Switzer public library in Marietta, and through other events in partnership with community organizations, coalition partners, and other non-profit organizations.

Contact our enrollment assister 


New Look, Same GHF

Have you been to our website recently? If you haven’t, you should! We have revamped our site to be more engaging and intuitive. It’s chock full of tools and resources to help you get up to speed on the issues you care about and to take action during the legislative session and throughout the year. Check it out!


GHF In the News

Tom Crawford: Here’s a salute to the accomplishments of 2015
Gainsville Times | December 30, 2015

Exchange enrollment nears 500,000 in Georgia
AJC | December 22, 2015

Insurers’ woes threaten the Affordable Care Act
Atlanta Business Chronicle | December 18, 2015

State senator expects legislation on insurance reform
Georgia Health News | December 15, 2015

See more 


GHF Welcomes New Intern!

VictoriaVictoria Congleton joins the GHF team in our efforts to improve health policies in Georgia. Victoria will work on various tasks during her time with GHF to learn about all of the components of health advocacy in Georgia. Victoria hopes to learn more about the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, health policies, the legislative session, and other health topics. She is currently finishing up her Bachelors in Community Health and French at SUNY Potsdam.

 

 


ICYMI: GHF is on LinkedIn

linkedin_largeGHF has joined the LinkedIn community and we’d love to connect with you! Check out our page, follow us and let the conversations begin!


See what’s happening on our social sites

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Peach Pulse, November 2015

POLICY UPDATES

Network Adequacy – We Have a Model Act!

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners approved an updated network adequacy model act at its Fall meeting in November. The model act is a framework that states can adopt to help ensure that consumers have meaningful and timely access to the health services in their benefit package. With more insurance companies offering narrow network plans, these basic standards are an important consumer protection, and GHF encourages state policymakers to consider tailoring and adopting the model act in Georgia. We’ll be announcing our legislative priorities for 2016 soon, and this issue will be on the list!

Study Committees Conclude Their Work

Meredith and Claire 11.15Several health-related study committees met during the summer and fall months, and most of them are wrapping up their work. The Consumer and Provider Protection Act Study Committee held its final open meeting in November with a focus on network adequacy and provider directories. Claire McAndrew from Families USA, a national consumer health advocacy organization, and Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Health Policy Analyst Meredith Gonsahn delivered testimony on the importance of setting network adequacy standards and ensuring provider directory accuracy and usability. Look out for a final report from the committee in December!

Read Meredith’s Testimony

Read Claire’s Testimony

Concerns Grow about Proposed Mergers

Earlier this year, two separate proposed health insurance mergers were announced. A November New York Times article laid out some of the concerns that consumer advocates have about the proposed mergers and featured comments from Cindy Zeldin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director. Our Health Policy Analyst Meredith Gonsahn is monitoring this important issue – be on the lookout for a policy brief in the new year that provides more detailed insights about the potential effects of these mergers. You can also learn more by visiting the Coalition to Protect Patient Choice.


UPCOMING EVENTS

Health Care Unscrambled 2016

STDPlease save the date for the morning of January 14th for our annual Health Care Unscrambled policy breakfast. The breakfast will feature a bipartisan panel of legislators who will preview the health care issues they plan to focus on during the legislative session, a keynote panel discussion about emerging health policy issues, and opportunities to network with fellow health advocates. Registration is now open!

RSVP!

Sponsorship Opportunities

 

 

 


GHF IN THE COMMUNITY

Coverage and Access to Care: Local Focus on Savannah

Photo Nov 06, 10 44 15 AMGeorgians for a Healthy Future hit the road again recently, this time to Savannah! We collaborated with the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute and the Chatham County Safety Net Planning Council to pull together a local roundtable discussion with individuals and organizations serving the local community. We learned so much about the coverage and access challenges facing individuals and families in Savannah.

Read Laura’s Blog

 

 

GHF in North Fulton

Laura North Fulton 11.15North Fulton Community Charities, a non-profit human service agency that assists families in need in North Fulton County, invited Georgians for a Healthy Future to present our Medicaid chart book to its community leaders. Board members, city and county council people, and state legislators were in attendance, along with interested community members. We had a constructive conversation with participants about how Georgia can close the coverage gap. If your organization, church, or community group would like us to present at your next meeting (either about closing the coverage gap or about helping people enroll in health insurance), contact Laura.

 

 

 


 

PUBLICATIONS AVAILABLE IN SPANISH

Get Insured. Stay Insured.

Spanish toolkitThis toolkit is designed to walk people through each step of the enrollment process, from how to select the right plan for them, to how to find a doctor, and even things to keep in mind when filing taxes if they receive a subsidy. Hard copies of the Spanish toolkit are available, please email Whitney for more information.

Download Spanish Toolkit.

 

 

 

My Health Insurance User’s Manual

Spanish workbookThis workbook is a take-home, interactive resource for the newly enrolled. People can fill in the workbook with their own information so they have all of their important health coverage information in one place. If your organization is interested in obtaining hard copies of the workbook in Spanish, please contact Whitney.

Download Spanish Workbook.

 

 

 

Thank You!

GGD2015_logo_home133wIn addition to November being a busy month full of community engagement, health insurance enrollment, and public policy advances, it was also a month for gratitude and reflection. This Thanksgiving, the 300,000 Georgians who fall into the coverage gap were in our thoughts. In the coming year, we plan to redouble our efforts to close the coverage gap in Georgia. Your contributions on Georgia Gives Day will support our advocacy campaign in 2016 to close this gap. The Georgians for a Healthy Future team thanks you for your support. And if you missed Georgia Gives Day, don’t worry – you can still give here.

 

 

 

 


GHF in the News

Obamacare insurance premiums on the rise in Georgia

AJC | November 29, 2015

Closer Look: Health Care; Peachtree-Pine Shelter; And More

WABE | November 24, 2015

States Urged to Review Health Insurance Mergers

New York Times | November 20, 2015

 

MORE >

Peach Pulse, October 2015


NEW PUBLICATIONS

Get Insured. Stay Insured.

ghf_toolkit_160x600Our new toolkit is designed to walk people through each step of the enrollment process, from how to select the right plan for them, to how to find a doctor, and even things to keep in mind when filing taxes if they receive a subsidy. Each piece of the toolkit can be used individually based on where the person is in the enrollment process or it can be used as one comprehensive piece. If you have any questions about the toolkit or would like to receive hard copies (for pick up only in most cases) please contact Whitney Griggs.

Download Toolkit.

My Health Insurance User’s Manual

Cover_ImageThis workbook is a take-home, interactive resource for the newly enrolled. It covers topics that enrollment assisters may not have time to cover during the enrollment appointment, such as how to find a primary care provider, how to make your first appointment, and even how to make a budget. People can fill in the workbook with their own information so they have all of their important health coverage information in one place.

Download Workbook.


 

Study Committees Continue Their Work

Cindy TiftonGeorgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin traveled to Tifton in October to participate in the second meeting of the Consumer and Provider Protection Act Study Committee. The meeting was held at the Tift Regional Health System and featured testimony from a range of health care stakeholders. The third meeting of the committee was held on Monday, November 9th at 9am at the State Capitol in Atlanta and focused on network adequacy, an important issue for health care consumers. Click here to read Cindy’s blog on the study committee’s work.


 

 

PAST EVENTS

GEAR Webinar

GHF_5_pcpinoutetworkThis webinar introduced the Georgia Enrollment Assistance Resource (GEAR) Network. We created GEAR to be a resource for navigators, certified application counselors, community-based nonprofits, and other stakeholders who are interested in outreach and enrollment in Georgia. Through GEAR, you can access an array of Georgia-specific consumer-facing materials in English and Spanish. Participation in GEAR is free and is intended to be a community resource.

Sign up for the GEAR Newsletter.

Watch the Webinar.

 

Getting and Keeping Georgia Covered.

GHF and Enroll America teamed up to host an all day conference in advance of the start of Open Enrollment. If you missed it, check out this resources page for tons of valuable resources!

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Policy Luncheon on Preventing Youth Substance Use

This forum featured a panel of experts who shared their academic, research, and personal experiences, demonstrating not only the need for, but the effectiveness of SBIRT in preventing substance use disorders. Check out the videos below hear more about by SBIRT matters.

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Read the policy report.

 


UGA’s State of Public Health Conference: Featuring GHF

SOPH 9.15Last week, GHF was on the road again traveling to Athens for UGA’s annual State of Public Health conference. The SOPH conference is a chance for public health researchers, practitioners, and students to share and learn about the newest public health initiatives and research happening across Georgia. We were excited to be featured as a presenter among other experts, advocates, and leaders in Georgia’s public health domain. In a workshop dedicated to the Affordable Care Act, GHF teamed up with Georgia Watch to talk about Marketplace enrollment efforts in Georgia.  The presentation was based on GHF’s “Getting Georgia Covered” report, which explored the successes and barriers to outreach and enrollment efforts in Open Enrollment 2. We also previewed the upcoming open enrollment period, which starts on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2015, and advocated for closing Georgia’s coverage gap. The other presenters in the workshop, including another presentation from our partner Georgia Watch, comprehensively covered the new ACA requirement for hospitals to complete a community health needs assessment (CHNA) of their service area every 2-3 years and how that is being implemented in Georgia. The workshop generated some excellent questions and constructive conversation about these two very different aspects of the ACA.


IN THE NEWS

Georgians face key health insurance decisions during open enrollment

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 

Georgia Health News

 

WRBL

 

Soundbite Services

 

See more.


GHF Welcomes Yaminah, new Grassroots Advocacy Fellow!

YaminahYaminah Romulus joins the GHF team as the Grassroots Advocacy Fellow. She will work to develop GHF’s outreach strategy and collaborate the staff on policy analysis work. Yaminah is currently pursuing a Master’s of Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy and Management at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. Some of her interests include access to care for vulnerable populations, barriers to quality care, and the improvement of health care delivery systems.

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Peach Pulse, September 2015


NEW PUBLICATIONS

A Chart Book for Understanding Medicaid in Georgia and the Opportunity to Improve It

Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute are proud to release our joint publication: Understanding Medicaid in Georgia and the Opportunity to Improve It. Inside you will find infographics, new data, and compelling charts that simplify the complex issue of Medicaid in Georgia.

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Part one explains who gets Medicaid in Georgia, how Medicaid protects Georgians during economic downturns, how Medicaid controls costs in the state, and more.

Part two outlines Georgia’s opportunity to close the coverage gap.  Here you’ll find out what Georgia’s health insurance coverage gap is, how we can use Medicaid to close it, and who stands to benefit detailed by job sector, demographics, and veteran status.

Part three details economic and social benefits of closing the coverage gap. Why is closing the coverage gap is a good deal for Georgia and the state’s economy? What are the savings other states realize by closing the gap? How does coverage affect a person’s financial and physical health?

A limited number of hard copies of this new publication are available. Please let us know if you or your organization would like one. We are also available to provide presentations to your members about Medicaid in Georgia and the opportunity to improve it by closing the coverage gap. Please contact Laura Colbert if you’re interested in a community presentation.

Download the chartbook!

Many Working Parents and Families in Georgia Would Benefit from Extending Medicaid Coverage

Rate_of_Uninsurance_in_GA_CCFWe  know that closing Georgia’s coverage gap would help adults who are uninsured. But how does it affect families and children in our state? GHF and Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families have teamed up to bring you new research to answer that question. Key findings include:

  • Nearly three-in-ten Georgians potentially eligible for coverage should Georgia choose to close the coverage gap are parents with dependent children residing in their home.
  • Of those parents that could benefit from expanded Medicaid eligibility, nearly two-thirds (57 percent) are employed. Nearly half of all uninsured parents (46 percent) work in restaurants, retail, or professional service occupations.

Children enrolled in Medicaid are more likely to receive well-child care and are significantly less likely to have unmet or delayed needs for medical care, dental care, and prescription drug use due to cost.


 

UPCOMING EVENTS

GEAR up for Open Enrollment

Webinar
October 19
2:00 – 3:00 PM

Please join us for a webinar to introduce the new Georgia Enrollment Assistance Resource Network-GEAR! GEAR is the new central hub of resources for Georgia’s enrollment assisters and stakeholders who work to educate people on their health and health coverage options. GEAR is full of handouts, interactive consumer tools, important updates, and other materials that will help enrollment assisters and community organizations better educate Georgians on health insurance enrollment, health insurance literacy, and more.

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Want to learn more about GEAR and how you and/or your organization can benefit?  Join us on October 19th for a webinar where we will demonstrate how to access GEAR and review some of the materials that can be found there. We will also get your feedback about other resources you would like to see included on GEAR in the future. GEAR is built to help more Georgians connect to health coverage and we want it to work for you!

Sign up for the webinar!

 

Policy Luncheon on Preventing Youth Substance Use

October 22, 11:30 AM – 1:45 PM
Loudermilk Center, Ann Cramer Room

SBIRT bookmarkPlease join us for a policy forum to take a deep dive into promising, cost-effective best practices to reduce youth substance abuse in Georgia. This lunchtime event will be held just prior to the second meeting of the Senate Study Committee on Preventing Youth Substance Use Disorders and will feature opening remarks by Senator Renee Unterman, the chair of the study committee and the Senate Health and Human Services committee. The forum will also include a panel discussion featuring:

Dr. Paul Seale, Navicent Health

Dr. Gabe Kuperminc, Georgia State University

Leigh Colburn, Director, Graduate Marietta Student Success Center

Bertrand Brown, Georgia Council on Substance Abuse

After the panelists’ presentations there will be time for question and answer. This is a free event, but we ask that you RSVP so that we may order enough food.

RSVP Now!


 

PAST EVENTS

Local Spotlight on Augusta

In Augusta last week, GHF met with local providers, advocates, and consumers to talk about Augusta’s coverage gap. More than a presentation, the event was a constructive conversation about finding a solution and making Augusta healthier. It was clear to us that people in Augusta are dedicated to helping their neighbors and closing the coverage gap.

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The event was previewed and then written up in the Augusta Chronicle.

Event Write Up

“The state of Georgia will eventually expand its Medicaid program “because the numbers are so compelling,” a health care economist for Georgia State University said Thursday at a policy forum in Augusta.”

Event Preview

“Medicaid already covers 1.9 million people in Georgia, about 64 percent of whom are children, despite “very restrictive” limits on who can qualify, particularly for adults, according to a report being released today by Zeldin’s group and the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.”

 

GHF’s First Annual Consumer Health Impact Awards

What a night! GHF honored Georgia’s most inspiring health advocates, community partners, and policymakers at our first annual Consumer Health Impact Awards dinner in September. If you missed the event and want to see what all the fuss was about, check our our Storify or the photos on Facebook.

Thank you to our sponsors!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Legislative Study Committee Insights

Cindy Study Committee 9.15Study committees are the framework for the legislative session. It’s where legislators, experts, and advocates roll up their sleeves and study the issues facing Georgians. Below you’ll find two windows into the study committee process. The first is a deep dive into the Senate Study Committee on the Consumer and Provider Protection Act (SR 561) by GHF Executive Director Cindy Zeldin who serves on the committee and is very involved in addressing network adequacy.  The second is a breakdown by GHF Policy Analyst Meredith Gonsahn on the health-related committees meeting over the next several weeks.

Study Committee on the Consumer Provider and Protection Act

Read more about the study committees


 

IN THE NEWS

Expanding Medicaid coverage in Georgia has benefits, experts say

Augusta Chronicle | September 24, 2015

 

Georgia, Augusta are missing out on Medicaid, group says 

Augusta Chronicle | September 23, 2015

 

Health insurance rates headed up in 2016

Georgia Health News | September 14, 2015

– See more at: http://backup.jasonaxelson.com/september-peach-pulse#sthash.2QoeAfib.dpuf

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Peach Pulse, August 2015


Atlanta Journal-Constitution Op-ed on GA Uninsured Rate

DSC_0912 (2)GHF’s ED Cindy Zeldin took to the pages of theAtlanta Journal-Constitution last month to make the case for coverage:
“The clearest evidence we have shows us the decision by the majority of states (30 and counting) to expand Medicaid is foundational in transforming the health system. We cannot make progress as a state if 15 percent of our population is uninsured. Too many Georgians fall into a coverage gap our leaders can fix. Medicaid expansion should be on the table, not as a perfect solution, but as a necessary first step.”

 

IN THE NEWS

Medicaid experiment should foster dialogue

Atlanta Journal-Constitution | August 28, 2015

 

Narrow networks are the exchange norm here

Georgia Health News | August 25, 2015

 

State outlines argument against Medicaid “waiver”

Georgia Health News | August 13, 2015

 

Former state insurance chief wary of big mergers

Georgia Health News | August 2, 2015


 

We’re updating our look!

As we grow, GHF is looking to the future. We’ve updated our logo and this fall we will be rolling out a new website! Stay tuned for more details.

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Peach Pulse, July 2015


Network Adequacy Takes the Stage

During the 2015 Legislative Session, the State Senate established the Consumer and Provider Protection Act Study Committee. This committee will review and make recommendations around several health insurance practices, including network adequacy. GHF has identified network adequacy, or the sufficiency of the health care providers patients can access when they enroll in a health insurance plan, as an important emerging consumer health issue. Our Executive Director, Cindy Zeldin, is a member of the study committee and looks forward to bringing the consumer perspective to the committee’s work. Cindy also recently appeared on WABE and Top Docs Radio to talk about network adequacy and participated in a panel discussion along with several state legislators at the Medical Association of Georgia’s Summer Legislative Education Seminar to discuss this important issue. Stay tuned for study committee agendas, updates, and opportunities to weigh in!

Study Committee Schedule
September 14, 9:00 – 12:00
State Capitol

October 26, 2:00 – 5:00
Tift Regional Healthy System, Tifton

November 9, 9:00 – 12:00
State Capitol

 


Don’t Miss Out: GHF’s Consumer Health Impact Awards

CHIA TwitterYou’re invited to Georgians for a Healthy Future’s First Annual Consumer Health Impact Awards! Please join us for a silent auction, dinner, and awards presentation on the evening on September 9th at Park Tavern.  We look forward to gathering with friends old and new as we celebrate the work being done by those dedicated to ensuring all Georgians have access to quality, affordable health care.

 


GHF in the News

Gainesville Times | July 30, 2015
WABE | July 27, 2015

Georgia Health News | July 24, 2015
July 15, 2015

Medicaid Turned 50!

Over the past 50 years, Medicaid has ensured that our family members, friends, and neighbors have the quality health care they need. Be it our seniors accessing long term care services, kids seeing a doctor, or people with disabilities living independently, millions of people are better off because of this critical program.

Medicaid has also shown itself to be an effective and cost-efficient program. Administrative costs are substantially lower than private insurance and because people using Medicaid have access to preventive services, small issues can be addressed before they end up as big, costly illnesses.

catalyst1finalChildren in particular benefit from Medicaid. Studies show that kids with coverage show up at school ready to learn, are more likely to graduate from college, and end up with more earning potential as adults. In fact, more than 1 million Georgia children (about 35% of kids in our state) currently get their health care coverage through Medicaid.

As we reflect on what Medicaid has meant for children and families here in Georgia, it has been nothing short of transformative. And while about 1.9 million Georgians overall benefit from the essential health care access that Medicaid provides, approximately 300,000 Georgians are still stuck in a coverage gap: they don’t qualify for Medicaid under its existing stringent standards, aren’t offered coverage at work, and earn too little to qualify for tax credits through the Health Insurance Marketplace. The majority of states have accepted federal funding to close this gap, but Georgia hasn’t yet taken that step. Closing this gap and extending Medicaid coverage to all low-income Georgians would be a powerful tool for improving the health of individuals and families throughout our state. At Georgians for a Healthy Future we are proud to advocate for the Medicaid program that has been proven to improve health and saves lives. For the millions of Americans, and many Georgians, whose quality of life has been improved because of Medicaid, we’re so happy to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the life-changing program.

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More about Medicaid in Georgia!


 

Have you gotten married recently?

ghf_covered_medskyMajor life events, such as getting married, changing jobs, or having a baby, qualify for you a special 60 day enrollment period.  So after the honeymoon is over, it’s time to #GetCovered!

If you need assistance, our health care Navigator, Pranay Rana, is here to help!

Once you have health insurance, Whitney Griggs, our Consumer Education Specialist, can help answer the questions you have about finding a provider, accessing preventive services, filing a complaint or appeal, or any other question you may have!



 

We’re here to help!

IMG_2520Georgians for a Healthy Future staff is available to come to your coalition or organization meeting to cover any of these topics!

Laura Colbert, Community Outreach Manager.Laura can present on topics like closing Georgia’s coverage gap, how you and your organization can get involved in health advocacy, the effects of health policies on the health of Georgians, and more.
Pranay Rana, Health Insurance Navigator.  Pranay can give presentations on the health insurance marketplace and what you need to know before enrolling in health insurance.  Pranay is also available for individual enrollments.

Whitney Griggs, Consumer Education Specialist.

Whitney can present on health insurance literacy (a breakdown of important health insurance terms and concepts) and how to get the most out of your health insurance. This is especially helpful for groups and communities that have many newly insured members.

Set up a presentation!


 

ICYMI: Social Media Trends

To celebrate Medicaid’s 50th Anniversary, advocates and consumers across the country participated throughout the web with#KeepingUsHealthy and #MedicaidAt50

Check out the Twitter Storm on Storify!
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Peace Pulse, June 2015


King v. Burwell Recap

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Last month, the Supreme Court upheld subsidies for health insurance bought through the federal marketplace, leaving more than 400,000 Georgians secure in their coverage.

“We celebrate an important victory for health care consumers, and we are relieved that hundreds of thousands of Georgians can keep their coverage,” said Cindy Zeldin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director. “But there is still work to do. Georgia has the second highest rate of uninsured in the country, and three-hundred thousand Georgians fall into a coverage gap that was created by Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid.”

Now that the outcome of King v. Burwell is clear, we must not forget these workers, parents, and veterans in our state who still lack access to quality, affordable health insurance. It’s time to close the coverage gap.


Need health enrolling or using your insurance?

Jazzie-Jones-Smith-&-Sonny-Jones-Smith

Have you had a major life event recently, such as getting married? You may qualify for a special enrollment period. Pranay Rana, GHF’s health care navigator, is here to help you get covered!   Email Pranay for an appointment or check out his schedule below.

Once you have health insurance, Whitney Griggs, our Consumer Education Specialist, can help answer any questions you may have about finding a provider, accessing preventive services, or filing a complaint or appeal.

Pranay’s Schedule:
 

Switzer Central Library

266 Roswell St, Marietta, GA 30060

Every Thursday 11 AM – 4:00 PM


Moving Forward

 

GHF surveyed and interviewed enrollment assisters across the state to understand not only the “what,” but also the “why” behind the second open enrollment period.  The results of that research have led us to several policy recommendations to maximize health insurance enrollment and retention and to ensure that coverage translates to meaningful access to timely and appropriate medical services for Georgia health care consumers.

  1. Close the coverage gap in Georgia. Approximately 300,000 Georgians fall into the coverage gap, meaning they do not qualify for Medicaid under existing income eligibility guidelines in Georgia but their income is still too low to qualify for financial assistance (tax credits) to purchase health insurance on the Marketplace. Eligibility for tax credits begins at 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, or $11,770 for an individual or $20,090 for a family of three in 2015, while Medicaid eligibility for most adults in Georgia cuts off at income much lower. Thirty states including DC have closed their coverage gaps thus far with promising results. We encourage Georgia policymakers to take this important step as well to ensure all Georgians have a pathway to coverage.
  2. Set and enforce network adequacy and transparency standards. Many of the plans sold through the Health Insurance Marketplace are Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans that feature narrow provider networks. While these narrow networks can help keep premiums down, a trade-off many consumers may be willing to make, consumers do not currently have sufficient information to make this choice. There is no information available to consumers at the point of sale about whether a provider network is ultra narrow, narrow, or broad, and provider directories are routinely inaccurate. More transparency and oversight are needed to ensure that consumers have accurate and useful information to make these choices. It is also important that all provider networks allow for meaningful access to all covered benefits. To ensure this, we support putting in place and enforcing network adequacy standards.
  3. Encourage public-private partnerships and remove unnecessary restrictions on consumer education and assistance. Many of the enrollment assisters we surveyed indicated that reducing barriers to partnering with state government organizations such as public colleges, universities, and health departments would lead to stronger and more effective partnerships. Specifically, many respondents indicated that improved coordination between enrollment assisters, the Marketplace, and the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to better facilitate PeachCare for Kids and Medicaid enrollment would be helpful. The “Health Care Freedom Act,” passed in 2014 as part of HB 943, prohibits state and local governmental entities from operating a health insurance navigator program and places other limitations on governmental entities. This provision has been counterproductive, creating confusion around what educational and consumer assistance activities local entities can engage in as they work to serve their community members. We recommend lifting these restrictions.

GHF UPCOMING EVENTS

 

Save the Date_cropped

You’re invited to Georgians for a Healthy Future’s First Annual Consumer Health Impact Awards!

Please join us for a silent auction, dinner, and awards presentation on the evening on September 9th at Park Tavern.  We look forward to gathering with friends old and new as we celebrate the work being done by those dedicated to ensuring all Georgians have access to quality, affordable health care.  Tickets can be purchased below.

Do you know someone who should be recoginized for one of the below awards?  Nominate them here! Nominations will be accepted through July 31st.

You can view sponsorship opportunities here, or if you have an item you’d like to donate for the silent auction, please email Anna.

Linda Smith Lowe Health Advocacy Award

The Linda Smith Lowe Health Advocacy Award is given each year to an advocate whos work advances access to quality, affordable health care in Georgia. Nominees can be either professional advocates or volunteer advocates and must place a focus on vulnerable populations in their work and must work to achieve policy change. This award is named in honor of Linda Smith Lowe. Linda has dedicated her career to serving as an advocate on behalf of underserved Georgians who need a voice on health and human services issues.

Community Impact Award

The Community Impact Award is given each year to an individual or organization who has made an exceptional contribution to the health of their community in the past year. The impact of this contribution can be either at the individual, local, or state level. Nominees must work with individuals or local organizations to drive advancements in the health of the population served. Nominees may be health care providers, enrollment assisters, health educators, or others.

Powerhouse Policymaker Awards

The Powerhouse Policymaker Awards are given each year to local or state policymakers in Georgia who have exhibited excellence and courage in championing health issues in the public policy arena. Award recipients will have a particular focus on consumers or vulnerable populations and will have worked to advance our vision of a day in which all Georgians have access to the quality, affordable health care they need to lead healthy lives and contribute to the health of their communities.


GHF IN THE NEWS

Cindy King V BurwellAll eyes were on health insurance last month and we were excited to celebrate the victory with the press and with Georgia!

GHF Updates

Meredith HeadshotGHF welcomes a new staff member! Meredith Gonsahn is Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Health Policy Analyst. She joined Georgians for a Healthy Future in July 2015.  In this role she identifies key issues in health policy and how they impact Georgia health care consumers.  Meredith also monitors major trends in public and private health insurance, health system reform and other key policy areas to keep the organization abreast of emerging issues. Meredith comes to Georgians for a Healthy Future from the Atlanta VA Medical Center where she served as a Study Coordinator for a wound care clinical trial. Prior to this position, Meredith was a Research Associate for the Center for Health Policy and Health Services Research at Henry Ford Health System. In this role she identified and analyzed key health system reform policies at the Federal, state and local levels to shape the policy agenda for the System. She also served as a liaison to coordinate and submit Affordable Care Act demonstration project applications for System business units.  Meredith has a Master’s of Public Health with a concentration in Health Policy and Management from Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University. She also has a Bachelor of Arts in History from Duke University.

GHF is also pleased to announce our Executive Director Cindy Zeldin’s appointment to the Senate study committee for SR 561, the Consumer and Provider Protection Act. Full information about study committee appointments can be found here.


ICYMI: Social Media

#ACAHereToStay and #ACAIsWorking started trending in response the the Supreme Court decision

Our favorite tweet last month:

Our favorite infographic last month:

SCOTUS

 

MORE >

Peach Pulse, May 2015


Open Enrollment 2 Analysis

May was all about analyzing the second open enrollment period.  What went well, what can be improved on and how Georgia did.  GHF staff interviewed health care enrollment assisters across the state and combined that with a detailed analysis of the numbers to put together Getting Georgia Covered: Lessons Learned, Best Practices, and Policy Recommendations from the Second Open Enrollment Period.  

The report covers how new health insurance opportunities created through the Affordable Care Act (ACA ) have led to historic reductions in the nation’s uninsured rate. Here in Georgia, more than half a million consumers signed up for health insurance during the open enrollment period that ended this past February, known as OE 2.

These strong enrollment numbers mean that more Georgia consumers can access the health care services they need and enjoy enhanced financial security for themselves and their families. The reduction in our state’s uninsured rate, although smaller than that of the nation as a whole, also has positive implications for the vitality of local health care systems and communities throughout Georgia.

Too many Georgians, however, remain uninsured, either because

  • they are unaware that there are coverage options that can meet their needs and budget
  • face cultural, linguistic, financial, or other barriers to coverage; or
  • fall into the “coverage gap” that was created when Georgia declined to expand Medicaid as authorized under the ACA

The goals of this report are

  • to explain the role of in-person assistance on enrollment outcomes and consumers’ experiences
  • to explore best practices that helped achieve robust enrollment in Georgia
  • to identify any common challenges or barriers to enrollment that Georgia consumers faced during OE2
  • to highlight promising strategies and approaches to reach the remaining uninsured who qualify for affordable health insurance
  • to put forth policy recommendations that can help facilitate a positive experience for health care consumers, both for those who are newly enrolled and for those who remain uninsured.
Georgia OE2 by the Numbers GHF_enrollment_sticker

 


Getting Georgia Covered Event

On May 13, GHF hosted a lunch panel discussion on best practices, lessons learned, and policy recommendations from the second open enrollment period.  During the event, GHF released it’s new report on the topic.  You can download it here.

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To see additional pictures from the even, please visit our facebook page!

Additional Resources from the event:

Whitney Girggs’s Presentation – GHF

Dante McKay’s Presentation – Enroll America

Lisa Stein’s Presentation – Seedco

Sarah Sessoms’s Presentation – InsureGA

 

Panelists

Enroll America: Danté McKay, Georgia State Director

Georgians for a Healthy Future: Whitney Griggs, Consumer Education Specialist

US Department of Health & Human Services: Dr. Pamela Roshell, Region 4 Director

InsureGA: Sarah Sessoms, Executive Director

SEEDCO:  Lisa Stein, Vice President Work and Family Supports


GHF in the News!

nwsppr

From the end of open enrollment to the looming King v Burwell decision to the ongoing need to close Georgia’s coverage gap, health policy continues to dominate the headlines, and GHF is at the forefront of the conversation! Check out the news coverage below to learn more about what’s happening in Georgia and how it impacts health care consumers in our state.

 

 

 


Open Enrollment Success, Lessons Learned, and Policy Recommendations

Whitney Griggs, a consumer education specialist with Georgians for a Healthy Future, speaks on A Closer Look with Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer about the recently approved FLEX bus serving Cobb communities. (Photo/Brenna Beech)

Whitney Griggs, a consumer education specialist with Georgians for a Healthy Future, speaks on A Closer Look with Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer about the recently approved FLEX bus serving Cobb communities. (Photo/Brenna Beech)

Click the articles below to learn more about what worked well for consumers, what challenges and barriers they still face, and what changes can be made at both the community and policy levels to connect Georgians to health coverage and make sure that coverage translates to meaningful access to care.


 

Op-ed in the AJC

CindyZeldin_Headshot - CopyA road to health coverage for Georgians

“More than a half-million Georgians signed up for health coverage during the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period that ended in February. Many were previously uninsured. These robust enrollment figures show Georgia consumers strongly value health insurance and the access to care and financial security it can bring. An unmet demand is finally being met.

To gain a better understanding of this enrollment success story and what’s next for Georgia’s newly covered consumers, Georgians for a Healthy Future reached out to the enrollment assistance community – health insurance navigators and certified application counselors – and reviewed available data on plan offerings, premiums and enrollment. Three key themes emerged.”

Read the complete article


King v. Burwell

suprme court“We can’t just close the door on hundreds of thousands of Georgians who finally had it opened for them.” Sometime in the next few weeks, the U.S. Supreme Court will hand down its decision in King v. Burwell, the high profile case that could place health coverage at risk for an estimated 430,000 Georgia consumers. Georgians for a Healthy Future has been monitoring the case closely and talked to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the need for Georgia policymakers to step in if the court rules for the plaintiff. This story was featured on today’s front page.

430,000 Georgians could lose Obamacare insurance – AJC


Medicaid Experiment

CindyThere have been several news stories over the past couple of weeks about a Medicaid pilot project under consideration by state policymakers. WSB-TV sat down with Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director last week to talk about whether this policy discussion brings us a step closer to closing the coverage gap in Georgia. Georgia Health News, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Georgia Report are all tracking the issue. Click below for media reports featuring GHF and our partners!


How are we doing? Let us know!

feedback 2At Georgians for a Healthy Future we strive to send you emails and content that are valuable to you and your work. To help in our efforts to improve our communications, please take this two question survey! Thank you!

 

 

 


ICYMI: We’re on Pinterest!

PinterestGHF in now on Pinterest!  While you’re skimming pins for what you’re going to cook for dinner tonight or that next DIY project you are definitely going to do, let us be your daily dose of inspiration.  Follow our boards for photos of people in the coverage gap, our Somebody Finally Asked Me campaign, and access to all the great infographics we share.

MORE >

Peach Pulse, April 2015


Coverage Gap Update

While Georgia has made little progress on closing its coverage gap, the subject is a hot topic elsewhere.

  • Montana has closed its coverage gap! As the 29th state to close the gap, Montana will provide 70,000 Montanans with quality, affordable health care coverage.  The state is currently working with CMS to gain approval for its expansion proposal.
  • Face Off in Florida–The debate over closing the coverage gap is as hot as sunburnt skin after spring break! Floridians have seen a sudden and unexpected adjournment of the legislative session, a stand-off with HHS over the low-income pool (LIP), and their governor file suit against the federal government.  The debate is far from over as the legislature plans to reconvene in June to complete their legislative responsibilities.
  • Policy makers in both Alaska and Louisiana are discussing if and how to close their coverage gaps.  While their legislators debate whether or not to close the coverage gap during a special session, polls show that Alaskans are hugely in favor of the policy.  In Louisiana, Gov. Jindal remains opposed to the idea of closing his state’s coverage gap, but legislators are discussing their options.

While Montana closes its gap and other states think through their options, more and more studies are revealing that closing the coverage gap is good for states! It saves money in state budgets and facilitates job growth, especially in the health care sector.  Families USA summarized the new data in a recent blog post.

Medicaid Expansion 4.15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Need help enrolling or using your insurance?Pranaya Navigating

Pranay Rana, GHF’s health care navigator, is here to help you get covered!  Email Pranay for an appointment or check out his schedule.

Once you have health insurance, Whitney Griggs, our Consumer Education Specialist, can help answer the questions you have about finding a provider, accessing preventive services, filing a complaint or appeal, or any other question you may have!

Whitney and Pranay are both available to make educational presentations to community-based organizations in Georgia about how to enroll in health insurance and how to use coverage to access care once enrolled. If your organization would like to provide this type of presentation for your community members, please let us know! We can help!

 


Tax time special enrollment period a success!

 

taxesThe last chance to sign up for health insurance this year under the Affordable Care Act ended in April, when an extended deadline for enrollment expired.  The extension was offered to give consumers who did not know they would owe a penalty if they did not have health insurance an additional opportunity to secure coverage. Thousands took advantage of the extension and, as of April 13th, about 68,000 people had signed up nationwide under the extension.  Call centers had an average wait time of 10 minutes, showing consistent traffic.  GHF’s navigator personally assisted over 30 people during the special enrollment period!

While the next open enrollment period doesn’t begin until Nov. 1, 2015 you may qualify for a special enrollment period throughout the year.  For example, losing your health coverage because of the loss of a job, getting married, having a baby, or moving to a different state that does not offer your current plan could trigger eligibility for a special enrollment period.

If you have questions about owing a fine or special enrollment periods, please reach out to Whitney Griggs, our Consumer Education Specialist, today!


GHF Upcoming Events

GHF_enrollment_sticker

Getting Georgia Covered: Lessons Learned from Open Enrollment 2

 

Hear from an expert panel on best practices and lessons learned  during the second open enrollment period. We’ll learn about the successful strategies that enrollment assisters deployed in helping consumers, identify the challenges and barriers that remain for consumers, and discuss policy recommendations that can help get more Georgians covered. This is a free event.

Sign Up!

 

 

 


GHF Past Events

Legislative Webinar 4-15 (2)Changes in Health Care and Policy in the 2015 Georgia Legislative Session: Webinar

Watch the Webinar

Download the Presentation

 

 

 


ICYMI: Social Media Trends

ACA Celebrate#betterwithobamacare was trending on Twitter as we celebrated five years of the increased coverage and security that’s come with the Affordable Care Act.

#getcovered and #staycovered were the battle cry of OE2.  Follow those hashtags to stay on top of the enrollment movement!

MORE >

Peach Pulse, March 2015


Legislative Update

georgia-capital-buildingWith Crossover Day behind us, we are fast approaching the 40th and final legislative day for the year, April 2nd.  This week, GHF spoke with House Insurance Chairman Richard Smith about what he saw as the most important role he played as chairman. You might be surprised with his answer – click the image below to watch the video!

With just a little more than two weeks to go, here’s an update on health care legislation important to Georgia health care consumers.  For a detailed chart of every health care bill we’re watching, click here.

The FY 2016 Budget passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate. The Senate expects to finish their revisions to the budget this week, possibly with some new revenue. They will then send it back to the House and then to a conference committee before it is finalized.

Medicaid Parity:  The Senate proposed $5.9 million in increased reimbursements for certain OB/GYN services and $13.6 million for certain primary care services, which is an increase over the House of Representatives’ proposal ($2.96 million for OB/GYN and $1.5 million for primary care services). Because Medicaid parity has been shown to be an effective strategy for improving access to care for consumers, GHF supports raising Medicaid reimbursement rates to parity with Medicare rates. We are advocating for a higher appropriation amount for Medicaid reimbursement rate increases as the budget moves through the process.  Click here to read Georgia Health News’s coverage of this latest development.

SBIRT Resolution:  Senate HHS Chairwoman Renee Unterman officially introduced SR 487 to form a Senate Study Committee on preventing youth substance use disorders. Through GHF’s work with the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, we are advocating for a public health approach to substance use disorders that focuses on prevention. This resolution gets the conversation started about how to do that in Georgia. Please take the time to thank Senator Unterman for her support of this effort and to let your elected officials know you support SR 487.

SB 158: (Sen. Burke) provides certain consumer and provider protections regarding health insurance, including network adequacy language. SB 158 has been referred to the Senate Insurance Committee where it received a hearing on Wednesday, March 3.  GHF provided testimony in committee, focusing specifically on the network adequacy component of the bill. GHF also met with committee members individually about the bill after the committee hearing to talk about why it is an important issue for consumers.  While the bill is not expected to move in its current form this legislative session, there will likely be a study committee on the network adequacy component. GHF has identified network adequacy as an important consumer issue and plans to remain engaged on this topic as discussions move forward.

Closing the Coverage Gap: No hearings have been scheduled or are pending to address the possibility of expanding Medicaid in Georgia. Closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would open a pathway to health insurance for approximately 300,000 uninsured Georgians, an approach which GHF supports.  Two bills have been introduced to address Georgia’s coverage gap (HR 226 and SB 38), although neither crossed over. Please thank the cosponsors of these bills, Rep. Rahn Mayo and Senator Vincent Fort, for their support and show your support by filling out a postcard that we’ll mail to your legislators!

Tobacco Tax:  No additional standalone proposals have been made to increase Georgia’s tobacco tax (other than HB 445 as previously reported).  The Senate however, may respond to the House proposal on transportation funding by including a tobacco tax increase to the regional average of around 68 cents. Importantly, Alabama’s Governor is proposing an increase in their state tobacco tax to $1.25 per pack, which would increase the regional average.  GHF continues to advocate for an increase to the national average by raising our tobacco tax by $1.23.  Such an increase would generate $585 million per year according to the fiscal note generated by the non-partisan fiscal office at GSU.  Check out our fact sheet for more info!


Medicaid Minute

Opponents often argue that closing Georgia’s coverage gap would be too expensive for our state, but data from states that expanded their Medicaid programs in 2014 contradict that claim.  According to a new study, closing the coverage gap produced big savings and increased revenues for states.

Early data from Kentucky and Arkansas show state budget savings that will offset the costs of covering the newly eligible Medicaid population beyond state fiscal year (SFY) 2021. Kentucky expects to see $820 million in net savings over the next seven years, while Arkansas expects to see $370 million over the same time period.  The savings and increased revenues fall into three major categories: 1) State savings from using new federal funds; 2) State savings from enhanced federal matching; 3) Revenue gains from provider and insurer taxes/fees.

The full issue brief, complete with a summary table of Medicaid-related savings and revenues in both states, can be found here.


GHF Welcomes New Navigator!

PranayPranaya Rana joined Georgians for a Healthy Future this week as our new Navigator! In this role, Pranaya will work with consumers to help them enroll in health insurance through the Marketplace.  Pranaya is a former Lieutenant from the Nepalese Army Elite Forces. He has served as a U.N. Peacekeeper in post-earthquake Haiti and as a Refugee Resettlement Program Officer in Connecticut before he came to Kennesaw State University, Georgia to pursue his Ph.D. in International Conflict Management in 2012.   He has been working as a certified Healthcare Navigator in Metro Atlanta since the first open enrollment began in 2013. He recently completed his 6 months long Navigator’s term at Georgia Watch before joining Georgians For a Healthy Future.  He specializes in refugees and international communities and has served a wide variety of international communities enroll into affordable healthcare using a community specific service model developed through continued outreach, education and  needs assessment. He is Fluent in Nepali and Hindi besides English, and, speaks Urdu and intermediate French. If you’d like to contact Pranaya by email or at 404-567-5016.


Using your Coverage: Tax-Time Special Enrollment Period

taxesDid you go without health insurance in 2014 and are now subject to a tax penalty? Good news! – You may still be able to enroll in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Starting last Saturday, March 15th, some people who are facing a fine on their taxes for not having coverage can now enroll in the Marketplace through a time-limited special enrollment period. To be eligible for this special enrollment period, you must not be currently enrolled in health insurance, attest that you owe the penalty for 2014, and attest that you first became aware of the penalty when you filed your 2014 taxes. This tax-related special enrollment period will run through April 30th, 2015.  Click here to learn more about who can qualify for this special enrollment period.


Health Advocates Day at the Capitol – 3/25

informationPlease join us on Wednesday, March 25, from 8:45 am to mid-day for a morning of advocacy!  GHF will provide individuals and organizations with the opportunity to advocate for the important health issues that matter to you in the closing days of this legislative session.  You may want to advocate for closing the coverage gap, Medicaid payment parity, raising the tobacco tax, rural health care access, or another health policy issue.  You’re all invited to participate!  We’ll provide breakfast, an advocacy training, and an opportunity to share and network with other health advocates.

To sign up, click here.  If you have any questions, please contact Laura Colbert.


Post-Legislative Session Webinar

Mark your calendars!  Please join GHF and Laura Colbert for a post-legislative session webinar. The webinar is free and will provide a review of bills, resolutions, and other actions taken by the Georgia General Assembly that will affect health care and health policy in our state.

Date:Thursday, April 9

Time:12:00 – 1:00 EST

Sign up here!


 

Infographic of the Week

MEDICAID_EXPANSION_Working-Adults_infographic_final_021615

 

MORE >

Peach Pulse, March 12, 2015

Legislative Update

georgia-capital-buildingToday is the 29th day of the 2015 Legislative Session.  That means that tomorrow, Friday March 13, is crossover day.  GHF Executive Director Cindy Zeldin on what crossover day is and what it means for the rest of the legislative session.

The day before crossover day is a day of uncertainties.  Because of that, we will send out an email Monday with a full update and analysis on where legislation important to consumers’ health care stands.  For a compete list tracking health related bills – click here.


More Good News about Georgia’s Open Enrollment Numbers!

Last month it was announced that over half a million Georgians enrolled in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Now a new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services contains even more encouraging data about the state of enrollment in Georgia. According to the report, 31% of Georgians that enrolled were between the ages of 18-34, which is a key age group since they tend to be healthier than older adults. Additionally, 90% of Georgians that selected a plan through the Marketplace received financial assistance in the form of Advanced Premium Tax Credits. The average monthly premium for Georgians using a tax credit was $73. Click here to see the full report.  Georgians for a Healthy Future’s ED talked with the Augusta Chronicle about why these numbers are so encouraging for Georgia.


Using your coverage

Preventive Services

coverageDid you know that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you can receive certain preventive services at absolutely no cost? It’s true! One of the key requirements of the ACA is that insurance companies must cover recommended preventive services at no cost to the consumer – even if you haven’t met your deductible. These include services such as mammograms, annual physicals, colonoscopies, well-woman exams, cholesterol screenings, tobacco cessation, and many more. Click here for a full list of the preventive services that must be covered by all insurance companies. There is also an additional list of required services for women and a separate one for children. It’s important to take advantage of these no-cost preventive services to keep you and your family healthy. Evidence shows that preventive services can save lives and improve health by identifying illnesses earlier, managing them more effectively, and treating them before they become complicated and debilitating conditions.

If you have any questions about your insurance, please contact our Consumer Education Specialist, Whitney Griggs by email or at 404-567-5016 x 5


Medicaid Minute

current-status-of-the-medicaid-expansion-decisions-healthreform

States across the country are closing their coverage gaps!  The map above shows the 29 states (including DC) that have chosen to expand Medicaid.  Seven additional states are in discussions – below is a quick update on those states and their debates.

Idaho: Governor Butch Otter’s Medicaid Redesign Workgroup voted in November 2014 to recommend pursuing total health care system transformation, which includes Medicaid expansion. In addition to the Governor’s support, the Idaho Association of Commerce and Industry is helping to draft Medicaid expansion legislation, and a coalition of hospitals, providers, and consumer groups is working to support that legislation.

Tennessee: In late 2014, Governor Bill Haslam announced he had reached a deal with CMS to close the coverage gap. Governor Haslam’s plan, Insure Tennessee, had the support of the hospital industry (who had agreed to fund any costs that would fall onto the state), the business community, and a strong consumer coalition. Unfortunately, Insure Tennessee failed to make it out of committee during special session in early 2015.

Utah: Governor Gary Herbert’s plan to close the coverage gap, Healthy Utah, has strong support from hospitals, businesses, county commissioners, the criminal justice community, and church leaders, and it recently passed in the Senate. However, the House has passed an alternative proposal, Utah Cares, that would provide much more limited coverage to only a portion of the population in the coverage gap. With just a few days left in the legislative session, it remains to be seen whether the legislature will reach a compromise that will close the coverage gap this year.

Maine: In 2013 and again in 2014, the Democratic-controlled legislature passed several bills to close the coverage gap, only to have them vetoed by Governor Paul LePage. Even though Republicans took control of the Senate in 2014, advocates believe there are still enough votes to pass compromise legislation. Hospitals, who had remained largely on the sidelines the past two years, are now fully engaged in the campaign to close the coverage gap there.

Alaska: Recently-elected Independent Governor Bill Walker announced plans to expand Medicaid, but there will likely be roadblocks in the Republican-dominated legislature. Hospitals are on board.

Montana: Governor Steve Bullock is strongly supportive of closing the coverage gap, and has his own proposal for doing so. It is unlikely that a bill will pass the Republican-controlled legislature.

Wyoming: Governor Matt Mead developed a plan to close the coverage gap in 2015, and a key House committee developed a competing plan. But just a few days after the special session to close the gap in Tennessee failed, the Wyoming Senate shot down Governor Mead’s expansion plan, and the House committee then pulled its bill.


Join us for Health Advocates Day at the Capitol!

informationPlease join us on Wednesday, March 25, from 8:45 am to mid-day for a morning of advocacy!  GHF will provide individuals and organizations with the opportunity to advocate for the important health issues that matter to you in the closing days of this legislative session.  You may want to advocate for closing the coverage gap, Medicaid payment parity, raising the tobacco tax, the Family Care Act, rural health care access, or another health policy issue.  You’re all invited to participate!  We’ll provide breakfast, an advocacy training, and an opportunity to share and network with other health advocates.

To sign up, click here.  If you have any questions, please contact Laura Colbert.


Sign Up for a Post-Legislative Session Webinar

Mark your calendars!  Please join GHF and Laura Colbert for a post-legislative session webinar. The webinar is free and will provide a review of bills, resolutions, and other actions taken by the Georgia General Assembly that will affect health care and health policy in our state.

Date: Thursday, April 9

Time: 12:00 – 1:00 EST

Sign up here!


Infographic of the Week

affordable-care-act-infographic GEORGIA WATCH

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Peach Pulse, March 6, 2015


Legislative Update

georgia-capital-buildingYesterday marked the 27th day of the 2015 Legislative Session. Crossover Day, the 30th legislative day and the deadline for a bill to pass its chamber of origin to remain viable for 2015, is set for next Friday, March 13th. Sine Die, the 40th and final legislative day for the year, will be April 2nd.

It has been a big week for health care issues at the State Capitol. GHF brought the consumer perspective to Senate Insurance on Wednesday and shared with the committee through testimony from our Executive Director the challenges that consumers face in obtaining accurate information about provider networks at the time they sign up for health insurance and why setting network adequacy standards is important for consumers. Her testimony was provided as part of the discussion around SB 158. Also this week, legislation was introduced in the Senate that would establish a study committee on preventing youth substance use disorders, the Senate began its work on the FY 2016 budget, and a range of other health care bills were discussed.

The State Budget:  The FY 2016 Budget passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate. The Senate expects to finish their revisions to the budget this week and send it back to the House and then to a conference committee.

Medicaid Parity:  Last week, the House of Representatives added $2.96 million in the budget to increase reimbursement for certain OB/GYN services and $1.5 million for reimbursement rate increases for certain primary care services. Because Medicaid parity has been shown to be an effective strategy for improving access to care, GHF supports raising Medicaid reimbursement rates to parity with Medicare rates. We are advocating for a higher appropriation amount for Medicaid reimbursement rate increases as the budget moves through the process.

SBIRT Resolution:  Senate HHS Chairwoman Renee Unterman officially introduced a resolution (SR 407) to form a joint House and Senate Study Committee on preventing youth substance use disorders. Through GHF’s work with the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, we are advocating for a public health approach to substance use disorders that focuses on prevention. This resolution gets the conversation started about how to do that in Georgia. Please take the time to thank Senator Unterman for her support of this effort and to let your elected officials know you support SR 407.

SB 158 (Sen. Burke) provides certain consumer and provider protections regarding health insurance, including network adequacy language. SB 158 has been referred to the Senate Insurance Committee where it received a hearing on Wednesday, March 3.  GHF Executive Director Cindy Zeldin testified in committee, focusing specifically on the network adequacy component of the bill. GHF also met with committee members individually about the bill after the committee hearing.  While the bill is not expected to move in its current form this legislative session, there will likely be a study committee on the network adequacy component. GHF has identified network adequacy as an important consumer issue and plans to remain engaged on this topic as discussions move forward.

Closing the Coverage Gap: No hearings have been scheduled or are pending to address the possibility of expanding Medicaid in Georgia. Closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would open a pathway to health insurance for approximately 300,000 uninsured Georgians, an approach which GHF supports.  Two bills have been introduced to address Georgia’s coverage gap (HR 226 and SB 38), although neither is expected to receive a hearing. Please thank the cosponsors of these bills, Rep. Rahn Mayo and Senator Vincent Fort, for their support and show your support by filling out a postcard that we’ll mail to your legislators!

Tobacco Tax:  No additional standalone proposals have been made to increase Georgia’s tobacco tax (other than HB 445 as previously reported).  The Senate however, may respond to the House proposal on transportation funding by including a tobacco tax increase to the regional average of around 68 cents. Importantly, Alabama’s Governor is proposing an increase in their state tobacco tax to $1.25 per pack, which would increase the regional average.  GHF continues to advocate for an increase to the national average by raising our tobacco tax by $1.23.  Such an increase would generate $585 million per year according to the fiscal note generated by the non-partisan fiscal office at GSU.


Other Bills of Interest

Below is a summary of bills that may impact health care consumers in Georgia, with information about where they are in the legislative process.

SB 1 (Sen. Bethel) provides certain insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders. SB 1 has passed the Senate and is in the House Insurance Committee.

HB 1 (Rep. Peake) would allow for the limited use of medical marijuana for conditions including cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, fibromyalgia, parkinson’s disease, and sickle cell disease.  HB 1 passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

MORE >

Peach Pulse, February 27, 2015


Legislative Update

georgia-capital-building

Yesterday marked the 23rd day of the 2015 Legislative Session. We are getting closer to Crossover Day, the 30th legislative day and the deadline for a bill to pass its chamber of origin to remain viable for 2015. Crossover Day is set for March 13th. Sine Die, the 40th and final legislative day for the year, will be April 2nd.

As part of this week’s legislative update, we sat down with Representative Debbie Buckner and spoke with her about access to care in rural communities, Georgia’s coverage gap, and other health care issues on her mind this Legislative Session.

To watch the video, click on the image below.

The State Budget

The FY 2016 Budget passed the House of Representatives this week and now heads to the Senate for hearings. Of note, the House of Representatives added $2.96 million in the budget to increase reimbursement for certain OB/GYN services, $1.5 million for reimbursement rate increases for certain primary care services, $1.3 million to increase the hourly rate for personal support services under the Independent Care Waiver Program, and $500,000 to increase reimbursement for air-ambulance services for adult patients. The House also added in $3 million to implement the recommendations of the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee. The House removed $22.8 million for new treatment medications for patients with Hepatitis C and $12.1 million for costs to launch a new case management program for enrollees eligible under the Aged, Blind, & Disabled program. Also of note, the House reinstated health coverage for non-certificated part-time school employees; however, local school districts and not the state would be responsible for those costs. Click here for an analysis of the health care provisions in the budget that passed the House from our friends at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.

Closing the Coverage Gap

Closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would open a pathway to health insurance for approximately 300,000 uninsured Georgians. Two bills have been introduced to address Georgia’s coverage gap (HR 226 and SB 38), although neither is expected to receive a hearing. Please thank the cosponsors of these bills, Rep. Rahn Mayo and Sen. Vincent Fort, and show your support for closing the coverage gap by filling out a postcard that we’ll mail to your legislators!

Tobacco Tax

HB 445 (Carson) represents the first additional or alternative funding proposal to the transportation funding bill (HB 170). While the overall bill includes regressive provisions including an increased sales and grocery tax combined with a reduction in the income tax that GHF does not support, it is notable that a tobacco tax is in the mix in the bill. This keeps the tobacco tax on the radar and provides an opportunity for health advocates to continue to push for an increase to the national average in the tobacco tax to curb smoking rates and bring in much-needed revenue.

Other Bills of Interest

Below is a summary of bills that may impact health care consumers in Georgia, with information about where they are in the legislative process.

SB 1 (Sen. Bethel) provides certain insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders. SB 1 has passed the Senate and is the House Insurance Committee.

SB 158 (Sen. Burke) provides certain consumer and provider protections regarding health insurance, including network adequacy language. SB 158 has been referred to the Senate Insurance Committee.

HB 1 (Rep. Peake) would allow for the limited use of medical marijuana for conditions including: cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, fibromyalgia, parkinson’s disease, and sickle cell disease.  HB 1 passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 195 (Rep. Cooper) and SB 51 (Burke) provides parameters for substitutions of interchangeable biological products. HB 195 passed the House Health and Human Services Committee and is expected to come out of the Rules Committee next week, and Senate Bill 51 has passed the Senate and has been assigned to the House HHS committee, but is not expected to get a hearing until after crossover day.

HB 482 (Rep. Willard) seeks to eliminate two of the requirements that the Cancer Treatment Centers of America are currently subject to when they were allowed into Georgia as a destination hospital.

HB 416 (Rep. Rogers): Routinely referred to as the badge bill, HB 416 seeks to provide clarity and transparency for the patient as to the qualifications of the provider that they are seeing.  The bill calls for providers to identify the health care practitioner’s name and the type of license or educational degree the health care practitioner holds. The bill will be heard in the House HHS committee on Monday March 2, 2015 at 3 PM.

HB 34 (Rep. Dudgeon) is known as the “Right to Try” bill and calls for patients with advanced illnesses and in consultation with their doctor to use potentially life-saving investigational drugs, biological products, and devices.


Georgia’s Plan to Strengthen Rural Hospitals

Earlier this week, the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee (RHSC), created by Governor Deal to address the needs of struggling rural hospitals and find solutions that address those needs, issued its final report. The recommendations in the report include:

  • A four site “Hub & Spoke” pilot program
  • Maintenance and protection of Certificate of Need laws
  • Expanded scope of practice for non-physician providers, like physicians assistants and nurse practitioners
  • More support for school-based health centers

The committee’s work shines a spotlight on the health care access challenges that rural Georgians face and puts forth constructive recommendations.  While we support these recommendations whole-heartedly, we are also disappointed that the committee did not address the coverage gap and Medicaid expansion in its report.

Georgia Health News interviewed Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director on this issue (click here to read the full article), and in that article she pointed to the early success of states like Kentucky, which recently reported improvements and coverage rates and in health care access due to Medicaid expansion. She also encouraged policymakers to take a comprehensive approach that includes closing Georgia’s coverage gap to help get people into health insurance and provide a reimbursement stream for rural hospitals.

Back in December, Georgians for a Healthy Future, together with several consumer and community-focused organizations including the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Georgia Watch, and Families First, submitted a report and provided public comment to the committee making a detailed case for such an approach. You can read that full report here.


Medicaid Minute

Medicaid provides health insurance to low-income families and vulnerable populations in states across the country, allowing them to access necessary health care services. In states that have opted to implement the Medicaid expansion, people are enrolling in the program and uninsured rates are plummeting. Nationwide, 10.8 million Americans gained coverage through Medicaid just between October and December 2014. Unfortunately, these coverage gains vary widely among states. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, states that expanded Medicaid saw a 27 percent increase in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment in the last year, while non-expansion states saw only a 7 percent increase. Too many Georgians are still stuck in the coverage gap.  Fill out an e-postcard that we’ll send to your legislators letting them know that it’s time Georgia fixed this problem and closed its coverage gap.


What is a 1095-A?
And other burning questions about health insurance and tax filing?

flowchart

If you are a consumer who enrolled in health insurance through the Marketplace with a tax credit, you likely received a 1095-A form in the mail. You may also have some questions about how to complete the health insurance information on your tax filing form. If your organization works directly with consumers, either providing enrollment assistance or helping them with tax preparation, you may also be hearing about the 1095-A and may have some questions about how health insurance and tax filings intersect. Below is a primer, replete with flow chart, which breaks it all down for you.

Where consumers get their coverage—Marketplace, employer, Medicaid—will determine the impact coverage has on their taxes.  Consumers who have health insurance through their jobs will likely see no changes when they file their taxes – they just check the box on their tax forms indicating they had coverage throughout the year.  The same thing applies to consumers who are covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or their parent’s health plan.  Pretty simple!

During this year’s open enrollment period, 536,929 Georgians purchased health insurance through Healthcare.gov and about 90% received financial assistance to help lower the cost of their premiums.  To keep that tax credit, they’ll have to fill out Form 8962, which asks questions about their health insurance and their income. To help complete that form, all consumers that received a tax credit should have received Form 1095-A in the mail from the Marketplace. Consumers can also find this form on their Healthcare.gov account.

The health insurance tax credit is based on income and household size. When consumers applied for coverage, they estimated their income for the coming year and that amount was used to determine their tax credit. If a consumer misestimated their income, the credit they received may be too high or too low. During the tax filing process, the difference between estimated and actual income is reconciled, and the corresponding tax credit may be adjusted up or down.  This means some consumers may get a refund and some consumers may have to pay back part of their tax credit. If a consumer did not apply for a tax credit previously, they can apply for a credit to be included in their tax refund.

If a consumer went without health care coverage at any point in the year, they may need to fill out an additional Form 8965 to determine whether or not they will need to pay a fine. This year the maximum fee per family will be $285, but fines will increase each year, up to 2% of a person’s annual income.  If a person falls into Georgia’s coverage gap, they will not have to pay the fine, but will need to file the appropriate documents to prove they do not have access to affordable coverage

Household, family, and income changes should be reported throughout the year to Healthcare.gov in order to avoid surprises at tax time.

If you have questions about how your health coverage may affect your taxes, consult a tax professional.  Our partners at Georgia Watch can connect you with free tax preparation help—just click here.


So You Have Coverage…Now What?

If you have recently gained health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, it may seem like you need to learn a whole new language to understand your coverage. Health insurance can be confusing, especially if you have never had it before or haven’t had it in a while. Just understanding a few key terms, such as premium, deductible and co-pay, will go a long way in helping you use your health insurance effectively. Click here for a simple guide to help you understand your new coverage. Additionally, if you are having trouble using your health insurance you can contact Whitney Griggs, GHF’s Consumer Education Specialist, at wgriggs@healthyfuturega.org or at (404) 567-5016, extension 5.


Action Alert: CHIP in Danger

Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as PeachCare for Kids in Georgia, expires in September 2015.  More than 200,000 Georgia kids rely on this program for access to health care services.  The U.S. Congress has signaled that it is willing to consider extending CHIP funding. This is great news. However, some of the discussion include provisions that provide access barriers.  Some concerning provisions include the removal of protections that were included in the ACA, an optional 12-month waiting period for coverage, and cuts to CHIP funding for certain groups of children in some states. (Click here for a full analysis of the draft plan.)  You can help by telling your legislators to pass a clean renewal of CHIP funding that does not impose barriers to enrollment and coverage for kids.  Here are some ways to get in touch:

  • Write a letter or call your congressman. Click here to see suggested language from our partners, Voices for Georgia’s Children.  Click here to find your congressman, senator and their contact information.
  • Tweet at your representatives in congress. See the list below for their Twitter handles.  Use the hashtags #ExtendCHIP #keepkidscovered and #CHIPWorks
  • Share this image from Voices for Georgia’s Children (@georgiavoices) on social media to spread the word.

CHIP_monkey

Senate

Johnny Isakson

@SenatorIsakson 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

David Perdue

@sendavidperdue 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

House

Buddy Carter (1st District)

@RepBuddyCarter 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Sanford Bishop Jr. (2nd District)

@SanfordBishop 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Lynn Westmoreland (3rd District)

@RepWestmoreland 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Hank Johnson Jr. (4th District)

@RepHankJohnson 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

John Lewis (5th District)

@repjohnlewis 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Tom Price (6th District)

@RepTomPrice 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Rob Woodall (7th District)

@RepRobWoodall 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Austin Scott (8th District)

@AustinScottGA08 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Doug Collins (9th ,District)

@RepDougCollins 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Barry Loudermilk (11th District)

@RepLoudermilk 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Rick Allen (12th District)

@RepRickAllen 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

David Scott (13th District)

@repdavidscott 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

Tom Graves (14th District)

@RepTomGraves 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)

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Peach Pulse, February 20, 2015


Legislative Update

georgia-capital-buildingToday marked the 19th day of the 2015 Legislative Session (almost at the halfway point)! Crossover Day, the 30th legislative day and the deadline for a bill to pass its chamber of origin to remain viable for 2015, is set for March 13th. Sine Die, the 40th and final legislative day for the year, will be April 2nd.

As part of this week’s legislative update, we caught up with Senator Chuck Hufstetler and spoke with him about his proposal to increase the state’s tobacco tax by $1.23, which would bring Georgia up to the national average.  According to a fiscal note released this week by Georgia State University at legislative request, this increase would yield more than $500 million in new revenue. To read more about the tobacco tax, download our one pager.  To see the media coverage, check out our “In the News” page.


Other issues we’re watching include:

The State Budget

Our friends over at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute have put together an analysis of the health care spending within the proposed 2016 state budget. Click here to read GBPI’s health care budget overview.

 

Medicaid Payment Parity

cindy on medicaid parityThis week, the House Appropriations Health Subcommittee held a hearing on the FY 2016 Budget. A range of organizations and individuals provided testimony in support of payment parity, citing the evidence that shows provider rate increases result in better access to care for patients and consumers. Georgians for a Healthy Future spoke in support of payment parity at the hearing.

 

Closing the Coverage Gap

Closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would open a pathway to health insurance for approximately 300,000 uninsured Georgians. Two bills have been introduced to address Georgia’s coverage gap (HR 226 and SB 38), although neither is expected to receive a hearing. Please thank the cosponsors of these bills for their support and show your support by filling out a postcard that we’ll mail to your legislators!


More than half a million Georgians enroll in Marketplace health insurance

Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace ended Sunday and over half a million Georgians enrolled in plans through the Marketplace! Georgia’s enrollment was the fourth highest of states using the Federally Facilitated Marketplace, trailing only behind Texas, Florida, and North Carolina. The state’s enrollment numbers passed the 500,000 mark in large part due to a last minute surge in sign-ups. This year’s enrollment numbers greatly exceed last year’s exchange enrollments of 316,543. Nationally, 11.4 million Americans selected plans or were automatically re-enrolled through the Marketplace. Click here to learn more about Georgia’s enrollment numbers.

For Georgians who begun the enrollment process prior to the deadline but, due to issues with either healthcare.gov or call centers, were unable to complete their enrollment, CMS has extended a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).  These people are “in line” and still eligible to enroll this year.  This SEP will end February 22nd.  If you or someone you know thinks they qualify for this extended enrollment period visit HealthCare.gov or call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596.


Miss open enrollment? You may still be able to get coverage!
Open Enrollment has officially ended but some Georgians that missed signing up during the three month period may be able to still get coverage. Those “in line” during this last three days of Open Enrollment who were unable to select a plan due to long call center wait times or technical issues have until Sunday, February 22 to enroll. In this circumstance, coverage will begin March 1st.  Otherwise, consumers who have a “qualifying event” may be able to get coverage through a Special Enrollment Period. Special Enrollment Periods can occur at any time during the year and are usually triggered by specific events. These events include life changes such as a marriage, birth, change in eligible immigration status and a permanent move. Another type of event that could qualify consumers is a loss of other health coverage. These types of events could include an involuntary loss of employer coverage, loss of Medicaid coverage, and a death or divorce that results in a loss of coverage. In most cases, the Special Enrollment Period lasts for 60 days after the qualifying event occurs. To learn more about what types of events could trigger a Special Enrollment period, click here. If you think you may qualify, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/get-coverage or https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/ to find in-person assistance in your area.

Additionally, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services just announced a Special Enrollment Period for tax season for consumers who were penalized for not having coverage in 2014 and are not currently enrolled in health insurance. To qualify for this Special Enrollment Period consumers must also attest that they were not aware of the penalty for not having health insurance until after the end of Open Enrollment (February 15th , 2015) because they filed their 2014 tax return after that date. This Special Enrollment Period will begin March 15th and end April 30th, 2015. Click here to learn more about the announcement.


 GHF welcomes new Consumer Education Specialist

WhitneyWhitney joined Georgians for a Healthy Future this week as our Consumer Education Specialist. In this role, Whitney will educate consumers who have questions about how to understand and use their health insurance as well as assist consumers who encounter problems with their insurance plan. Whitney will also be on the lookout for patterns that can help inform GHF’s policy and advocacy work in the area of private health insurance. Whitney comes to GHF from the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia, where she was lead health navigator. As a health insurance navigator, Whitney provided enrollment assistance for the Health Insurance Marketplace to consumers in rural Georgia. In this role she also conducted extensive outreach throughout the state to inform consumers about the Affordable Care Act and the new health insurance options available under the law. Prior to her role as a navigator, Whitney worked for Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies as an Information and Resource Specialist for their health care referral service, called the Powerline. In this position she helped find and verify health care providers throughout the state for the referral line. Whitney has also worked in the Child Life Division at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Whitney earned her B.S. in Psychology with a focus on Biological Psychology from Clemson University. Whitney can be reached at wgriggs@healthyfuturega.org.  Please welcome her to Georgians for a Healthy Future!


National partner features our collaboration with the Diverse Elders Coalition and the Bhutanese Association of Georgia

351Check out Community Catalyst’s blog featuring the collaboration between GHF, the Diverse Elders Coalition, and BAG to help Bhutanese refugees living in Clarkston, Georgia enroll in health insurance!


Medicaid Minute

Kentucky_beforeKentucy_After

New data released from Kentucky show the success of Kentucky’s Medicaid expansion program.  Here are a few quick highlights.

  • 375,000 Kentuckians got covered
  • Hospitals gained more than $500 million in just the first year
  • 12,000 new jobs were created (with an additional 28,000 jobs expected over the next 7 years)
  • Uncompensated care in hospitals fell 60%
  • Estimated costs of expansion in current and subsequent biennial budget are more than offset by savings and new revenues generated from economic activity resulting from new health care spending
  • Choosing not to expand would have cost the state about $100 million

Fill out our survey and tell your legislators know it’s time for Georgia to close its coverage gap!


 

Infographic of the Week

MCD_Georgia-Medicaid-gap-and-employment_infographic

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Peach Pulse, February 12, 2015


Legislative Update

georgia-capital-buildingToday marked the fifteenth day of the 2015 Legislative Session—we’re more than one-third of the way through already! Crossover Day, the 30th legislative day and the deadline for a bill to pass its chamber of origin to remain viable for 2015, is set for March 13th. Sine Die, the 40th and final legislative day for the year, will be April 2nd.

Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring and advocating on bills of importance to health care consumers in Georgia. As part of this week’s legislative update, we spoke with Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Charlie Bethel about the legislation moving through his committee and about his priorities with respect to health care policy in Georgia. This conversation also includes a discussion of Senate Bill 1, which would provide for certain insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders.

Other issues we’re watching include:

The State Budget

Our friends over at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute have put together an analysis of the health care spending within the proposed 2016 state budget. Click here to read GBPI’s health care budget overview. 

Medicaid Payment Parity

Last week, Sen. Unterman talked to us about her request for $60 million to restore Medicaid payment parity.  Sen. Unterman and advocates continue to work with the health appropriations chairmen in both chambers, but no decisions have been made to date.

Closing the Coverage Gap

Closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would open a pathway to health insurance for approximately 300,000 uninsured Georgians. Two bills have been introduced to address Georgia’s coverage gap (HR 226 and SB 38), although neither is expected to receive a hearing. Please thank the cosponsors of these bills for their support and show your support by filling out a postcard that we’ll mail to your legislators!

Tobacco Tax

Georgians for a Healthy Future and our coalition partners continue to support a $1.23/pack increase in Georgia’s tobacco tax to bring us in line with the national average, decrease smoking rates, and bring in needed revenue for health care investments in our state. Click here for our new fact sheet on why Georgia should increase the tobacco tax. While no legislation has been introduced this session to increase the tobacco tax, we expect it may enter the mix as legislators discuss transportation funding.

We will continue to monitor this issue and will let you know when advocacy opportunities arise.


Time is running out – get covered today!

Open enrollment is quickly coming to a close, ending this Sunday, February  15th.  If you haven’t gotten covered yet or you know someone who doesn’t have coverage, don’t wait!  Act now before Sunday’s deadline.  Click here to find a Navigator near you or visit healthcare.gov to sign up.  These Georgians got covered and you can too!

Got Covered - CorneliaCornelia, a recent college graduate, had coverage on her parents’ plan…until she turned 26 and became ineligible.  She really wanted to stay with the same insurer, but also needed an affordable plan.  She applied and found that she qualified for a plan with the same carrier with even better coverage for less money. After her subsidy, Cornelia’s plan cost her only $83 per month.

Got Covered - ScottScott Quimby found an enrollment event near his home by visiting getcoveredamerica.org. He and his wife were able to enroll in a plan, which is a big deal because his wife had a pre-existing condition.  She had suffered brain trauma previously and expressed how grateful she was that she could get covered at an affordable price because of the Affordable Care Act: “I know I made the best decision because I came and got help.”

Got Covered - Mechul2Mechul had gone uninsured previously—for six years—going to the ER when he was seriously ill. He lost coverage when he turned 18, having been enrolled in Medicaid until then as a foster child under his grandmother’s care. He was told when he was younger he was pre-diabetic and felt anxious not have a way of getting regular care.  In March, he went to healthcare.gov to try to enroll but then decided to a navigator to get more information, and finally completed enrollment himself at home. He found a no cost silver-level plan, which was great because cost was the most important factor for him.  Now Mechul is employed and will get coverage through his employer, but he said it was a relief and gave him peace of mind to have health insurance there when he needed it.

If you or someone you know has an enrollment success story they’d like to share, let us know!  With your help, others can get covered and stay covered.


King v. Burwell — What’s at stake for Georgia?

King Burwell Potential Result

On March 4th, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in King v. Burwell, a lawsuit challenging the tax credits that consumers utilizing the federal Health Insurance Marketplace receive to help make health insurance affordable. Consumers in thirty-four states, including Georgia, use the federal Marketplace to find and enroll in coverage. Nearly nine out of 10 people who enrolled in coverage through healthcare.gov received financial help and paid 75 percent less than the full monthly premium. This has helped bring the nation’s uninsured rate to an historic low.

A study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute found that the majority of health care consumers who would be impacted and who would likely become uninsured if the tax credits were struck down live in the South. Here in Georgia, hundreds of thousands of people are at risk for becoming uninsured.

We believe there is no legal basis for this challenge and that in June, when a decision comes down, we’ll all breathe a sigh of relief. If the court does, however, strike down the tax credits, such a decision would disproportionately impact the South and would put states like Georgia at a competitive disadvantage by exacerbating existing regional health disparities. If this comes to pass, Georgians for a Healthy Future will advocate for a contingency plan to ensure that Georgians have the same access to tax credits that their counterparts in states like New York, California, Colorado, and Kentucky (states that set up their own health insurance exchanges) have.

Our friends at Families USA have put together a resource page for advocates interested in learning more about King v. Burwell. Click here to find out everything you need to know about the case!


Medicaid Minute

This week, we learned that the Tennessee legislature failed to pass the Insure TN plan.  This is a big disappointment for the 300,000 Tennesseans who fall into the coverage gap and who could have had access to health insurance if the Tennessee plan moved forward. This outcome shows how important it is to garner support from elected officials on both sides of the aisle. There are lessons we can learn for our work here in Georgia. Thank you to all of the Georgia advocates who continue to reach out to your legislators across the state to let them know you support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.  If you’d like to get involved and join the Cover Georgia coalition, email Laura Colbert.


Infographic of the Week

deadline-fine

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Peach Pulse, February 5, 2015


Legislative Update

With this week’s legislative update, we bring the Gold Dome to you! Our biggest update this week is that Senator Renee Unterman is making a $60 million appropriations ask in the state budget to maintain Medicaid payment parity. Medicaid payment parity is an effective strategy to increase access to health care services for low-income children and families enrolled in Medicaid (click here to learn more about what payment parity is and why it matters for health care access). Your GHF team was at the Capitol this week to talk with Senator Unterman about her proposal.

Renee_Unterman_Screenshot

Also this week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health held a hearing that included discussion about Medicaid payment parity. No decisions were made at the hearing but we expect the topic will come up again. What can advocates do?  Contact one or more of these legislators!

  1. Call or email Senator Unterman and thank her for leading the charge on this important initiative!
  2. Call or send an email to Senator Burke, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, and Representative Butch Parrish, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, and thank them for their support on Medicaid payment parity.
  3. Contact Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill and House Appropriations Chair Terry England and let them know you support Medicaid payment parity.

Other issues we’re watching.

Medicaid Expansion

There has been no action to date on closing the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid. Please contact your legislators and the leaders of the Health and Human Services and Appropriations Committees to ask them to hold hearings on this important issue.

Click here to let your state senator and representative know that you support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.

Tobacco Tax

Georgians for a Healthy Future and our coalition partners continue to support a $1.23/pack increase in Georgia’s tobacco tax to bring us in line with the national average, decrease smoking rates, and bring in needed revenue for health care investments in our state. All eyes in the House and Senate have been on the transportation funding proposal unveiled last week on the House side, which did not include an increase in the tobacco tax. However, the Senate is expected to take a more diversified approach in this area and the possibility of a tobacco tax increase may be on the table. We will continue to monitor this issue and will let you know when advocacy opportunities arise.

Other Health-Related Bills

Senate Bill 1, which would require insurance companies to provide limited autism benefits for Georgians enrolled in certain individual and small group plans passed the Senate and is now on the House side. A hearing has not been scheduled for the bill on the House side.

Senate Bill 74, which would authorize tax credits for donors to health charity organizations, has been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Finance Committee.


Knowledge is power: Terry’s enrollment story

Terry S“This is your health we’re talking about.  How important is it to you?”  Terry Stidom, an Atlanta health care consumer, cares about his health and is glad about his decision to get covered. “It became a no-brainer,” he said about his decision to enroll in a health plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace last year.  This year, with the increase in providers and plans available in Georgia, he was able to find an even more affordable, comprehensive plan.  What does he love about his plan?  “[It] includes medical, dental, vision, no deductible, low doctor visit co-pays, I get $20 a month in cash back just for going to a gym at least 8 times per month — the list goes on.”  While Terry researched his options and signed up on his own, he encourages others to seek help.  “As you sit and look at each plan, don’t be intimidated by the numbers.  If you’re unsure, call someone to help you.  Knowledge is power!”

Open enrollment ends February 15th – don’t miss out on the opportunity to find the plan right for you and your family.  Click here to find a Navigator in your area and get covered today!

If you or someone you know has an enrollment success story they’d like to share, let us know!  With your help, others can get covered and stay covered.


2015 Advocate’s Guides are Here!

Advocates_Guide_2015Each year Georgians for a Healthy Future develops our signature A Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the Legislative Session, and the 2015 editions are in! Whether you are an individual interested in contacting your legislators to let them know you care about health care issues or if you work for an advocacy group and want to get multiple copies for your volunteers, we’re happy to get the guides into your hands. We create them each year to help you be a better advocate.

In this year’s guide, you will find:

  • Detailed legislative process overview
  • Listing of all representatives and senators, their offices and numbers
  • Key contacts in the governor’s office and relevant agency staff
  • Members of key committees and subcommittees
  • Contact information for other health advocate organizations
  • Media contacts
  • Tips to make you an effective advocate

You can download a PDF version or contact Laura Colbert and arrange to pick up hard copies from GHF’s office.


Medicaid Minute

Welcome-to-Indiana-3x2-555x370CMS has approved Indiana’s plan to expand health care coverage for low-income Hoosiers through a waiver program known as Healthy Indiana.  This is great news for the 350,000 Indianans who will now have access to health care coverage. The Healthy Indiana plan, however, includes some features that raise concerns, such as a 6-month lock out policy for people with low incomes who can’t afford to make payments on premiums. Some of these features could create barriers to access. For a breakdown of the pros and cons of the Healthy Indiana plan and what advocates should be watching, see this analysis from our friends at the Georgetown Center on Children and Families.


Infographic of the Week

katy_perry

 


Your voice is needed!

Coverage Gap _ Georgia_EDITTEDWe all know how crucial closing the coverage gap is – it would improve access to health care services for low-income Georgians, bolster our state’s health care delivery system, and strengthen local economies throughout Georgia. We are asking our legislators to schedule hearings on this issue, and we need your help!  Last year, the legislature sent the message with HB 990 that they wanted to be part of the conversation around finding a Georgia solution to cover the uninsured.  We have yet to see them take steps towards opening up that debate.  Tell your legislators that it is time to close the coverage gap.  Send them an e-postcard telling them why you think covering the uninsured should be a priority for the 2015 legislative session.

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Peach Pulse: January 30, 2015


Legislative Update

georgia-capital-building

The Legislature has completed eight days of the 40-day session and will convene Monday through Wednesday next week. There will also be several committee hearings next week, including:

1) Senate Appropriations Community Health subcommittee meeting Tuesday at 3 PM in CLOB 307.  The agenda for this hearing will feature testimony about the importance of maintaining Medicaid parity for primary care providers in Georgia.

2) Senate Health and Human Services committee meeting on Tuesday at 1 PM in CAP 450 (Agenda to be announced).

3) House Health and Human Services committee meeting on Monday at 3 PM in CLOB 606 to discuss HB 47.

Committee meetings are open to the public and we encourage health-focused advocates to attend. Of course, your Georgians for a Healthy Future team is monitoring legislative developments and advocating for our priority issues throughout the legislative session and we will keep you informed about key opportunities for advocacy as they emerge. Below is a status report on the issues Georgians for a Healthy Future is supporting this year.

Closing Georgia’s Coverage Gap: There has not yet been any legislative activity in this area, as the General Assembly has been focused on addressing the transportation funding issue.  Georgians for a Healthy Future supports holding hearings on the need to close Georgia’s coverage gap as a first step to achieving this legislative priority. Please contact your Representative and Senator and tell them you support holding hearings on Medicaid expansion this year. You can find your legislators here.

Increasing Georgia’s Tobacco Tax: There has been early momentum around increasing Georgia’s tobacco tax, and a bill has been drafted to increase the state excise tax on cigarettes by $1.23 per pack. The bill also includes a comparable increase on other tobacco products. This bill is awaiting a fiscal note from the state, which we expect to be completed by the first week in February.  See our one-pager on how increasing the tobacco tax can help reduce smoking and improve health in Georgia. Georgians for a  Healthy Future is proud to be part of a coalition of health organizations working on this important issue—please stay tuned for updates on this issue once the fiscal note is in!

Medicaid Payment Parity:  Georgians for a Healthy Future supports maintaining payment parity for primary care providers (see this week’s Medicaid Minute for an explanation of how this improves access to care for Georgia patients) by restoring the temporary reimbursement rate hike that expired at the end of 2014.  Senator Renee Unterman has proposed a $60 million appropriation for this, and Medicaid payment parity will be a topic of conversation at next week’s Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing (on Tuesday at 3pm).  This hearing presents an opportunity to weigh in with your state legislators to let them know you support the payment bump and to ask them to include it in the FY 2016 Budget.


Coverage Day at the Capitol Recap

IMG_2595 IMG_2568 IMG_2589

This past Tuesday was Coverage Day at the Capitol! Laura Colbert, GHF’s Community Outreach Manager, spearheaded the day with the help of many Cover Georgia partner organizations.  The opportunity to talk with legislators about the coverage gap drew about 75 advocates and volunteers to the State Capitol. After an advocacy training session, the group met with their legislators throughout the morning by “working the ropes.”  The group reconvened for lunch and a press briefing, covered by both WABE and the Georgia Report! Members of the Cover Georgia coalition displayed their information, materials, and projects in the Capitol Rotunda throughout the afternoon. It was a full day of advocacy in support of closing Georgia’s coverage gap!  We’re hoping that Georgia’s legislators heard our message loud and clear – it’s time to start talking about closing Georgia’s coverage gap!


GHF Receives MLK Community Service Award

IMG_0286GHF celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day last week by receiving an award at Emory University’s 23rd annual MLK Community Service Awards.  This year’s award program recognized organizations that work to address injustices in the Atlanta community, often before those injustices become headlines.  Harry Heiman, out-going board chair, and Laura Colbert accepted the award on GHF’s behalf.  In Harry’s acceptance speech, he remembered Dr. King’s quote: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”  GHF works hard to ensure equal access to high quality, affordable health care for all Georgians.  We are honored to accept this award and congratulate the other very deserving awardees.


Medicaid Minute

Georgia’s Medicaid patients could face longer wait times for doctor’s appointments without legislative action. That’s because a nation-wide bump in primary care provider reimbursement rates expired at the end of 2014, triggering a need for state action. This temporary rate bump resulted in an average eight percent increase in appointment availability, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study examined ten states, including Georgia, and concluded that payment rate increases are an effective strategy for enhancing access to primary care services. According to a participating physician in Texas, his practice was able to double the amount of Medicaid patients seen during the two year time the pay bump was in effect.  By restoring the rate bump, known as Medicaid payment parity, Georgia policymakers can help ensure patients get timely access to primary care in an appropriate setting and help keep patients from ending up in the emergency room.


GHF Board Changes

With the New Year, GHF kicks of a new board.  Kathy Floyd has stepped into the position of board chair, taking the reins from Harry Heiman.  A board member of several years, we know she will bring strong leadership and vision to our growing organization.  We are also thankful for Harry’s incredible run and accomplishments as board chair during a period of growth for GHF. We are excited to welcome new board members Danté McKay, Jay Berkelhamer, Natalie Hernandez, and Monica Ponder!  Each brings substantial experience and expertise and we’re excited to have them as part of the GHF team.  As the same time, we are sad to see wonderful partners rolling off the board.  Julie Edelson, Marci Thomas, Jeffery Graham, Sylvia Caley, and Iris Feinberg have all finished their board terms and, while we will miss them, we hope they will enjoy their newfound free time!


Infographic of the Week

Countdown infographic end of open enrollment

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Peach Pulse: January, 23, 2015


Coverage Day at the Capitol 

IMG_0771Please join us this coming Tuesday, January 27, from 9 am to noon for a day of advocacy!  GHF and the Cover Georgia coalition have planned a full day of activities to raise awareness about the important role that coverage plays in the health and financial security of all Georgians and to ask our legislators to close Georgia’s coverage gap.  More than 15 organizations are already participating, and it’s not too late to join us! We’ll provide breakfast and lunch, an advocacy training, and opportunities to share your materials and personal health care stories at our afternoon Capitol Rotunda display.

To sign up, click here.  If you have any questions, please contact Laura Colbert.


The 2015 Legislative Session is Underway!

georgia-capital-buildingThe legislative session opened last week, and health care is already a hot topic. Here is what we have learned in the first week and a half:

It’s budget week! Governor Deal released his budget on Friday, and legislators have been holding budget hearings all week. Here are two aspects of the health care budget that have our attention:

  • The proposed budget eliminates State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) coverage for non-certificated school employees (bus drivers, custodians, etc) who work less than 30 hours a week.  State officials estimate it will affect more than 11,000 state employees.  We’re still sifting through the details, but we’re very concerned that some of those employees may fall into the coverage gap if they lose coverage through the SHBP.
  • There is no money in the state budget to sustain the primary care reimbursement rate increase that was temporarily funded with federal dollars. This temporary bump  made it easier for patients in Georgia and other states to get medical appointments and access care.
There has also been some early momentum at the Capitol around an increase in the tobacco tax, one of Georgians for a Healthy Future’s legislative priorities! As bills and budget items impacting health care in Georgia are introduced and discussed, we will keep you posted and identify opportunities for advocacy. We’ll be at the Gold Dome throughout the session so look for updates and alerts in each Peach Pulse!

Thank you for making Health Care Unscrambled a huge success!

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Thank you to those of you who joined us for our fifth annual Health Care Unscrambled policy breakfast on January 15! This year’s event featured two powerhouse panels: a bipartisan legislative discussion and a panel that focused on the recent experiences of Kentucky and Arkansas, two Southern states that are moving forward with innovative plans to cover their uninsured and improve population health, and featured the insights of a national expert.

This year’s Health Care Unscrambled also provided an opportunity for Georgia health care advocates, policymakers, stakeholders, and consumers to come together just as the 2015 Legislative Session got underway to focus our attention on the most pressing health policy issues facing our state, including a robust discussion about the coverage gap.  Senator Dean Burke said that while last year he would have said there was a 0 out of 10 chance for Georgia to close the gap, this year he moved it to a 5 out of 10.  We’re excited about these improved chances and will continue to advocate for movement this legislative session!

We wrapped up the event with a reveal of our 2015 legislative priorities, which you can find here. You can read Georgia Health News’s coverage of the event here.


GHF goes to Washington

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This week, Cindy and Anna are representing Georgians for a Healthy Future at Families USA’s Health Action 2015 conference!  We’re getting inspiration from national leaders, learning about best practices from experts and advocates doing great work around the country, and sharing our own experiences advocating for Georgia health care consumers. GHF’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin spoke on a workshop panel about how to advocate for consumers enrolled in private health insurance. Check out Facebook and Twitter through Saturday for conference updates!


Story collecting with Mercy Care

Mercy Care EventGHF partnered with Mercy Care to kick off the legislative session by collecting the stories of people who fall in the coverage gap.  As the governor was being inaugurated and our legislators were being sworn in, we talked to Mercy Care’s patients how health care coverage would help them.  Everyone we talked to expressed that health care coverage would help them go back to work, take better care of their family, or better manage their health.  We will be sharing these stories on Coverage Day through social media and in person as we talk with policy makers about the importance of closing the coverage gap. HealthSTAT and the National Health Care for the Homeless Council were critical partners for this story collection effort!

 If you are in the coverage gap and would like to share your health care story with us, click here .


Medicaid Minute

Last year, the number of uninsured Americans declined, fewer adults reported difficulties paying for medical bills and medical debt, and fewer adults delayed care because of cost. These encouraging findings, which come from the Commonwealth Fund’s Biennial Health Insurance Survey, are great news for patients and consumers. These coverage and access gains, however, were not experienced evenly across the country. People living in states (like Georgia) that haven’t expanded Medicaid were more likely to be uninsured and to face burdensome medical bills than those living in states that have expanded Medicaid. Let’s not leave Georgia patients and consumers behind-let’s close the coverage gap!


Infographic of the week

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Peach Pulse, December 18, 2014


Time to Act on Tobacco

With the holiday season upon us and the 2015 Legislative Session just around the corner, 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. 

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.

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

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


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.


GHF Around Town

It’s been a busy couple weeks for us here at GHF.  The Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee met to hear public comments two weeks ago and we were out in force!  We presented our report to the committee.  In addition, our own Laura Colbert and representatives from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, HealthSTAT, Jewish Community Relations Council, Georgia Legal Services, and Voices for Georgia’s Children all pressed how crucial closing the coverage gap is as a the first step to saving our rural hospitals. 

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The following week, the GHF team attended the 29th Biennial, a gathering of legislators and advocates from across the state.  GHF spoke with members on both sides of the aisle and encouraged conversations around closing the coverage gap to give hard working Georgians the access to care they deserve. 

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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.

 

 

 

IMG_0778Coverage 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.

 

georgia-capital-buildingWebinar: 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.

 

 

 


Medicaid Minute

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This week, Tennessee announced its intention to move forward with a plan to close the coverage gap!  In a statement, Governor Bill Haslam said “This plan leverages federal dollars to provide health care coverage to more Tennesseans, to give people a choice in their coverage and to address the cost of health care, better health outcomes and personal responsibility.”  We are thrilled for Tennessee and hope our own elected officials will take note and work to provide a Georgia solution for our hard working, uninsured families.

 


Infographic of the Week!

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Nykita Navigates

IMG_9114One month down, two to go!  Already, nearly 2.5 million Americans already signed up for health insurance.  Early numbers show that about half of those who have signed up are new enrollees.  If you haven’t enrolled yet or want to shop around before selecting a new plan, there is still time!  Click here to see Nykita’s schedule for upcoming events in your neighborhood.  If you don’t see any close to home, please give her a call to set up a one-on-one appointment. 

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Peach Pulse: December 4, 2014


Health Insurance Hot Topic Update: Network Adequacy

megaWith 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.


Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee: Your voice is needed!

hospitalWe’re hoping you read our report released two weeks ago to the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee (RHSC) on how closing the coverage gap can help save our rural hospitals.  (And if you didn’t – here is it!)  This Friday, the RHSC is taking public comment and your voice is needed!  You may register to make comments when you arrive at the meeting. Comments will be presented on a first come, first serve basis. No power points, but handouts (should you be so inclined) are allowed.  If you interested in commenting, but are unsure of how to best shape your argument, feel free to reach out to Laura Colbert, GHF’s Community Outreach Manager.  Even if you aren’t comfortable speaking, please show up and show your support!  Details are below.

Location: Two Peachtree Street.  5th floor.  Located on the corner of Peachtree Street and Marietta Streets.  The Five Points MARTA Station is just south of Two Peachtree.

Time: 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM


Connecting Georgians to Coverage: GHF partners with the Bhutanese Association of Georgia to get people covered

Every 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.


Medicaid Minute: Who qualifies?

Each state has slightly different eligibility criteria for Medicaid.  When we talk about closing the coverage gap– as 28 other states have either through Medicaid expansion or a state-specific 1115 waiver – it’s important that we all know just who is (and isn’t) eligible for Medicaid today in Georgia and who could gain coverage if we close that gap.

  • Very low income parents. Medicaid is offered to parents who make up to 40% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).  For a family of four, parents with income up to $9,036 annually or $753 per month can receive health coverage through the Medicaid program.
  • Pregnant Women. Pregnant women who earn up to 220% FPL.  For a family of four, a pregnant woman with income up to $52,488 would be eligible for Medicaid
  • Most Children. Children are covered at varying income limits based on their age and family size. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as PeachCare for Kids in Georgia, is layered on top of the Medicaid program. Together, these programs provide coverage to children in families with incomes up to 247% of the FPL.  For a family of four, that’s $58,932 annually.
  • The low-income elderly. In addition to Medicare, many, but not all, low income elderly adults whose income is less than $25,560 per year qualify for Medicaid.
  • Low-income women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer.
  • Aged, Blind, and Disabled. With varying income limits, those who receive Social Security Income, live in a nursing home, or community care center qualify.
  • Qualified Medicare Beneficiaries. These are the aged, blind or disabled who have hospital insurance and have incomes below 100% FPL.  Medicaid will cover some of their Medicare expenses.
  • Low-income Terminally Ill. Those with an annual income of less than $25,956 and who are expected to live less than six months.

*Numbers are pulled from the GA Department of Community Health and Peach Care for Kids webpages.


Nykita Navigates

IMG_9114Nearly half a million people enrolled in health insurance through the federal marketplace in the first week of open enrollment!  The deadline for January 1st coverage is fast approaching: December 15th.  Don’t miss out!  If you need in person assistance, please see the below events or contact Nykita at 404-567-5016 or nhowell@healthyfuturega.org.


Upcoming events:

January 19:  15th Annual United Ebony Society MLK Day Celebration and Health Fair (Lawrenceville, GA)


Recurring events:

Cobb County Public Health (Marietta, GA) Every Tuesday, Starting November 18, 2014 and ending February 10, 2015 (with the exception of November 25, 2014)

Clarkston Library, DeKalb County (Clarkston, GA) Every Thursday, Starting November 20, 2014 and ending February 12, 2015

Fayette County Library Presentation (Fayetteville, GA) December 8, 2014; January 12, 2015, and February 2, 2015

Events are subject to change, and new events are added all the time – check back here regularly for updates!

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Peach Pulse: November 13, 2014


Open Enrollment Starts Saturday!

megaIf you receive our Peach Pulse, there’s a good chance you already know that open enrollment for health insurance starts this Saturday, November 15 and goes through February 15.  Two important things to remember and share with your friends, family, colleagues, and community members:

  • Even if you enrolled last year, you should go to healthcare.gov and shop around as your plan and premiums may have changed, or you may qualify for more financial assistance.
  • Unless you qualify for an exemption, the penalty fee for not obtaining health insurance has risen to $325 or 2% of your income (whichever is higher).

If you have enrolled successfully through the Health Insurance Marketplace or remain uninsured and think you fall into the coverage gap (Not sure what that is?  Check out this Kaiser Family Foundation resource that explains the coverage gap!), please consider sharing your story.  Highlighting your stories is crucial to showing our lawmakers that the ACA is working and that we need to close the coverage gap so that no Georgian is left uninsured.


Nykita Navigates

IMG_9114With open enrollment starting this Saturday, our Navigator, Nykita, has been very busy!  GHF is excited to highlight some of Nykita’s materials, as well as some great work from our partner organizations.  The following materials are great to print out at home for your own use or if you’re helping others enroll.

  • Affordable Care Act Basics: Guide to the Marketplace – Your basic guide to the ACA and the health insurance market place
  • Marketplace Application Checklist – Your check list of what you should bring to your appointment with a Navigator (it’s longer than you think!).
  • Health Insurance 101 – Not quite sure the difference between an HMO and a PPO?  How about co-insurance and co-pay?  This brochure will answer your questions.
  • Enrollment Brochure – Important dates and numbers to remember throughout open enrollment.
  • Navigator Resource Guide – Georgetown University’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms (CHIR) has launched its web-based Navigator Resource Guide on Private Health Insurance and the Health Insurance Marketplaces.  Targeted at Navigators, this is an amazing resource to help answer the tough questions.

Ready to get enrolled?  Check out Nykita’s schedule to see what events are happening in your neighborhood.  Check back often for updates.


Medicaid Minute

All eyes are on open enrollment, but for more than 400,000 Georgians, there still isn’t a health care option available.  Our elected state officials have the power to solve this problem. The health care law was designed to provide a path to health insurance to all Americans, but our state government has to opt in to make that a reality. Governor Deal and the state legislature have so far declined to use federal tax dollars that have already been set aside to provide coverage to those in the gap, but the opportunity to accept this money is still available.  We can opt in now by expanding Medicaid eligibility to all low-income Georgians who currently do not qualify.  Still need more details?  Click here to learn more.


It’s Not Too Late To Give!

GA Gives DayAs you know, Georgia Gives Day is in full swing!  The day isn’t over and as of sending time we are 30% of the way to achieving our goal of $1,000!  Your participation and support allows us to continue the work we do: educating the public and our lawmakers, providing valuable resources to partner organizations and leading the charge for closing the coverage gap in Georgia.  If you haven’t, please consider a small donation.  To donate, click here.

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Peach Pulse: October 30, 2014


SBIRT: A Public Health Initiative

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Yesterday, Georgians for a Healthy Future together with the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse unveiled our new initiative “Somebody Finally Asked Me…” at a benefit party held at the home of Iris and Bruce Feinberg.  This project aims to prevent and address youth substance use disorders through increased use of an evidence-based public health approach known as SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment).

To learn more about SBIRT, click here.

If you were unable to attend the event and would like to make a donation to help us reach our fundraising goal for this project, click here.

To watch a video about how alcohol and drug addiction impact the lives of youth and why we are committed to preventing addiction before it starts,click here.

Georgians for a Healthy Future 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.

About Georgians for a Healthy Future: Georgians for a Healthy Future’s mission is to build and mobilize a unified voice, vision, and leadership to achieve a healthy future for all Georgians.  Since our founding in 2008, Georgians for a Healthy Future has provided substantive health policy information to community leaders and advocates throughout the state, conducted seminars to equip consumers with the tools to become strong advocates, successfully injected the consumer perspective into dozens of health care stories in the media, and engaged with policymakers to spark policy change for a healthier Georgia.


It’s Time to Get Covered

lgbt_iconLearn about your options for health care coverage at the LGBT Health Insurance Town Hall

Join Georgia Equality, Georgians for a Healthy Future and The Health Initiative on Thursday, November 13th at 7 pm at the Rush Center.  Whether you still need health care coverage or you have coverage and want to re-enroll, you probably have questions about the upcoming open enrollment period.  Consumers, just like you, who got enrolled in health coverage last year will share their experiences and advice.  Navigators will be on hand to answer your questions about how to get covered or re-enrolled.  Bring your coverage questions, your uninsured friends and family, and your health coverage stories.  Open enrollment for 2015 coverage begins November 15, 2014 and ends February 15, 2015.

Bonus! We don’t know about you, but talking health care always works up our appetite – stop in at Radial Café before or afterwards to receive either 20% of your meal or order a special dinner for two for $30!

Click here to RSVP!

Not in Atlanta – We’ve still got you covered!

Because we know that many of you have questions about your coverage options and what to look for in a health insurance plan, we will also be live-streaming the town hall meeting. You’ll not only be able to watch the presentations in real time, you’ll also be able to ask your questions of our panelists and experts.

Click here to RSVP for the live-stream!


Children’s Health Insurance Program in Danger

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health insurance for children whose families make too much to allow the children to be covered by Medicaid, but make too little to be able to provide insurance for their children themselves.  CHIP covers 7.7 million children nationwide and 220,000 in Georgia.  Georgia’s CHIP program is called PeachCare for Kids (aka PeachCare).  . PeachCare is administered by the state of Georgia and jointly financed by the state and federal government.

PeachCare provides coverage for primary, preventive, specialty, dental and vision care for enrolled children ages 18 and under.  In addition, the insurance covers hospitalization, emergency room visits, prescription medications and mental health care.  PeachCare helps ensure the well-being of many Georgia children who may not be covered otherwise.

Future funding for the program is in danger.  Even though the program is legislated to exist until 2019, Congress has only approved funding for CHIP until next September.  By choosing not to approve federal dollars for CHIP in the 2016-2019 budgets, Congress would leave millions of children without access to health insurance and would shift the financial burden of covering our kids to the Georgia state budget.

Contact your Congressperson and ask them to make sure that Congress secures CHIP funding through 2019.

For more information visit Voices for Georgia’s Children and the Georgetown Center on Children and Families.


Medicaid Minute

Looking for more proof of why we should close the coverage gap?  A nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation analysis reported that states that have not expanded Medicaid and closed the coverage gap (like Georgia) will see a greater increase in spending than those that have.  In states like Georgia we can expect to see a 6.8 percent increase in tax dollars going to support Medicaid in fiscal year 2015.  That compares to a 4.4 percent rise in states that have closed the coverage gap already.


Nykita Navigates!

IMG_9114In the last edition of our Peach Pulse newsletter, we introduced you to Nykita Howell, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s new health insurance navigator. Nykita has hit the ground running in her new position in advance of health insurance open enrollment, which begins November 15!

If you are part of a community-based organization and would like to learn more about the types of health insurance options available to your community members and gain a better understanding of how to enroll in coverage, please feel free to contact Nykita to request a presentation. If you are an individual consumer in need of health insurance enrollment assistance, you can also contact Nykita to set up an appointment.

What does a navigator do, you might ask?

Health insurance navigators help consumers determine their eligibility for health insurance and for advanced premium tax credits through the Health Insurance Marketplace, provide enrollment assistance to consumers by helping them prepare their applications, and conduct outreach and education to raise awareness about the Marketplace. Navigators receive training and are certified at both the state and federal levels. They provide free and unbiased services to consumers.

Georgians for a Healthy Future is part of a consortium of 12 nonprofit organizations led by Seedco that received a federal navigator grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services. That funding supports this important service.

Events in the next two weeks:

  • Community Church of God and Christ (Atlanta, GA), November 15, 2014  1pm to 4pm  

Infographic of the Week!

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Peach Pulse: October 17, 2014


Navigators and the Consumer Experience

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Georgians 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.


Georgians for a Healthy Future Met the Press!

GHF’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin met last week with the Kaiser Family Foundation’s (KFF) Media Fellows and shared her perspective as a consumer health advocate with the group. The KFF Media Fellows are highly regarded health care journalists from major national and local publications who spent three days in Georgia discussing and learning about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other health policy issues in the state from local experts, advocates, academics, and practitioners. Georgians for a Healthy Future was honored to be a part of their agenda.

The fellows prepared for their visit to Georgia by reading KFF’s new “The Georgia Health Care Landscape.”  This document provides a comprehensive overview of Georgia’s population health, the implementation of the ACA in Georgia, and Georgia’s health care infrastructure.  It is an excellent primer for those who want to know more about Georgia’s health care landscape or who want to have key Georgia health care stats at your fingertips.  Some facts in particular stand out from the issue brief:

  • As of January 2014, 22% of uninsured Georgians were in the coverage gap, meaning they were ineligible for Medicaid because Georgia has not expanded its program and earned too little to qualify for premium subsidies for private coverage.
  • 87% of Georgians who enrolled in health coverage through the Marketplace received premium subsidies to purchase coverage.
  • Georgia has many Health Professional Shortage Areas and a high level of unmet need for care. As of August 2014, only 59% of the primary health care need in Georgia was being met. Even worse, only 45% of the need for mental health care services and 28% of the need for dental services were being met.
  • More than one in five non-elderly people in Georgia is uninsured, and high unemployment rates and poorer than average health care outcomes for many measures suggest a greater need for health coverage among many low-income Georgians.

Georgia Gives day is 26 days away!

We’re hoping for a big turnout for Georgia Gives Day on November 13th for Georgians for a Healthy Future (GHF), but there’s something you can do between now and then and it takes almost no time!  Take a picture, like the one below, and tell us why you support our work and quality access to health care.  Include the hashtags #GAGivesDay and #unselfie and tag us on Facebook or include our twitter handle @healthyfuturega to enter us to win $500 from GA Gives Day!  It’s a competition, so go to GA Gives Facebook page and vote for your favorite GHF submission!

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Your support and participation doesn’t just support GHF but it supports accessible, quality and affordable health care for all Georgians.  Don’t forget to check back with us on November 13th to make a donation and show your support for health equity and for GHF!

 

 

 

 

 

 


GHF Welcomes New Staff: Health Insurance Navigator Nykita Howell

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 national Health Insurance Exchange. 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!


Medicaid Minute: 60% Support Closing the Coverage Gap!

A new report on consumers’ experiences and views on health care found that 60% of Georgians disapprove of the state’s decision not to expand Medicaid, which includes 43% who strongly disapprove.  Over 90% of Georgians think Medicaid is important – and we agree!  It’s time to close the coverage gap and provide a pathway to coverage for all Georgians. Follow @healthyfuturega on Twitter to stay up-to-date about our efforts to #coverga.


Infographic of the Week

From our partners at Enroll America!

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Join us for a benefit party!

Benefit Party1

Please join Georgians for a Healthy Future (GHF) and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse on October 29 from 6 to 8 PM for our SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment) Benefit Party to launch our new public advocacy campaign – Somebody finally asked me! The project seeks to prevent youth substance use disorders through the implementation of universal screening.  In addition to launching our SBIRT project, we have been challenged to raise $30,000 in Georgia to help support this work—a big opportunity to leverage the national dollars coming into Georgia through the Hilton Foundation.  We hope you will join us and make a gift that is meaningful to you as we work together towards this goal.  To learn more about this project click here.  To RSVP now, click here.


GHF Executive Director is honored by the League of Women Voters

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin was honored last week by the League of Women Voters with an Empowerment Award at their annual lunch.  GHF is so proud of Cindy’s dedication to health advocacy throughout the last five years!

cindy award

john lewis

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Peach Pulse: October 6, 2014


Next in Health Care: Network Adequacy Explained

question When consumers enroll in a health insurance plan, they gain access to a network of medical providers. Insurance companies contract with a range of providers, including both primary care and specialty physicians, to deliver health care services included within the plan’s benefit package. This network of providers must be adequate to ensure that consumers enrolled in the plan have reasonable access to all covered benefits. This is what is meant by network adequacy.  More specifically, to be considered adequate, a network must provide adequate numbers, types, and geographic distribution of providers; must ensure that access to care is timely; and must include essential community providers that serve predominantly low-income, medically underserved individuals. Additionally, accurate information about providers must be made available to consumers.

Network adequacy has become a hot topic over the past several months because many consumers who enrolled in new health plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace found that their plan came with a narrow network of providers. Provider directories weren’t always accurate or up-to-date, and consumers expressed a fair amount of confusion over which providers were in their plan’s network.

At the same time, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which develops model laws and rules that states often adopt, has been working to update its network adequacy model law. Stakeholders ranging from insurers to medical providers to patient and consumer advocates are weighing in on this process, making network adequacy a hot topic in the policy arena too. Georgians for a Healthy Future has been monitoring this process through the participation of our executive director as one of the consumer representatives to the NAIC. Earlier this summer, the consumer representatives submitted comments to the NAIC focusing on developing a stronger standard and better oversight of network adequacy, an end to “balance billing” by out-of-network providers in in-network facilities, and greater transparency of provider networks.

Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to monitor this process and will advocate at all levels, in conjunction with state and national partners, to ensure consumers have meaningful access to care.

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.

For more information on network adequacy, please see the following reports and resources:

From Georgetown Center on Health Insurance Reforms: Reforming State Regulation of Provider Networks: Efforts at the NAIC to Re-Draft a Model State Law

From Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Georgetown University Health Policy Institute: ACA Implications for State Network Adequacy Standards

From Families USA: Network Adequacy and Health Equity: Improving Private Health Insurance Networks for Communities of Color


Connecting Georgians to Coverage

The ACA and people living with HIV/AIDS: what you need to know

PrintThe Affordable Care Act (ACA) makes health insurance more affordable, more accessible, more understandable, and more complete for all Georgians. Health care and health insurance are especially important to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) so that they can stay healthy and well.  PLWHA often have very specific needs and questions regarding their health coverage and care options.  To answer them, Georgians for a Healthy Future and Georgia Equality have created a fact sheet that breaks down the biggest concerns and decisions for PLWHA.  The fact sheet details new rights and protections under the ACA, walks through important questions to ask prior to choosing a health plan, and provides contacts for further assistance.

This fact sheet was made to be shared! You can view and download this new fact sheet on the GHF website. If you would like hard copies to distribute to your members, clients, or community partners, please contact Laura Colbert, GHF’s Community Outreach Manager at lcobert@healthyfuturega.org.


Georgia Gives Day

GA Gives DayGeorgians for a Healthy Future works hard every day to bring about our vision of a day when all Georgians have access to the health care services they need to lead productive lives and contribute to the health of their communities. Whether we’re enrolling people in health insurance, advocating on behalf of health care consumers at the state capitol, working to address substance use among young adults, or convening a coalition to expand Medicaid, we are focused on you and your health.

November 14th is Georgia Gives Day.  This is a day for Georgians across the state to express their support for the non-profit organizations that enrich our lives.  We hope that you will put November 14th on your calendar and take a few minutes out of your day to support Georgians for a Healthy Future by making a small contribution.  Look for alerts leading up to the day and please follow us on Facebook and Twitter as we celebrate and work toward our vision of a healthy Georgia.


Stories that Cause Change: How you can make a difference!

The public discussion around the Affordable Care Act is often about its politics. What the pundits miss is that each person’s experiences-whether it is the elation, relief, and sense of security that come with enrolling in health insurance for the first time or the frustration that comes from finding out you fall into the coverage gap–is important.  Whatever your story, we want you to share it with us!

Volunteer!  Throughout open enrollment we will be talking to consumers throughout the state.  You can help us in this important effort by attending an event in your neighborhood and talking to consumers.  We will prepare you with supplies and materials, a how-to guide, and more.  If you would like to help out, please email our outreach manager, Laura Colbert.

Share your story and encourage others to do the same. If you or someone you know has successfully enrolled in a health insurance plan through the marketplace, tell us about it.  If you fall in the coverage gap, let us know.  If you are able to access care that you couldn’t afford before, we want to hear about it.  Tell us your story by contacting our communications coordinator, Anna Cullen.

Together we can make a change.


Medicaid Minute: Uncompensated Care Cost

ER-Hospital-SignLast week, HHS released a report highlighting one way Georgia can help our hospitals and reduce uncompensated care costs: closing the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid.  In states that have expanded, uninsured/self-pay admissions as well as uninsured/self-pay emergency visits have fallen.  Those same states have seen hospital admissions for patients with Medicaid increase.  In short, they have more paying customers.  And Georgia is getting left out.  The report shows a $5.7 billion savings to hospitals in uncompensated care because of the Affordable Care Act.  $4.2 billion (74%) of those savings will be to states that have expanded.  Just one more reason why closing the coverage gap is the best option for Georgia’s economy and Georgia’s people!

 

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Peach Pulse: September 13, 2014


healthy kids logoCovering Kids: Health Insurance for the Whole Family 

New from GHF!

All kids need reliable access to quality health care.  Children need to see the doctor even when they are healthy:  shots for school, well-child visits, and dental care are all important for kids to grow up healthy and strong.  Their parents need coverage too to stay on track with regular screenings and preventive care, to access the health care system if they become sick, and to experience the financial peace of mind that comes with being covered. 

Thanks to new health insurance options available through the Marketplace, the uninsured rate among parents is dropping. Still, too many of Georgia’s low-income parents fall into what has become known as the “coverage gap,” meaning they don’t earn enough to qualify for subsidized private insurance and they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid because Georgia has so far declined to join the 27 states (and counting!) who have expanded Medicaid.

In an effort to provide accurate information to parents about the coverage options for themselves and their children, GHF has created a set of fact sheets about health insurance coverage for kids and parents in Georgia.  These fact sheets are intended to be a resource for individual consumers and for organizations who represent or provide services for Georgia families.  

Affordable Health Care for Your Children and For Uninsured Parents help parents understand the coverage options for themselves and their children. If you work with low- to moderate-income families through a charity care clinic, at a school or church, or in a community-based organization, you may want to provide these resources to the families you serve. 

Covering Kids paints a picture for policy makers and the media who want to better understand children’s health care coverage in Georgia.  If you work with policy makers or want to talk to your legislators about health care coverage for kids, this fact sheet will be a helpful resource.  

A fourth fact sheet serves as a reference for those who need to know the income limits for the Medicaid and PeachCare programs.

You can view and download these new fact sheets on the GHF website. If you would like hard copies to distribute to your members, clients, or community partners, please contact Laura Colbert, GHF’s Community Outreach Manager.


compassConnecting Georgians to Converage: GHF’s Navigator Program Will Again Assist During Open Enrollment!

Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded health insurance navigator grants to 90 organizations in states with federally facilitated or partnership marketplaces. Health insurance navigators help consumers understand and compare health insurance options, enroll in coverage, determine eligibility for tax credits, and utilize new coverage once enrolled. Georgians for a Healthy Future is excited to announce that, for the second year in a row, we are part of a consortium of 12 nonprofit organizations, led by the national nonprofit organization Seedco, which received one of two grants for Georgia!

With the next open enrollment period just 58 days away, we are already getting ready. In the coming weeks Georgians for a Healthy Future will bring on a full-time health insurance navigator who will work closely with consortium partners to provide outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to Georgia individuals and families. More than 300,000 Georgia consumers signed up for coverage during last year’s open enrollment period, but hundreds of thousands more who are eligible for affordable coverage remain uninsured. Reaching these uninsured Georgians will require targeted outreach strategies and new partnerships with local community-based organizations throughout the state. Additionally, consumers who enrolled during the last open enrollment period will need assistance navigating re-enrollment and may have questions about how to understand and use their new coverage. Health insurance navigators played a critical role during the first open enrollment period and are poised to assist consumers again this fall, when the second open enrollment period begins.

Georgians for a Healthy Future is honored to participate in these efforts.

Click here to see a full list of organizations that have received funding through Seedco.


Stories That Cause Change: How You Can Make a Difference!

Did you recently sign up for health insurance for the first time? Were you locked out of the market before because you had a pre-existing condition? Was insurance too pricey for you in the past and did you finally find an affordable plan that meets your needs? Or maybe you tried to enroll in coverage and found out that you fell in the “coverage gap” and can’t gain eligibility for Medicaid until Georgia policymakers move forward with Medicaid expansion? Or perhaps you enrolled in coverage but have had difficulty accessing an in-network provider nearby? Whatever your health care story is, we want you to share it with us!

The public discussion around the Affordable Care Act is often about its politics. What the pundits miss is that each person’s experiences-whether it is the elation, relief, and sense of security that come with enrolling in health insurance for the first time or the frustration that comes from finding out you fall into the coverage gap–is important. Georgians for a Healthy Future believes that telling those stories is a powerful tool that can help bring about a better policy environment for health care consumers in Georgia. Over the next several months, GHF, along with other organizations within the Cover Georgia coalition, will collect these stories and share them across the state.

To do this, we need your help in two important ways:

  1. Volunteer!  Throughout open enrollment we will be talking to consumers throughout the state.  You can help us in this important effort by attending an event in your neighborhood and talking to consumers.  We will prepare you with supplies and materials, a how-to guide, and more.  If you would like to help out, please email our outreach manager, Laura Colbert.
  2. Share your story and encourage others to do the same. If you or someone you know has successfully enrolled in a health insurance plan through the marketplace, tell us about it.  If you fall in the coverage gap, let us know.  If you are able to access care that you couldn’t afford before, we want to hear about it.  Tell us your story by contacting our communications coordinator, Anna Cullen.

Together we can make a change.


Medicaid Minute

Medicaid Counter

Every day that Georgia does not close the coverage gap and expand Medicaid, federal dollars are lost.  To show just how much we are really losing, Pro Georgia has created a Georgia Medicaid Counter to track the dollars lost in real time.  Below is the code it embed it on your website.  Please use and share!

<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://progeorgia.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/counter.js”></script>

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Peach Pulse: September 4, 2014


New from GHF: ACA and the LGBT Community

  • What health care rights and protections do legally married same-sex couples have in states like Georgia that don’t currently recognize same-sex marriage?
  • Can health insurance navigators help consumers find LGBT-friendly plans? (Hint – yes they can!)
  • How can a consumer file a complaint if they experience discrimination?
  • What new health care rights and protections do transgender individuals have?

The Affordable Care Act makes health insurance and health care more understandable, more accessible, more affordable, and more comprehensive for Georgians, no matter their gender identity.  Georgians for a Healthy Future and Georgia Equality have teamed up to develop  a new set of LGBT specific fact sheets to answer some of these challenging questions that LGBT individuals and families face as they seek out, enroll in, and use their health coverage.

These fact sheets are intended to be a resource for individual consumers and for organizations who represent or provide services tailored to LGBT Georgians. You can view and download these new fact sheets here. If you would like hard copies to distribute to your members, clients, or community partners, please contact Laura Colbert, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Community Outreach Manager.

Health Insurance Options For Georgia’s LGBT Community

Transgender Health Care

Love and Marriage: Health Insurance Rights for LGBT families


Connecting Georgians to Coverage: One Day Left – Resolve Citizenship Inconsistencies Now!

There is one day left for the 20,900 Georgians who received letters from the Federally Facilitated Marketplace (FFM) asking for citizenship verification.  Georgians who haven’t responded by September 5th will see their health care coverage end on September 30th.  Consumers whose coverage is canceled may be required to pay back some or all of the tax credits they received.

If you or someone you know has received this letter, please visit LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov and type in your zip code.  This will take you a list of organizations with health care Navigators – licensed professionals who can walk you through what needs to be done and how to get it done by the deadline. Click here assistance.

For up to the second information on this time sensitive issue, follow the twitter hashtags #BySept5 #StayCovered #Asegurate


SBIRT, GCSA, and NRM: Acronyms You Should Know

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 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. 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.  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.

The GHF/GCSA campaign starts now, taking advantage of the spotlight already on the issue during the month of September: National Recovery Month.  Throughout the month, GCSA will participate in more than 20 events statewide to rally support, increase awareness, and connect people to the care they need.  See if there’s an event in your area!  The theme for this year’s Recovery Month is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out,” and we hope you will follow suit by speaking up and reaching out to those around you.  This is a crucial health issue that touches so many lives – join GHF and GCSA’s commitment to SBIRT and dedicated youth screening and early intervention efforts.  Stay posted for more information about SBIRT and recovery throughout the month!

For more information about teen substance abuse, please visit http://www.drugfree.org/.  If a teen if your life is struggling with addiction, please call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hotline number (800) 662-HELP or (800) 662-4357 or the Georgia Crisis and Access Line 0 1.800.715.4225 or www.mygcal.com .


Washington Update: Funding for PeachCare to Expire in 2015!

THE GOOD NEWS:  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, in October of 2015 the federal match rate for PeachCare for Kids increases from 75 percent to 93 percent. This means that Georgia’s financial responsibility for PeachCare for Kids will decline from 25 percent of program costs to 7 percent.  This is great news for Georgia’s children!

THE BAD NEWS: Funding for PeachCare for Kids is only guaranteed through September 2015.  That’s right, this crucial program that has been so successful in keeping Georgia’s children healthy is precariously close to running out of money.

PeachCare for Kids, Georgia’s Children Health Care Insurance Program (CHIP), provides more than 220,000 children with access to primary, preventive, specialist, dental care and vision care as well as hospitalization, emergency room services, prescription medications and mental health care services.  PeachCare for Kids serves children in families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but still cannot afford private health insurance. The program, which started in 1999, leverages federal dollars to support the state’s commitment to access to care for our state’s children. PeachCare for Kids has been very successful, with Georgia ranking 8th in the nation for the number of enrolled children.

How can you help?  Let your Congressman know that CHIP/PeachCare works and we want it to keep working!  Click here to find your federal Representative and Senator and their contact information.  For up to date information on this developing issue, follow GHF on Facebook and Twitter.


Medicaid Minute

For Georgians who fall into the coverage gap,
living without health insurance and access to comprehensive health care services is a part of everyday life. To raise awareness about the importance of this issue, Mercy Care took to the streets, bringing it into the everyday lives of Atlanta workers on their lunch break with a flash mob!  We may not like that Georgia hasn’t expanded Medicaid, but we sure were happy to see this display of support in Woodruff Park!  Click the picture to check it out!

flashmob4coverage3

Georgians for a Healthy Future is honored to call Mercy Care a partner in the campaign to close the coverage gap in Georgia. To learn more about the Cover Georgia campaign to expand Medicaid in Georgia, visit www.coverga.org. If your organization would like to join the coalition, please contact Laura Colbert, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Community Outreach Manager.

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Peach Pulse: August 12, 2014

 


Thank you for helping us celebrate our first five years of health advocacy!

Georgians for a Healthy Future is celebrating our fifth anniversary this year, and last week we gathered to reflect on the important role that consumer health advocacy plays in Georgia and look ahead to the next five years. Thank you to our speakers, Dr. Gary Nelson, President of the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, and Andy Miller, CEO and Editor of Georgia Health News, and to Georgians for a Healthy Future’s board members, friends, and supporters for coming out celebrate our work and gear up for the work ahead.

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Click on any photo to visit our Facebook page to see the entire album and our timeline highlighting our work over the past 5 years!

 


GHF welcomes new Communications Coordinator! 

anna_photoGeorgians for a Healthy Future is excited to welcome Anna Cullen as our Communications Coordinator!  In this capacity she will work to strategically develop and implement concise and effective messages across multiple outlets – from traditional to social media as well as stakeholder communications.  Anna comes to Georgians for a Healthy Future from the United States House of Representatives where she worked as a Legislative Assistant for a senior member of Congress and gained a strong understanding of the most effective tools to activate change in a divisive political atmosphere.  In that capacity Anna also managed the congressman’s external communications as well as interactions with agency officials and stakeholders within her policy portfolio which included environment, energy, social justice, housing and health issues.  Anna earned her B.A. in Communications, Legal Institutions, Economics, and Government from American University in Washington D.C. We’re thrilled to have Anna on board–please feel free to welcome her to GHF and to contact her atacullen@healthyfuturega.org!


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Peach Pulse: June 17, 2014


Celebrating 5 years!

It’s been five years since Georgians for a Healthy Future launched in 2009 with a commitment to provide a strong voice for Georgia health care consumers and communities as health policy is made in our state, and it’s been an action-packed five years!

Please join our board, staff, and our longtime champions on the evening of August 7th as we reflect on our successes and challenges over the past five years and look ahead to the next five.

We’ll hear remarks from our special guests Dr. Gary Nelson, President of the Healthcare Georgia Foundation, and Andy Miller, CEO and Editor of Georgia Health News.

EVENT DETAILS:
Thursday, August 7th from 6:00 to 8:00pm
Thompson Hine
Two Alliance Center
3560 Lenox Road NE
Suite 1600
Atlanta, GA 30326-4266
Tickets are $60 and registration is now open! Click here to get your tickets or to sign up as an event sponsor.This event will help support our advocacy work in the coming year. For sponsorship opportunities or to join the host committee, contact Cindy Zeldin at czeldin@healthyfuturega.org.

Anouncing New Initative to Fight Stubstance Abuse Among Georgia’s Youth

Young people in Georgia are gaining access to health insurance at historic levels, creating new opportunities to increase access to essential prevention and treatment services. At the same time, misuse of and addiction to alcohol and drugs blunt the potential of too many young Georgians. To fight this drug epidemic, Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse are launching an initiative to expand services to prevent addiction in youth.

Together, the two organizations will run a three-year project in Georgia to improve access to effective screening and intervention services that can minimize the destructive consequences of alcohol and drug misuse and addiction among our youth. This new effort, focused on youth ages 15 to 22, will combine a cost-effective public health approach called Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) with the power of consumer-led advocacy. Georgia is one of five states selected to participate in the national project managed by Community Catalyst, a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization, and funded by a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.

The project aims to improve access and coverage for early screening and intervention services by increasing both the number and type of locations where youth can access those services, and increasing the number and type of professionals who can conduct screening and brief intervention. For the full project launch announcement, click here.


GHF welcomes new Community Outreach Manager! 

Georgians for a Healthy Future is excited to welcome Laura Colbert, our new Community Outreach Manager! Laura joins GHF from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Strong4Life initiative. She spent her first two years as the Camp Director for Camp Strong4Life, a camp program for overweight and obese children and their families and the last two years developing and overseeing Strong4Life’s community partnerships and outreach efforts. Laura has an MPH from Emory University, where she focused on health literacy and the social determinants of health. Before moving to Atlanta, Laura attended UGA, where she earned her B.S.Ed in Kinesiology. At Georgians for a Healthy Future, Laura will manage community outreach to build, maintain, and strengthen relationships with community partners statewide. We’re thrilled to have Laura on board–please feel free to welcome her to GHF and to contact her at lcolbert@healthyfuturega.org!

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Peach Pulse: October 14, 2013

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA

 

 


Georgia’s Health Insurance Marketplace is open for business

Need health coverage? The Health Insurance Marketplace is open! Apply Now

On Tuesday, October 1, 2013, Georgia’s Health Insurance Marketplace opened for business.  Uninsured Georgians can now go to www.healthcare.gov to shop the Marketplace and see what insurance plan makes the most sense for them and their families.  Open enrollment runs from October 1 to March 31 so there is plenty of time for consumers to take their time, research their options, and pick a plan that works for them.
The work of outreach and education to communities across our state will never be more important.   78% of people report that they do not know about the Marketplace or how it will affect them—we are working hard to change this! Georgians for a Healthy Future along with Seedco and our other navigator consortium partners is working hard to make sure we are connecting Georgians to coverage.  We cannot do it alone and we hope we can count on your support and partnership. To read more about the launch of open enrollment, click here.


New Open Enrollment Resource Center

CGC

There is a new resource center on the Georgians for a Healthy Future website that is a centralized destination for everything consumers and community partners might need related to the Health Insurance Marketplace.  There they can find resources, tools, updates and more about new opportunities for healthcare coverage as we move forward with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  Visit and refer others to the resource center to find:

Be sure to check the resource center frequently for updates and new resources.


Insurance plan data now available for browsing

Since the launch of www.healthcare.gov, consumers have had a difficult time creating an account, logging in and browsing information about insurance plans.  To help more people shop and enroll in these new coverage options, HHS has added more servers and engineers, and improved the system configuration so it can handle more volume and will have shorter wait times.  HHS has designed the system to be dynamic, and will continue to make adjustments to improve the consumer experience.

As of late last week, HHS allows consumers to preview Marketplace health plans and prices available in their area without having to create an account. To find out their actual costs, consumers will still need to apply.  The estimates provided on this site do NOT include the premium subsidies. Individuals between 100% and 400% of federal poverty level (FPL) are eligible for subsidies in the exchange that make their insurance more affordable.  To calculate the premium assistance they may be eligible for, consumers can visit the Kaiser Family Foundation’s subsidy calculator.

HHS will continue to work with consumers during the next six months to get people enrolled in the health insurance plans they need and want. People have until December 15 to apply for coverage starting January 1, 2014, but open enrollment is on-going through March 31, 2014.


THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA

 

 

Georgians in the coverage gap

The Affordable Care Act was originally drafted so that individuals making up to 138% FPL (approx. $15,000 for an individual or $27,000 for a family of 3) would be eligible for Medicaid.  The Supreme Court decision in June 2012 made this optional for states and to date, Georgia has not elected to expand coverage through Medicaid.  The ACA also authorizes individuals between 100% and 400% FPL to receive premium subsidy assistance to make their insurance affordable.

So what happens to the individuals who are not currently eligible for Medicaid with incomes below 100% FPL?  They fall into the coverage gap.


Medicaid

So what will happen to people in the coverage gap? Unfortunately, these individuals will not qualify for Medicaid and are not eligible for exchange subsidies so insurance will remain unaffordable and they will not be able purchase it.  They do not have to pay a penalty under the “individual mandate” but they will also not have a reliable source of healthcare. While they can continue to access the healthcare system the way they do now–through the Emergency Room, at community health centers, and at free clinics, they will continue to suffer the consequences of avoidable hospitalizations and complications.

Georgia’s decision to expand coverage through Medicaid is one without a deadline.

Please join the Cover Georgia coalition in its efforts to move forward with this expansion.  There are several ways to get involved:

  1. Take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 138% FPL.  For talking points, click here.
  2. Sign and share the petition to Governor Deal.
  3. Share your story with us–are you one of the people who would gain coverage with expanded Medicaid? Do you know people who would? Have them share their story with us to help put a face on this important issue to policy makers and the media.
  4. Join Cover Georgia and become an active member of our statewide coalition dedicated to expanding coverage for Georgians.

Georgians who have used the Health Insurance Marketplace

Since the launch of the Health Insurance Marketplace, GHF has been working to connect Georgians to coverage.  We are very eager to hear from consumers who have tried to navigate the online marketplace on their own or with the assistance of a navigator, certified application counselor, agent, or broker.  Please share your experience with us–good or bad–so that we can continue to learn and assist Georgians with the enrollment process.


RECENT AND UPCOMING EVENTS  

Help us plan an open enrollment event in your community

With nearly 2 million uninsured Georgians, we have a lot of work over the next several months to connect those Georgians to the resources they need to access affordable health insurance.  GHF and our Seedco consortium partners are working hard to plan events across the state in local communities and with local partners.  If you are interested in partnering with us to identify a community who will benefit from this information, please reach out to us and let us know.

GHF benefit concert with Paul Thorn

image (4) image

Thanks to Paul Thorn Band and Jackson County Line, and the music lovers in Atlanta, GHF’s first ever benefit concert on September 7 was a success! Thanks to all our supporters who came out for an evening of camaraderie and music.  A very special thank you to GHF Board Member, Jon Wollenzien for his leadership and vision for this event.  Click here to see pictures from the concert.

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Peach Pulse: June 5, 2013

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA

 

 

CARE-M Coalition Update

CARE-M (Coalition to Advance Redesign Effectiveness for Medicaid) is a group of organizations who advocate on behalf of vulnerable populations, patients, and health care consumers in Georgia.  Georgians for a Healthy Future is a member of the coalition. The coalition was formed shortly after the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) announced plans to explore redesigning Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids (CHIP) programs to ensure that the voices of these patients and consumers were heard in the process. Many CARE-M partners have been appointed to and serve on task forces and work groups convened by DCH to gain stakeholder input.
In May 2013, CARE-M released an updated version of its principles and concerns around Medicaid redesign.  The revised guiding principle is:

  • Improved healthcare outcomes for members should be the primary goal that drives changes to Medicaid. Improvement in the Medicaid system of services and supports will result in improved healthcare outcomes for the members.

To read more about the principles and concerns with the redesign process, click here.  For more information about CARE-M, click here.


Medicaid expansion could be a game changer for Georgians with mental illness

Georgia ranks 9th in the nation in the number of uninsured adults with a mental illness who could gain coverage through the Medicaid expansion, according to a new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The NAMI report describes the barriers that people with mental illness face in accessing services and the important role that Medicaid plays in connecting people to services so they can be healthy and productive members of their communities. Expanding Medicaid in Georgia is a major opportunity to change the lives of more than 86,000 low-income uninsured adults with mental illness in Georgia–if you haven’t already, please sign the petition in support of expanding Medicaid in Georgia and join us in our campaign to Cover Georgia!  The full NAMI report on Medicaid and mental health is available here.


ACA is estimated to significantly increase the number of Georgians who start their own businessRWJF Jobs Infographic

According to a new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, thanks to provisions in the Affordable Care Act that preclude coverage denials based on pre-existing conditions and that will make health insurance more accessible and affordable, an estimated 56,000 Georgians will be able to start their own businesses who would not have otherwise done so.  To read the full report, click here.

 

 

 

 

 


THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA

 

 

GHF and the work of the Cover Georgia coalition featured in the New York Times: States’ policies on health care exclude some of the poorest

On May 24, GHF was featured in a New York Times article focusing on how states are implementing the ACA and how that affects various populations.  When asked specifically about our state’s Medicaid expansion efforts, GHF outreach and advocacy director Amanda Ptashkin said, “Hundreds of thousands of people with incomes below the poverty level would be eligible for Medicaid if the state decided to move forward with the expansion of Medicaid. As things now stand, they will not be eligible for anything. What do we do for them? What do we tell them?”  To read the full article, click here.

Over the past several months, hundreds of Georgia health care consumers have chosen to speak out about what expanding Medicaid would mean for them by filling out postcards addressed to Governor Deal. The postcards ask him to support the Medicaid expansion in Georgia. Additionally, more than 1,700 Georgians have signed the online petition. The Cover Georgia coalition is collecting these signatures and stories and will deliver them to Governor Deal prior to the start of the 2014 legislative session.  We need your help to make sure these voices are heard!

Please join the efforts of the Cover Georgia coalition however you can. Here are some suggested ways to engage in this important issue:

  1. Take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 138% FPL.  For talking points, click here.
  2. Sign and share the petition to Governor Deal.
  3. Share your story with us–are you one of the people who would gain coverage with expanded Medicaid? Do you know people who would? Have them share their story with us to help put a face on this important issue to policy makers and the media.
  4. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor.  Explaining how the expansion would affect different populations across the state is our best way to show how widespread the effects of the decision’s reach.  For help with media outreach, email Amanda Ptashkin.  For an excellent example of a compelling op-ed on the topic, click here.
  5. Join Cover Georgia and become an active participant in a statewide coalition dedicated to expanding coverage for Georgians.

RECENT AND UPCOMING EVENTS  

 

 

Recent Event Recap!

Core to our mission at Georgians for a Healthy Future is robust outreach and education to various audiences throughout the state.  GHF staff has been busy at work sharing critical information about implementation of the ACA, the upcoming wave of enrollment through the marketplace, or exchange, and the consequences of expanding or declining the Medicaid expansion.  Here are some of our recent presentations:

  • On June 4, executive director Cindy Zeldin presented to the Midtown Atlanta Rotary on the future of health in Georgia, part of the Rotary’s health theme for the month of June. Her presentation is available for download here.

rotary

  • On May 28, outreach and advocacy director Amanda Ptashkin joined the Voters Guild of Metro Atlanta for their monthly meeting and shared information about the ACA, its implementation and the next big things on the horizon.
  • On May 21, outreach and advocacy director, Amanda Ptashkin, joined the Greater Augusta Health Network at their board meeting to discuss the role of navigators in the context of assisting consumers enroll in the new health insurance marketplace.
  • On May 3, executive director Cindy Zeldin served on a panel at the Georgia Charitable Care Network’s annual conference and discussed Georgia’s uninsured and the opportunities and challenges ahead for connecting Georgians to coverage. Her presentation is available for download here.

Decoding the Affordable Care Act: Issues Conference 2013

Please join Georgians for a Healthy Future at the 2013 Issues Conference: “Decoding the Affordable Care Act” taking place on Saturday, June 15, 2013 from 10am to 12pm at the Fayette County Library.  This event is being sponsored by State Representative Ronnie Mabra, District 63.

This year’s conference is purposed at helping individuals understand the implications of the new health care law and highlight its major provisions. The conference will feature presentations and discussion by an expert, non-partisan panel followed by a question and answer session.

Moderator:
Natalie D. Hernandez, PhD, MPH
Health Policy Leadership Fellow
Satcher Health Leadership Institute
Morehouse School of Medicine

Panelists:
Starla Hairston Blanks, MBA, CPHP
Director of Community Health Promotion and Policy Development
Community Voices: Healthcare for the Underserved
Morehouse School of Medicine

Kirkland McGhee, Esq.
Vice President & Regional Counsel
Legal Services and Government Relations
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Georgia

Amanda Ptashkin, JD
Outreach and Advocacy Director
Georgians for a Healthy Future

This event is free and open to the public.  Please help us prepare for your arrival by RSVPing to 2013 Issues Conference.


 

iStock_000010179382XSmallAll Hands on Deck! An Evening with Georgians for a Healthy Future

The Georgians for a Healthy Future board of directors invites you to join us for an evening of camaraderie, conversation, and celebration as we gear up for the next big phase of health reform implementation: connecting hundreds of thousands of uninsured Georgians to coverage. Thanks to national health reform, consumers have more options than they have ever had before. But covering Georgia’s uninsured will take all of us, working in concert, to move our state forward. We need all hands on deck! Please join us on the evening of June 27th to celebrate our successes and prepare for the challenges ahead.

 

 

 
Featuring remarks by: Senator Jason Carter
JasonCarter

WHEN:  Thursday, June 27, 2013, 6pm to 8pm
WHERE:  18th Floor Deck, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough

 

 

 

 

 

Host committee (in formation)

CAPTAIN

Dr. Harry Heiman & Abby Friedman

Representative Pat Gardner

Dr. Doug Skelton

Healthcare Georgia Foundation
FIRST MATE

Dr. Edward Fernández-Vila and Mr. Jeff Cornett

Cindy Zeldin & Doug Busk

Lenz Marketing
CADET

AARP Georgia

Advocates for Responsible Care

Kent & Diane Alexander

Julie Edelson

Iris & Bruce Feinberg

Jeff Graham

Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia

Susan Kupferberg

Jeanney & Steve Kutner

Catherine Smith

Statewide Independent Living Council of Georgia

Marci Thomas

Joann Yoon

***

Host committee opportunities available:

Captain ~ $1000 and up (6 tickets)
First Mate ~ $500 (4 tickets)
Cadet ~ $250 (2 tickets)

Please contact Cindy Zeldin to join the host committee or for more information about the event.

General tickets are $60.  To register, click here.

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Peach Pulse: May 23, 2013

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA

 

 

 

Three in five Georgians support expanding Medicaid

It’s time for our state policymakers to catch up to their constituents. A new public opinion survey out this week from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies finds strong support within Georgia and across the Deep South for covering the uninsured through an expansion of Medicaid. Sixty-one percent of Georgians support expanding Medicaid, including forty-seven percent of self-identified conservatives. In addition, fifty-five percent of Georgia respondents said that the Medicaid program is important because they like knowing that it exists as a safety net to protect low-income people who can’t afford needed care. Four in ten said it was important because they or someone they know may need to rely on Medicaid benefits in the future. Georgians care about the health of their families and communities and want our policymakers to do the right thing. Please sign the Cover Georgia petition or distribute postcards throughout your network to ensure this majority support for Medicaid is heard. The full results of the survey are available here. Georgia Health News also covered the story here.

Connecting Georgians to coverage: update

Thank you to the dozens of community groups, nonprofit organizations, and health care stakeholders who responded to our survey about your plans to conduct consumer outreach and facilitate enrollment into the new health insurance options that will become available to many uninsured and underinsured Georgians later this year through the new health insurance exchange, or marketplace. Georgians for a Healthy Future will compile the results and share them as part of a resource document later this summer. In the meantime, here are three new resources that may be useful for you.

  • Families USA, a national consumer health advocacy organization, has developed an online resource center for navigators and others working on outreach and enrollment. You can visit the resource center here.
  • Consumers Union, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports, has developed a consumer-tested brochure to help consumers understand the new health insurance tax credits. The brochure is available here.
  •  The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) has an updated FAQ available on the navigator program.  You can view that document here.
You can also find links and resources regarding health insurance navigators on the Georgians for a Healthy Future website here.

Commission on mandated benefits to meet on June 4th

The Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Insurance Benefits will hold its second meeting on June 4th from 10am to 3pm on the 9th floor of the Sloppy Floyd Building’s West Tower at 2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, Atlanta, GA 30334. The commission was created through legislation passed in 2011 to advise the governor and the General Assembly on the social and financial impact of current and proposed mandated benefits and providers. The commission will hear testimony on three pieces of legislation at its June 4th meeting:

  • 10 – 12 p.m.    HB309 – Rep. Ben Harbin, (Ava’s Law)
  • 1 – 2p.m.        HB74 – Rep. Ed Lindsey, (Hearing Aid Coverage for Children Act)
  • 2 – 3p.m.        HB73 – Rep. Ed Lindsey, (Insurance; coverage for physician prescribed special dietary food)
If you are interested in testifying on any of these pieces of legislation at the commission’s June 4th meeting, please contact the office of House Insurance Committee Chair Richard Smith at 404-656-6831. Minutes from the March 12th meeting are available here.

The Uninsured in Georgia

 

 

“Georgia’s future deserves to be healthy”

“It’s the right thing to do.”

“Not only will it benefit Georgia’s economy, but it will provide insurance coverage for me; I am a low-income childless adult trying to jump start my career.”

“All Georgians should have access to affordable health coverage; Medicaid expansion delivers this!”

These are just a few of the hundreds of responses we’ve received when we asked the question, “Why do you support expanding Medicaid in Georgia?”   Over the past several months, hundreds of Georgia health care consumers have chosen to speak out about what expanding Medicaid would mean for them by filling out postcards addressed to Governor Deal. The postcards ask him to support the Medicaid expansion in Georgia. Additionally, more than 1,700 Georgians have signed the online petition. The Cover Georgia coalition is collecting these signatures and stories and will deliver them to Governor Deal prior to the start of the 2014 legislative session. Recent polling indicates that a solid majority of Georgians support expanding Medicaid, but we need your help to make sure their voices are heard!

Please join the efforts of the Cover Georgia coalition however you can. Here are some suggested ways to engage in this important issue:

  1. Take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 138% FPL.  For talking points, click here.
  2. Sign and share the petition to Governor Deal.
  3. Share your story with us–are you one of the people who would gain coverage with expanded Medicaid? Do you know people who would? Have them share their story with us to help put a face on this important issue to policy makers and the media.
  4. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor.  Explaining how the expansion would affect different populations across the state is our best way to show how widespread the effects of the decision’s reach.  For help with media outreach, email Amanda Ptashkin.  For an excellent example of a compelling op-ed on the topic, click here.
  5. Join Cover Georgia and become an active participant in a statewide coalition dedicated to expanding coverage for Georgians.

UPCOMING EVENTS

 

 

 

 

All Hands on Deck! An Evening with Georgians for a Healthy Future

The Georgians for a Healthy Future board of directors invites you to join us for an evening of camaraderie, conversation, and celebration as we gear up for the next big phase of health reform implementation: connecting hundreds of thousands of uninsured Georgians to coverage. Since our founding in 2008, Georgians for a Healthy Future has worked with all of you to provide a strong voice for Georgia’s health care consumers in the policy decisions that impact their lives. Please join us on the evening of June 27th to celebrate our successes and prepare for the challenges ahead.

Thanks to national health reform, consumers have more options than they have ever had before. But covering Georgia’s uninsured will take all of us, working in concert, to move our state forward. We need all hands on deck!  Please join us for an entertaining evening of celebration and conversation about our collective strength and how Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to work on behalf of all Georgians to help navigate the rough waters ahead.

WHEN:  Thursday, June 27, 2013, 6pm to 8pm
WHERE:  18th Floor Deck, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough

Host committee opportunities available:

Captain ~ $1000 and up (6 tickets)
First Mate ~ $500 (4 tickets)
Cadet ~ $250 (2 tickets)

Please contact Cindy Zeldin to join the host committee or for more information about the event.

General tickets are $60.  To register, click here.


Webinar–The countdown to affordable health insurance: Time is running out!

In a few short months, millions of uninsured Americans will qualify for affordable healthcare coverage either through Medicaid, CHIP or tax subsidies. Citizens in every state will be affected by the ACA (Affordable Care Act) and its mandated updates to eligibility determination. Where will they go for answers?

Join GOVERNING magazine for a live webinar to hear from government and industry experts and learn:

  • How should states educate consumers?
  • What are the issues at hand?
  • What current resources can be used?
  • How can you ready your Agency for the changes ahead?

Date: Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Time: 10:00 AM PDT | 1:00 PM EDT

Click here to register.

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Peach Pulse: April 30, 2013


WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
Preparing for the next phase of health reform: outreach and enrollment

Open enrollment into the new health insurance marketplace, or exchange, begins in just five months (October 1, 2013) for coverage starting in January 2014.  Georgia has one of the highest numbers of uninsured in the nation (1.86 million), and many of these uninsured Georgians will be able to access affordable health care coverage for the first time through the marketplace.  [However, unless Georgia implements the Medicaid expansion, our state’s lowest-income uninsured will still lack a pathway to coverage.  To learn more about this coverage gap and Georgians for a Healthy Future’s efforts to cover this population, click here.]

According to research from Enroll America, more than three-quarters of the uninsured don’t know about the new health insurance marketplace. Multiple surveys have also found that when uninsured individuals who would be eligible for affordable coverage through the marketplace learn about the new health insurance options that will become available to them, they say they will need help navigating the process.

Georgians for a Healthy Future is currently working with Enroll America to assess the interest and capacity of Georgia community-based organizations, health care-focused nonprofits, and other stakeholders in working collaboratively on education, outreach, and enrollment into the new health insurance options available to consumers in 2014 through the Affordable Care Act. As a first step, we held a webinar on April 10th and an in-person meeting on April 11th that many of you attended. For those who missed the meetings, the materials can be found here.

If your organization has a stake in covering the uninsured, we’re asking you to complete a brief survey about your current work and future plans to engage in connecting uninsured Georgians to coverage either through applying to become a health insurance navigator or in other ways. Georgians for a Healthy Future plans to use the overall results of the survey to guide the formation of a new enrollment-focused coalition and to inform an upcoming policy brief on health insurance outreach and enrollment.

Please take a few minutes to complete this survey. Georgians for a Healthy Future is committed to advancing the goal of covering Georgia’s uninsured by bringing stakeholders together who are interested in and able to collaborate towards this shared goal. The results of this survey will provide a baseline and starting point for this important work. Thank you!


More than 800,000 Georgians will be eligible for health care tax credits in 2014

Many of the Affordable Care Act’s major health insurance reforms take effect in 2014. One of the most important changes impacting consumers will be the availability of substantial new tax credits to help individuals and families afford health care coverage. Individuals with annual incomes between about $15,860 and $45,960 (or between about $32,500 and $94,200 for a family of four) will be eligible for the health insurance tax credits. According to a new study by Families USA, about 800,000 Georgians will be eligible for these credits to help make coverage more affordable for them. Georgians for a Healthy Future joined with Families USA in a co-release of the report to highlight the Georgia-specific findings. You can find media coverage of the report’s findings here, here, and here. You can download the report here.


HHS issues proposed regulations on health insurance navigators

Connecting uninsured Georgians to new coverage opportunities will be a major undertaking. To facilitate consumer education, outreach, and enrollment, the Affordable Care Act creates a health insurance navigator program. Earlier in April, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued proposed regulations providing more information about how the program will work. The proposed regulations contain strong conflict of interest provisions, cultural competency and accessibility requirements, and training standards. You can read an analysis of the proposed regulations from the journal Health Affairs here.  HHS is accepting public comments on the regulations until May 6th. Please consider sending comments in support of these consumer-friendly provisions.

The proposed regulations also indicate that state-level restrictions on navigators that are so burdensome as to prevent the viability of the navigator program will be preempted. This was included in response to a spate of bills that have popped up in legislatures across the country at the behest of the health insurance broker and agent lobby. Many of these bills are nearly identical across states and, if implemented, could impede the critically important navigator program. During the 2013 legislative session, Georgia legislators passed HB 198, which would place restrictions on navigator functions and require navigators to meet licensing and training requirements in Georgia. Although there is good reason to believe at least parts of HB 198 will be preempted, Georgians for a Healthy Future remains vigilant about the potential negative impact of HB 198 on the participation of small consumer and community-focused nonprofit organizations in the navigator program. The robust participation of these types of entities will be needed to ensure hard-to-reach populations in Georgia learn about and enroll in the new health insurance options available to them. Should HB 198 be signed into law, Georgians for a Healthy Future hopes to work with state officials to implement it in a way that is consistent with federal law and that strengthens the navigator program, perhaps by offering a training curriculum on state-specific programs like Medicaid and PeachCare, rather than weakens it.

The Augusta Chronicle recently interviewed Georgians for a Healthy Future’s executive director about the importance of the navigator program, the proposed rules, and Georgia’s HB 198. That article is available here.


CMS announces simplified health coverage application

Based on feedback from consumer groups, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today a shortened and simplified health coverage application that will help individuals easily apply for coverage when open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013.  Additionally, for the first time consumers will be able to fill out one simple application and see their entire range of health insurance options including those in the marketplace, Medicaid, PeachCare, and tax credits to help pay for premiums.  To view the new applications for individuals and families, click here and here, and here.



THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA
The stakes are highest for the state’s lowest income citizens

One of the guiding principles of the Affordable Care Act is that everyone should be eligible for some type of health care coverage.  While the new health insurance marketplace opens in 2014 and will make affordable health insurance available for nearly 800,000 Georgians, hundreds of thousands of additional low-income Georgians could be left out in the cold unless Georgia policymakers implement the Medicaid expansion, which was made optional by last summer’s U.S. Supreme Court decision.  Tax credits are available to consumers with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (or starting at about $15,860 for an individual or $32,500 for a family of four) to purchase coverage through the health insurance marketplace. Medicaid was intended to be the route to coverage for individuals and families with incomes below that threshold, and many states are indeed extending Medicaid to their lowest-income citizens. We need your voice to move Georgia from no to yes on the Medicaid expansion!


Please join the efforts of the Cover Georgia coalition however you can. Here are some suggested ways to engage in this important issue:

  1. Take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 138% FPL.  For talking points, click here.
  2. Sign and share the petition to Governor Deal.
  3. Share your story with us–are you one of the people who would gain coverage with expanded Medicaid? Do you know people who would? Have them share their story with us to help put a face on this important issue to policy makers and the media.
  4. Write an op-ed or letter to the editor.  Explaining how the expansion would affect different populations across the state is our best way to show how widespread the effects of the decision’s reach.  For help with media outreach, email Amanda Ptashkin.  For an excellent example of a compelling op-ed on the topic, click here.
  5. Join Cover Georgia and become an active participant in a statewide coalition dedicated to expanding coverage for Georgians.  Once October hits and we see hundreds of thousands of Georgians begin to learn about their coverage options, we will also begin to see just how many people stand to fall into the coverage gap created by the failure to expand Medicaid.  Help the advocacy community overcome this obstacle by joining our efforts to #CoverGeorgia.

UPCOMING AND RECENT EVENTS  
SAVE THE DATE: All Hands on Deck! An Evening with Georgians for a Healthy Future

Please save the date for Georgians for a Healthy Future’s annual cocktail reception and fundraiser.  This year’s event, All Hands on Deck!, stresses the critical nature of our collaborative work as we collectively navigate the health care landscape in our state.  Please join us for a fun and entertaining evening!

WHEN:  Thursday, June 27, 2013, 6pm to 8pm
WHERE:  18th Floor Deck, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough

Invitation and RSVP link to follow shortly.

Health care town hall focused on how the ACA affects Georgia’s LGBT community

On April 17th,  Georgia Equality and Georgians for a Healthy Future held a health care town hall meeting to share the specifics of what health care reform means for Georgia’s LGBT community.

The ACA brings with it great changes to our health care system and how people are able to access coverage.  While these changes will affect everyone, there are some very specific issues that the LGBT community should be aware of.

Brian Bassinger, an associate at King & Spalding and former Georgia Equality Board member, gave an informative presentation which included the history of LGBT health care access and the implications of the ACA’s provisions for LGBT individuals.  To view Brian’s presentation, click here.  Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Amanda Ptashkin also presented at the town hall about the importance of coverage, particularly through the lens of the Medicaid expansion. To view Amanda’s presentation, click here.  To download two health reform focused LGBT specific fact sheets, click here and here.

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Peach Pulse: April 3, 2013

georgiaWHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
 
Legislative Update

The 2013 Georgia Legislative Session has ended. The 2014 state budget and dozens of bills now go to Governor Deal for his signature or veto (the governor does have the authority to line-item veto parts of the state budget). Bills that did not pass this year are still viable in the 2014 Legislative Session, which will be the second year of a two-year session. Below is a summary of bills that passed the General Assembly this year that could impact health care consumers. For a complete rundown of how health care-related legislation fared, see Georgia Health News’s recap.


Legislation that could impact Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries

The final 2014 budget eliminated proposed rate cuts for health care providers (a 0.74% rate cut had been proposed for non-primary care providers within Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids), eliminated a proposed coding change that would have resulted in cuts for certain providers, and included funds for enrollment growth in Medicaid. This is good news for access to health care services; however, Medicaid, PeachCare, and other public health programs have sustained deep budget cuts in recent years. In future years, if we are to improve the state’s health, additional investments in public health and health care delivery will be needed.
HR 107 would create a joint study committee on Medicaid reform that would study current Medicaid policies and procedures, models in other states, and other aspects of the Medicaid program and report to the General Assembly and the Governor by December 31, 2013 with recommendations. HR 107 passed both the House and the Senate.

SB 62 would create a Federal and State Funded Health Care Financing Programs Overview Committee, a joint committee of the General Assembly. SB 62 has passed both the House and the Senate.

SB 24, which would authorize the Department of Community Health to levy a fee on hospitals to continue drawing down federal funds to support Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, was passed by both the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor back in February. The current hospital fee had been set to expire on June 30, 2013. The renewal of the fee was essential to ensuring Medicaid and PeachCare’s solvency and preserving access to hospital care in Georgia.


Legislation impacting health insurance consumer protections and access to insurance

SB 236 would require insurance companies to send concurrently with any statements sent to consumers that provide notice of premium increases an estimate of the portion of any premium increase that is due to the Affordable Care Act. How this is determined would be left to insurance companies to calculate, and they would not have to disclose their methodology. There would also be no requirement to present information about any other factors leading to premium increases or to notify consumers about available tax credits that may more than offset premium increases or about any cost savings or benefit enhancements they are receiving as a result of the Affordable Care Act. As such, this bill would result in consumers receiving incomplete and potentially misleading information.  SB 236 has passed both the House and the Senate.

HB 198 would require licensing, certification, and training for health benefit exchange navigators and would restrict their ability to assist consumers. While ensuring that consumers receive accurate information from navigators about their health insurance options and protecting consumers is an important goal shared by Georgians for a Healthy Future, HB 198’s restrictive language and potentially duplicative training requirements could deter community-focused nonprofits, whose participation in the navigator program will be essential in reaching vulnerable populations who have historically faced barriers to enrolling in health insurance, from becoming navigators or from providing appropriate consumer assistance. Georgians for a Healthy Future looks forward to working with policymakers to ensure this bill is implemented in a manner that minimizes duplication and encourages participation from community-focused nonprofit organizations. HB 198 has passed both the House and the Senate.

HB 389 would allow insurance companies to terminate, cancel, or non-renew conversion policies or any health insurance policies offered through the health insurance assignment system when guaranteed issue becomes available (with a 90-day cancellation period and a 90-day open enrollment period into new health insurance options made available through the Affordable Care Act). HB 389 has passed both the House and the Senate.


Commission on mandated health benefits holds its first meeting

The Commission on Mandated Health Benefits, created through legislation passed in 2011 to advise the governor and the General Assembly on the social and financial impact of current and proposed mandated benefits and providers, held its first meeting on March 12th. The meeting was largely an organizational one, but members also discussed how the commission’s work might intersect with aspects of the Affordable Care Act such as essential health benefits and the bills before the General Assembly that would require insurance companies to cover autism, child hearing aids, and medical foods. The next meeting date has not yet been announced. To read the minutes from the March 12th meeting, click here.


Georgians for a Healthy Future ED appointed to the Georgia Health Information Network board of directors

Cindy Zeldin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director, has been appointed to the Georgia Health Information Network board of directors to represent the health care consumer perspective. The Georgia Health Information Network serves with the Georgia Department of Community Health and the Georgia Health Information Technology Regional Extension Center in a public-private collaborative to establish Georgia’s statewide health information exchange, which will eventually connect hospitals, labs, clinicians, regional HIEs, and other health care stakeholders.


umbrellaTHE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA
 Grassroots support grows for expanding Medicaid in Georgia


The Cover Georgia coalition, a group of more than 60 organizations advocating for the Medicaid expansion in Georgia, has collected nearly 1500 signatures on its online petition and distributed approximately 2000 postcards garnering messages about why expanding Medicaid is important to individuals, families, and communities.

But we’re just getting started—please help us spread the word about the importance of expanding coverage for approximately 650,000 Georgians.  Sign the petition and share it with your networks.  Explain what coverage means for nearly 2 million uninsured Georgians.  Explain the economic impact that an influx of $40.5 billion in federal dollars will have on our state over a decade.  Help us make the case that Georgia should implement the Medicaid expansion.  Help us #CoverGeorgia today.  For more specifics on how the expansion would affect our state, click here.


megaUPCOMING AND RECENT EVENTS
Join us for a webinar and in-person meeting about ACA Navigators April 10 and 11

If you or your organization are interested in applying for the upcoming funding opportunity provided through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for navigator grants or you would like to connect with other organizations who will be applying, please join Georgians for a Healthy Future, Seedco, Families USA and Enroll America for an important webinar on April 10th, 2013 at 11am and an in-person meeting on April 11th, 2013 from 2:30 to 4:30pm at the Philip Rush Center (1530 DeKalb Ave).

In the next few days, HHS is planning to announce funding that will be available to organizations for outreach and assistance to help individuals and small employers enroll in health coverage. These grants are created as part of the navigator program that was established by the Affordable Care Act.  To learn more about navigators, click here

To join us for the webinar, please click here to RSVP.  To join us for the in-person meeting to further discuss this funding opportunity and opportunities for collaboration on outreach and enrollment, click here.


LGBT health care town hall

Join Georgia Equality and Georgians for a Healthy Future to learn more about the specifics of what health care reform means for Georgia’s LGBT community. On Wednesday April 17th from 6:00 – 7:30, we will host a public meeting at the Phillip Rush Center, 1530 DeKalb Avenue, Atlanta 30307. We will also be streaming the town hall meeting live for those outside of the Atlanta area who would like to participate.

Starting later this year and continuing throughout 2014, there will be great changes to our health care system and how people are able to access coverage.  While these changes will affect everyone, there are some very specific issues that the LGBT community should be aware of.  The town hall meeting will not only discuss how the Affordable Care Act will change the health care landscape for everyone, but how it will specifically impact LGBT individuals, couples, youth and people living with chronic medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS.

The program is free for participants but we do ask that you RSVP.  Light refreshments will be available.  We hope to see you there on the 17th.


GAIRS quarterly meeting and training held in Macon

On Wednesday, March 20, GAIRS (Georgia Alliance of Information and Referral Systems) held their quarterly meeting and training in Macon and welcomed Amanda Ptashkin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach and Advocacy Director, to educate their members on implementation of the Affordable Care Act.  GAIRS is an organization made up primarily of individuals who work in the field of information and referral/assistance.  The training aimed to prepare members to respond to the hundreds of inquiries received about different services and programs from seniors, caregivers, persons with developmental disabilities, and the general public. Participants in the meeting came eager to learn more about the provisions of the law that affect their patients and to learn more about how individuals will be able to access the new health insurance marketplace (exchange). In the coming months, Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to share information about the exchange, the role of navigators, and anything else relating to upcoming changes resulting from the ACA that will impact health care consumers. To view Amanda’s presentation, click here


CEU Concepts Resource-a-Palooza

On Friday, March 22, CEU Concepts held an all day training session, Resource-a-Palooza, and provided social workers, case managers, discharge planners and other healthcare professionals with an opportunity to expand their knowledge base and have a better understanding of how to access various resources in the community.  Amanda Ptashkin joined participants in the morning to share information about the work of the Cover Georgia coalition and explain how critical the expansion is to the nearly 534,000 Georgians who run the risk of falling into the “coverage gap” if our state does not accept the expansion dollars.  Participants were surprised to learn that if our state does not expand our Medicaid program, individuals between our current eligibility levels and 100% of Federal Poverty Level (FPL), will have no affordable options for coverage and will likely remain uninsured and less likely to access care when it is needed.    Participants at the event shared their patient stories and signed postcards directed at the governor asking him to move forward with the expansion.  If you haven’t signed a postcard, please be sure to sign our petition to the Governor.  To view Amanda’s presentation, click here.

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Peach Pulse: March 11, 2013

georgiaWHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
 Legislative Update

The General Assembly has now completed 30 days of its 40-day session. For a bill (except for the state budget) to remain viable, it must pass at least one chamber by the end of Day 30, known as Crossover Day. The Legislature will be in Session for Days 31 through 34 Monday through Thursday of this week. Below is a summary of bills that have passed at least one chamber and that Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring, as they could have an impact on Georgia health care consumers if enacted into law.


Legislation impacting health insurance consumer protections and access to insurance
A trio of health insurance related bills are moving through the General Assembly. Consumer health advocates are concerned about these bills because they could restrict information and choices for consumers. 

SB 236 would require insurance companies to indicate on statements sent to consumers that provide notice of premium increases the portion of any premium increase that is due to the Affordable Care Act. How this is determined would be left to insurance companies to calculate, and they would not have to disclose their methodology. There would also be no requirement to present information about any other factors leading to premium increases or to notify consumers about any cost savings or benefit enhancements they are receiving as a result of the Affordable Care Act. As such, this bill would result in consumers receiving incomplete and potentially misleading information.  SB 236 has passed the Senate and is in the House insurance committee.
HB 198 would require licensing, certification, and training for health benefit exchange navigators and would restrict their ability to assist consumers. While ensuring that consumers receive accurate information from navigators about their health insurance options is an important goal, HB 198’s restrictive language and potentially duplicative training requirements could deter community-focused nonprofits, whose participation in the navigator program will be essential in reaching vulnerable populations who have historically faced barriers to enrolling in health insurance, from becoming navigators or from providing appropriate consumer assistance. HB 198 has passed the House and is on the Senate floor today.

HB 389 would allow insurance companies to terminate, cancel, or non-renew conversion policies or any health insurance policies offered through the health insurance assignment system when guaranteed issue becomes available (with a 90-day cancellation period and a 90-day open enrollment period into new health insurance options made available through the Affordable Care Act). HB 389 has passed the House and is in the Senate Insurance committee.


Legislation that could impact Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries

HR 107 would create a joint study committee on Medicaid reform that would study current Medicaid policies and procedures, models in other states, and other aspects of the Medicaid program and report to the General Assembly and the Governor by December 31, 2013 with recommendations. HR 107 has passed the House.

SB 62 would create Federal and State Funded Health Care Financing Programs Overview Committee, a joint committee of the General Assembly. SB 62 has passed the Senate.

SB 163 would direct the Department of Community Health to examine and identify options for reforming Medicaid in Georgia, including but not limited to more use of managed care, with the purpose of bringing savings to the state. SB 163 has passed the Senate and is in the House Health and Human Services committee.


Commission on mandated benefits to convene this week

The Commission on mandated health benefits, created by legislation in 2011, is finally set to hold its first meeting tomorrow, March 12th, at 1:30pm in the Ninth Floor Training Room of the West Tower of the James H. Floyd Building.  The commission is charged with evaluating the social and financial impact of current and proposed benefit mandates. Read the Governor’s announcement about the commission’s first meeting here and to read a recent Georgia Health News article about the commission, click here.


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THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA
Without Medicaid expansion, Georgia will continue to have high numbers of uninsured

Georgians for a Healthy Future is a proud partner in the Cover Georgia coalition. The coalition supports covering Georgia’s uninsured by taking advantage of the resources on the table through the Affordable Care Act to invest in our state’s Medicaid program. Governor Deal has thus far said that he does not support expanding Medicaid in Georgia. However, without the expansion, Georgians will represent an even larger portion of the nation’s uninsured and our state will have fewer resources to invest in our health system as compared to other states.

According to new data from Enroll America, nearly two-thirds of the nation’s uninsured live in 13 states, one of which is Georgia. Of these 13 states, 8 have indicated that thus far that they plan to implement the Medicaid expansion. More than 10 million of the nation’s uninsured live in 10 metropolitan areas, one of which is Atlanta. Of these 10 metropolitan areas, 7 are in states that have indicated they plan to move forward with the Medicaid expansion. There are approximately 1.9 million uninsured Georgians, about 861,000 of whom are located in metropolitan Atlanta.

In recent weeks, several governors have announced support for expanding Medicaid in their states. So far, 24 states and the District of Columbia are planning to participate in the Medicaid expansion, including 8 states with Republican governors. Most recently, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Governor Rick Scott of Florida announced their support for expanding Medicaid in their states. To see a complete chart of where each state stands, click here.

Here are some new resources that you may find helpful in advocating for the Medicaid expansion.  They can also be found on the www.coverga.org website:


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UPCOMING AND RECENT EVENTS
Save the Date: NHeLP hosting Medicaid expansion webinars

The National Health Law Program (NHeLP) is hosting a series of webinars on the Medicaid expansion focused on five states: Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, and West Virginia.

  • Medicaid Expansion Messaging and Strategy (201) on Mar 14, 2013 1:00 PM EST: For this webinar they will have a guest from the Herndon Alliance talk us through Medicaid Expansion messaging. The format will include time for you to raise state specific examples to discuss messaging strategies in your states. We will also emphasize: all Medicaid and Med Ex messaging (not just recent surveys), messaging to policy makers, and how to actually get the message out there. It will also be an important chance to strategize about how to pursue Medicaid Expansion in your challenging environments.
  • Medicaid Expansion Benefits (301) on Mar 21, 2013 1:00 PM EST: This webinar will cover the complex rules about the services that would be available in the Medicaid Expansion. We’ll discuss the key advocacy opportunities for state advocates to improve coverage.

Medicaid expansion takes center stage at recent events

geeventOn February 26th, Georgians for a Healthy Future and Georgia Equality hosted a training and information session for social justice advocates who want to learn more about Medicaid. Entitled “Medicaid Advocacy 101,” presenters talked about the basics of the Medicaid program, how it is funded, and how expansion will benefit Georgia’s uninsured and our state’s economy.  Click here for more pictures from the event.

 

 

13863_10151312590032861_1754899292_nOn February 19th, the Cover Georgia coalition and more than 100 volunteer advocates brought the message about the importance of coverage to their elected officials under the Gold Dome.  Volunteers spoke to their State Representatives and Senators about why Georgia should take advantage of the federal dollars on the table to expand coverage to more than 650,000 uninsured Georgians through Medicaid.  For more pictures, click here and here.

 

 

cartercenterOn February 14th, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin participated as one of the featured panelists in a forum hosted by the Carter Center: “Improving Access to Mental Health and Addiction Services: Medicaid Expansion and Alternative Approaches – A Public Policy Forum.” Materials from the event are now available, including video highlights from the panel discussion and copies of the speaker presentations.

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Peach Pulse: February 13, 2013

georgia

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
 
New report quantifies the economic impact of expanding Medicaid in Georgia

CaptureAn analysis conducted by Dr. Bill Custer of Georgia State University and released today by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation finds that, if Georgia policymakers choose to accept the $40.5 billion in federal funds available to the state between 2014 and 2023 to expand Medicaid, this infusion of resources would create more than 70,000 jobs statewide, adding an annual $8.2 billion to statewide economic output and generating $276 million in state and local tax revenue annually.

As part of the Affordable Care Act, states can create a new eligibility category for Medicaid for people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or approximately $15,850 for an individual or $26,950 for a family of three. In Georgia, according to the report, about 694,000 people would gain health coverage under this expansion, mostly childless adults and some parents.

To date, Governor Deal has rejected the offer to expand coverage citing concerns about the cost to the state.  As this new report details, however, expanding Medicaid would be an economic engine for Georgia. Of the more than 70,000 jobs that would be created, just over half would be in the health care sector; however, other industries such as real estate, food services, and wholesale trade businesses would also gain jobs. The report also shows the geographic distribution of jobs created throughout Georgia by state service delivery region. To read the full report, click here.  For AJC coverage of the report, click here.


Legislative Update

The 2013 Legislative Session continues at a swift pace, with legislators in session today for day 17 of the 40-day session (the legislative calendar is available here). Here are some key health care updates:

  • Yesterday, the Health Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee heard from the Commissioners of the state’s health-related agencies, including the Department of Community Health and the Department of Public Health, about their proposed FY 2014 budgets. Today, the subcommittee will meet again from 2 – 4pm in Room 506 CLOB to take public comment on the proposed budgets. If you would like to comment, you must sign up in advance in Room 245 of the State Capitol. The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute has released an analysis of the 2014 proposed budget for the Department of Community Health, available here.
  • SB 24, which would authorize the Department of Community Health to levy a fee on hospitals to continue drawing down federal funds to support Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, was passed by both the House and Senate and was signed into law by the Governor this morning. The current hospital fee is set to expire on June 30, 2013. The renewal of the fee was essential to ensuring Medicaid and PeachCare’s solvency and preserving access to hospital care in Georgia. To read AJC coverage of the renewal, click here.
  • HB 198 would require navigators to be licensed, place certain restrictions on their functions, and would give the Georgia Insurance Commissioner regulatory authority over them. Navigators are organizations or entities that apply for and receive federal grants authorized by the Affordable Care Act to provide individuals and small businesses with impartial information and assistance with enrollment in health coverage in the new health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. While it is important that navigators are qualified to perform these functions and that there is adequate oversight to protect consumers, consumer advocates are also concerned that overly restricting navigators could have a chilling effect on the community-focused organizations whose participation in the navigator program will be critical in connecting hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations to coverage. Advocates worked with legislators to improve the bill, which passed the House Insurance Committee last week and was passed by the Rules Committee yesterday. To read a recent AJC article on this issue, click here.

Advocates Will Convene at the Capitol on 2/19/13 to Highlight Importance of Coverage

CoverGA_logo_BlueBackgroundGeorgians for a Healthy Future and the Cover Georgia coalition will be heading to the State Capitol on Tuesday, February 19th from 9am to 1pm to advocate for covering Georgia’s uninsured through an expansion of the Medicaid program.  For more details about the event and to RSVP, click here.

With one in five Georgians currently uninsured, many Georgians have no access to health insurance coverage.  The Affordable Care Act gives us the option of accepting federal dollars to expand coverage to low income adults who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level, approximately $15,400 a year in 2012. This would allow about 600,000 Georgians to gain health coverage.

Our state policymakers need to hear from health care consumers, patients, providers, and stakeholders about how important this issue is to them. We need your voice! Please join us at the Capitol on the 19th!


megaEVENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Carter Center Hosting Event on the ACA’s Impact on Access to Mental Health Services in Georgia 2/14/13

The Carter Center, in partnership with the Georgia Association of Community Service Boards, and the Georgia Association for Primary Health Care, is hosting a nonpartisan public policy forum on the Affordable Care Act’s impact on Georgia’s efforts to improve and expand access to mental health and substance abuse services on Feb. 14, 2013, from 2-4:30 p.m. in the Carter Center’s Ivan Allen III Pavilion.  The event will include opening remarks from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Frank Berry, Healthcare Georgia Foundation President Gary Nelson and a panel discussion to include:

  • Cindy Zeldin, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future
  • Tim Sweeney, director of Health Policy at the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute
  • Ron Bachman, president and CEO of Healthcare Visions Inc.
  • Frank Bonati, executive director, Gateway Behavioral Health

To register for the event, email CarterCenterMHP@gmail.com.  For more information about the event, click here.


Medicaid 101: An Advocate Training 2/26/13

Expanding Medicaid is one of the most important steps that the State of Georgia could take to help low income people and families in Georgia. In order to convince policymakers, it will take the combined efforts of all advocacy organizations who care about social justice and equity.

Join Georgia Equality, Georgians for a Healthy Future, and the Cover Georgia coalition for a training for advocates on  Tuesday, February 26th, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm at the Phillip Rush Center (1530 DeKalb Avenue).

There is no cost to attend but registration is requested. Space is limited so please register today.

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Peach Pulse: February 1, 2013

georgia

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA
The 2013 Legislative Session: budget hearings held, hospital tax renewal moving through the House of Representatives

Last week, state agency heads presented Governor Deal’s proposed budgets for their respective agencies to the House and Senate Appropriations committees.

Access to care: the good news
Primary care providers will receive an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates to parity with Medicare rates, funded entirely with federal dollars made available to Georgia through the Affordable Care Act. This can help preserve and strengthen access to care for Medicaid patients seeking primary care and prevention services.

Access to care: the bad news
The Department of Community Health’s proposed budget would reduce provider reimbursement rates within Medicaid by .74 percent for providers other than hospitals, primary care, FQHC, RHC, and hospice providers. This proposed rate cut, if implemented, could jeopardize access to care for Medicaid patients who require services such as dental care, obstetrics and gynecology, and oncology, among other non-primary care services.

The Department of Community Health’s proposed budget can be found here. Please contact your legislators and ask them to preserve access to care by restoring these important funds in the state budget.

Hospital fee renewal moves through the Legislature
SB 24, which would authorize the Department of Community Health to levy a fee on hospitals to continue drawing down federal funds to support Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, has passed the State Senate and will be before the House of Representatives for a vote today. The current hospital fee is set to expire on June 30, 2013. The renewal of the fee is essential to ensuring Medicaid and PeachCare’s solvency and preserving access to hospital care in Georgia.


megaEVENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS
Hot off the press: A Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the 2013 Georgia Legislative Session

Each year, Georgians for a Healthy Future releases A Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the Georgia Legislative Session to provide you with the information and tools you need to take action on the health care issues you care about. Our 2013 guide is now available and features an overview of the legislative process in Georgia; contact information for all state legislators; descriptions and listings for each legislative committee with jurisdiction over health care issues; contact information for state agencies and officials; contact information for health care organizations and associations active in Georgia; key media contacts; and tools and strategies for effective consumer health advocacy. You may download the guide here or request hard copies of the guide by e-mailing Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach & Advocacy Director here.


Advocating for Coverage for Georgia’s Uninsured: Join us at the Capitol on 2/19/13


CoverGA_logo_BlueBackground
Please join Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Cover Georgia coalition at the State Capitol on Tuesday, February 19th from 9am to 1pm as we advocate for covering Georgia’s uninsured through an expansion of the Medicaid program.  For more details about the event and to RSVP, click here.  Help us Cover Georgia.

One in five Georgians is currently uninsured.  That translates to close to 2 million people in our state with no access to health insurance coverage.  Under the Affordable Care Act, states have the option of accepting federal dollars to expand coverage to low income adults who make up to 138% of the federal poverty level, approximately $15,400 a year in 2012. This would allow about 600,000 Georgians to gain health coverage.

This is an unprecedented opportunity to drastically reduce the number of uninsured Georgians while also bringing in federal dollars to help our health care infrastructure and local economies.  Despite the tools and resources available to Georgia, our state’s leadership is rejecting the federal funds. Our state policymakers need to hear from health care consumers, patients, providers, and stakeholders about how important this issue is to them. We need your voice! Visit www.coverga.org for more information on this issue.


Georgians for a Healthy Future welcomes new board members

Georgians for a Healthy Future is proud to welcome four new board members, all of whom joined the Board of Directors this month after being elected in December. These new board members are:

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Allyson Burroughs, Vice President, Marketing, Xerox State Healthcare LLC

 

 

 

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Iris Feinberg, Doctoral Candidate in Health Literacy, Georgia State University

 

 

 

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Doug Skelton, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean, Trinity School of Medicine

 

 

 

Marci Thomas Headshot

Marci Thomas, Principal and Director of Quality Control, Metcalf-Davis

 

 

 

 

We also recognize the service of Patricia Nobbie, Scott Mathews, and Robert Bush, all of whom left the Board of Directors at the end of 2012 after years of dedication to the mission of Georgians for a Healthy Future. Full bios for all Georgians for a Healthy Future board members can be found here.


Georgians for a Healthy Future Presents at National Health Advocacy Conference in Washington DC

On Thursday, January 31st, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach and Advocacy Director Amanda Ptashkin presented at the Families USA Health Action 2013 Conference–an annual gathering of state advocates, national advocacy organizations, and health care and policy professionals that takes place in Washington DC every January. Speaking on a panel entitled “Getting to Yes on the Medicaid Expansion,” Amanda shared her thoughts on our state’s approach to health reform implementation as well as the work of the Cover Georgia coalition, aimed at getting our state to accept the federal dollars to expand coverage for thousands of Georgians.  To view her presentation, click here.   The conference goes on until Saturday, February 2nd, and includes advocates from around the country sharing their health care obstacles and successes.  Follow the conversation on twitter, #ha2013, and learn about the great work taking place across the country.

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Peach Pulse: January 18, 2013


THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA

Please voice your support for covering Georgia’s uninsured by expanding Medicaid

Nearly two million Georgians have no health insurance at all, among the highest in the nation. This problem has long been recognized as a tragic reality for the one in five Georgians who struggle to access medical care when they need it, as a strain on our state’s health care delivery system, and as a weight on Georgia’s economy. Georgia has the ability to comprehensively address this problem thanks to approximately $33 billion in new federal funding over 10 years to cover low-income uninsured Georgians through Medicaid. As these dollars filter through Georgia’s economy, they will have an estimated economic impact of $72 billion.

But Governor Deal is still saying no to the Medicaid expansion, even as other states across the country are saying yes and even though Georgia would be responsible for zero cents on the dollar for the first three years and no more than ten cents on the dollar thereafter. Georgia cannot afford to maintain the status quo while other states invest heavily in their health systems with federal tax dollars paid by Georgians.

Last week, Georgians for a Healthy Future and more than forty organizations joined together to launch the Cover Georgia campaign in support of the Medicaid expansion, but policymakers also need to hear from their constituents. Here is what you can do:

  1. Please take five minutes to call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
  2. Please visit www.coverga.org to learn more about Medicaid and sign the petition in support of the Medicaid expansion.
  3. Find out who your legislators are here and ask them to support expanding Medicaid.
  4. Please share this information with your friends and neighbors and ask them to join you in supporting the Medicaid expansion by contacting their elected officials and signing the petition.

WHAT’S HAPPENING IN GEORGIA

The 2013 Georgia Legislative Session is underway

It was a busy first week at the State Capitol, as the Senate passed legislation (SB 24) authorizing the Department of Community Health to assess a fee on hospitals to secure federal matching funds for the state’s Medicaid program. Without the assessment, the Medicaid program faces a budget shortfall.  SB 24 now moves to the House.

The Legislature will not officially be in Session next week but the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hear from state agencies about their budget proposals. The health-related agencies will make presentations on Thursday morning in Room 341 of the State Capitol. These presentations are open to the public. The Department of Community Health’s presentation is scheduled for 10:15am and the Department of Public Health is at 11:15am on January 24th.

Open enrollment for child only policies

Thanks to the enactment of HB 1166, child only policies are once again available in the individual health insurance marketplace in Georgia. However, there is a short open enrollment period to sign up (January 1 – 31st of this year). To learn more, click here or contact the Georgia Department of Insurance at 800-656-2298.


EVENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 2013 Policy Priorities

Each year, Georgians for a Healthy Future develops policy priorities that guide our advocacy work on behalf of health care consumers. In 2013, we have identified six priority areas that, if implemented, would extend health care coverage to more Georgians, improve access to care, and make Georgia a healthier state. These priorities were developed with input from community partners and stakeholders and we hope you’ll join us in advocating for them this year:

  • Extend health insurance coverage to a substantial portion of Georgia’s uninsured by expanding Medicaid
  • Preserve and strengthen consumer protections for Georgians in private health insurance plans through both federal and state advocacy
  • Ensure access to quality health care for Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries
  • Strengthen Georgia’s public health system
  • Increase the tobacco tax; and
  • Support policies and practices that advance health equity.

To learn more about our priorities, click here.


Thank you for making Health Care Unscrambled a success!

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More than 200 health care consumer and patient advocates, stakeholders, and providers came out on the morning of January 10th for Georgians for a Healthy Future’s third annual Health Care Unscrambled policy breakfast event. Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic, one of the nation’s leading health and social policy writers, shared his insights about health reform and we heard from Georgia policymakers about what’s on their minds for 2013. Pictures from the event can be found here.

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Peach Pulse: November 27, 2012


THE UNINSURED IN GEORGIA
Mapping Georgia’s Uninsured

 

Approximately 1.9 million Georgians are uninsured, among the highest in the nation. Our new interactive resource, Mapping Georgia’s Uninsured, visually displays detailed information on Georgia’s uninsured population by age, income, and region. Click on the shaded regions within each map to see the total number of uninsured by age and income, uninsured rate, and the number of Georgians who would potentially be eligible for Medicaid within each region if Georgia policymakers chose to expand the program. This mapping resource is part of our Cover Georgia initiative to educate policymakers and the public about Georgia’s uninsured, the benefits of coverage, and the opportunity the Medicaid expansion presents for Georgia patients, consumers, providers, and the state’s economy. To view the interactive maps, click here.



Explaining the Coverage Gap

Georgians for a Healthy Future is spearheading Cover Georgia, a new coalition in support of expanding Medicaid in our state to cover the uninsured.  As part of this on-going effort, each edition of the Peach Pulse will explore what is at stake for Georgia families and consumers as policymakers weigh this option in the coming months.

In 2014, Georgia consumers with incomes between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL), or roughly between $11,170 and $44,680 for an individual, will be eligible for tax credits to purchase health insurance through the new federally facilitated health insurance exchange. Adults with incomes below 100% FPL, however, will not be eligible for these tax credits. This is because the Affordable Care Act envisions individuals with incomes this low becoming eligible for Medicaid through an expansion of that program. If Georgia fails to adopt this expansion, this would create a “coverage gap,” leaving many Georgians with no options for affordable health coverage. This infographic helps explain how this would play out for two Georgians: Jan would make too much money to be eligible for Medicaid but would not make enough to access tax credits to purchase affordable private health insurance (a typical health insurance policy would consume nearly her entire income).  Meanwhile, John would be able to purchase insurance in the exchange with a tax credit, making health insurance reasonable for his budget.  This is simply not fair. All Georgians should have a pathway to affordable health care coverage. To learn more about Cover Georgia and to join our efforts, click here.



HEALTH REFORM UPDATE
Essential Health Benefits: HHS Issues Proposed Rule

As part of the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014 all new individual and small group health insurance plans must cover a core set of health care services and items across ten broad categories including hospitalization, prescription drugs, maternity and newborn care, and preventive services, among others. This core set of services and items is known as Essential Health Benefits. The benefits that health plans are currently required to cover vary by state. To ease the transition to essential health benefits in 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) set out a process for each state to select a benchmark health insurance plan (which would include all benefits currently mandated in that state) that would then be supplemented to fill in any gaps and ensure health benefits across all ten categories are covered.  Last week, HHS issued a proposed rule outlining each state’s benchmark plan.  HHS is accepting public comment on all states’ proposed benchmark plans, including Georgia’s benchmark, until December 26th, 2012 (instructions for how to comment are included within the proposed rule). You can view the proposed benchmark plan for Georgia here. For additional information about the Essential Health Benefits process, see a recent Health Affairs article here. For additional information through a Georgia lens, see a recent Georgia Health News story on Essential Health Benefits here.



Governor Deal opts not to build health exchange, defaulting to federal exchange

On November 16th, Governor Deal announced that Georgia would not move forward with a state-based health insurance exchange. Instead, Georgia will have, by default, a federally facilitated exchange. While a state-based exchange would have been more easily tailored for Georgia and could have been more responsive to the needs of Georgia’s health care consumers, a federally facilitated exchange will still provide information, decision tools, and access to tax credits to help consumers find and purchase meaningful and affordable health insurance.

As the federal exchange gets built out, it will be important that federal officials consider the needs of consumers in states like Georgia. To that end, Georgians for a Healthy Future joined with consumer advocates in states across the country to submit a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommending that federal officials create a robust stakeholder planning process, ensure in-person consumer assistance programs meet consumers’ needs, and ensure that qualified health plans available on the exchange protect consumers and meet their needs. You can learn more about health insurance exchanges in Georgia by visiting Georgians for a Healthy Future’s health insurance exchange resource page here. We look forward to working with policymakers to ensure that the federally facilitated exchange is successful in Georgia and that consumers have better access to meaningful and comprehensive health coverage for themselves and their families.


EVENTS AND ANNOUNCEMENTS

 

 

Show Your Support for Georgians for a Healthy Future on Georgia Gives Day
We are excited to announce that Georgians for a Healthy Future is taking part in Georgia Gives Day, a 24-hour, statewide giving event organized by the Georgia Center for Nonprofits. On December 6th, Georgia Gives Day encourages individuals to take a minute and realize how interwoven non-profits are in their lives and to feel inspired to give to their favorite non-profits through www.gagivesday.org.

At Georgians for a Healthy Future, we strive to provide a strong voice for Georgia consumers and communities on the health care issues and decisions that impact their lives. We hope you think we’re doing a good job! We would love your show of support on Georgia Gives Day.  How has GHF impacted you? Your work? Your interaction with the health care system? If we’ve had any impact on you, we hope you’ll consider supporting us so that we can continue to do this important work.  We are committed to working towards a day when all Georgians have access to quality, affordable health care and we need your help to do it.

For those “Super-GHF” fans (we think there are some of you out there), why not help us spread the word? Share our message with your friends and family. Post on Facebook and Twitter. Help us make the most out of Georgia Gives Day!


Health Care Unscrambled: A Look Ahead to the 2013 Legislative Session

Georgians for a Healthy Future is excited to announce that Jonathan Cohn of The New Republic will be the keynote speaker for our third annual Health Care Unscrambled policy breakfast on January 10, 2013! We hope you’ll join us for this important event that brings together health care consumer advocates, stakeholders, and policymakers for a look ahead to the biggest health policy issues facing Georgia in the coming year.

Jonathan covers domestic policy and politics for The New Republic, with a particular emphasis on social welfare, labor, and health care. He is also the author of Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis—and the People Who Pay the Price.  Jonathan has been recognized in the pages of the Washington Post as “one of the nation’s leading experts on health care policy” and in the New York Times as “one of the best health care writers out there.” An item from Time suggested he “may be the smartest, most well-sourced health care writer in the country.”

We are thrilled that Jonathan will be joining us for our signature policy event and we hope that you will too.  Sponsorship opportunities are still available.  Click here for more information about sponsorships.  Click here to purchase tickets to the event.   We hope to see you on January 10th!


Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director named a consumer representative to the NAIC again for 2013

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin was named a consumer representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) again for 2013. The program provides a structured way for health care consumer and patient advocates from around the country to provide input from the consumer perspective. Having representation from Georgia’s health advocacy community in this program helps to ensure the voices of health care consumers in Georgia are heard as important decisions about health insurance and consumer protections are made. Through the NAIC, state insurance regulators establish standards and best practices, conduct peer review, and coordinate their regulatory oversight. The work of the NAIC is particularly timely and important this year because they are developing model rules and regulations for implementation of the private health insurance reforms associated with the Affordable Care Act. To that end, earlier this year the NAIC consumer representatives collaboratively released “Implementing the Affordable Care Act’s Insurance Reforms: Consumer Recommendations for Regulators and Lawmakers,” available for download here. To view the NAIC press release announcing the 2013 consumer representatives, click here.

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Peach Pulse: November 9, 2012

Special Health Reform Edition

This week’s election results removed any uncertainty about the Affordable Care Act’s future: the health reform law is here to stay. Now it is time to do the hard work of ensuring that health reform meets its promise in Georgia and that health care consumers have access to meaningful and affordable coverage.

Over the past three days, several news stories have outlined the key next steps and decision points for Georgia policymakers on Medicaid and the private health insurance marketplace, and many of them turned to Georgians for a Healthy Future to explain the implications for Georgia health care consumers.

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin discussed the need to move forward with the Medicaid expansion in an interview with the Augusta Chronicle: “We have one of the highest uninsured rates in the nation…We have one of the highest number of uninsured in the nation. And many of them are low to moderate income. The Medicaid piece is really what is going to make a dent in the uninsured in a big way.” She also talked about the important role expanding Medicaid (which is optional for states but largely federally financed) can play in improving access to care and bolstering Georgia’s economy and what it means for consumers if Georgia opts for a federal health insurance exchange rather than a state-based exchange. All articles are linked below.

Georgia expected to spar over Medicaid expansion in election aftermath
The Augusta Chronicle  | November 8, 2012

Big healthcare decisions loom for state in election’s wake
Atlanta Journal-Constitution  | November 7, 2012

Deal: No state exchange likely under Obamacare
11 Alive News  | November 8, 2012

Deal suggests Ga. unlikely to run health exchange
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer  | November 7, 2012

Health care law lives — and Ga. faces big choices
Georgia Health News  | November 7, 2012


 

Perhaps the biggest issue for Georgia’s policymakers to consider in the coming months is the Medicaid expansion. Leveraging the resources on the table to expand Medicaid will improve access to care, strengthen our state’s health care delivery system, and bolster Georgia’s economy. If your organization would like to join the Cover Georgia coalition in support of expanding Medicaid, email Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach and Advocacy Director Amanda Ptashkin.

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Peach Pulse: October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween! We all know ghosts, goblins and skeletons are scary. What is far scarier, however, is being uninsured. Yet nearly 1.9 million Georgians are without any health insurance coverage at all, among the highest in the nation. This tragic reality means that one in five Georgians struggle to access medical care when they need it and suffer poorer health outcomes as a result. It’s time to Cover Georgia by implementing the Medicaid expansion.


 

Earlier this month, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin joined the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s Director of Health Policy Tim Sweeney for a panel discussion with nationally renowned researchers Dr. Benjamin Sommers and Dr. Heidi Allen at GBPI’s Fall Policy Forum.  Dr. Sommers and Dr. Allen presented their respective findings on the impact of expanding Medicaid on access to care and health outcomes. In sum, their research showed that people who gained coverage through Medicaid were more likely to access preventive services and have a usual source of care than their uninsured counterparts. States that expanded Medicaid saw lower mortality rates, even after taking into account a range of other factors, than their neighboring states who did not. Additionally, Dr. Sommers research suggests that expanding Medicaid here in Georgia would save approximately 3,600 lives a year.  To view Dr. Sommers’ presentation, click here.  To view Dr. Allen’s presentation, click here.

Over the upcoming months, advocates, health care consumers, providers and industry stakeholders will be banding together to convince our elected officials that the Medicaid expansion is the right decision for Georgia.  To join our efforts to Cover Georgia, email Amanda Ptashkin.


Update on child-only policies

Earlier this year, Governor Deal signed into law House Bill 1166 to restore child-only health insurance plans to the Georgia marketplace. The legislation was sponsored by Representative Atwood and supported by a broad coalition of consumer health advocates, including Georgians for a Healthy Future, health care industry stakeholders, and legislators. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2013, and will make stand-alone insurance policies for children available through an open enrollment period in January or in the event of a qualifying event throughout the year. The Georgia Department of Insurance is currently preparing the draft regulation, after which there will be a public comment period with the final regulation expected in December.

Several states around the country have taken similar action to make these plans available for children, and earlier this month the Commonwealth Fund issued a report examining legislative and regulatory efforts around the country during 2010 and 2011 and found that, in states that had taken action during those years, child-only coverage is now available in nearly all of those states. Since Georgia’s legislation was passed in 2012 and has not yet gone into effect it was not included in the analysis; however, the authors interviewed officials and advocates in Georgia and noted that legislation had been signed into law in 2012. Kaiser Health News also reported on the story last week. That article is available here. The study is available here.


Health exchange deadline looms

Health exchanges are a central feature of the Affordable Care Act and are intended to provide meaningful and affordable health insurance options for individuals and families who don’t have access to health insurance at work. The exchange, or marketplace, will be a place where consumers can shop for private health insurance plans utilizing decision tools and accessing tax credits to make the plans affordable. By 2014, these marketplaces will be up and running in every state, with some states operating their own exchange marketplaces, some states partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on a “state partnership exchange,” and some states deferring to a federally facilitated exchange.

States planning to move forward with their own state-based exchanges must submit a blueprint by November 16th of this year.  Georgia is not expected to be ready for a state-based exchange, as reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution last week, and thus a default to a federally facilitated exchange is likely in Georgia.

Ensuring that a health insurance exchange works for Georgia consumers is a key priority for Georgians for a Healthy Future, whether it is a state-based exchange, partnership exchange, or federally facilitated exchange. Regardless of who is administering the exchange on the back end, we must make sure it works for consumers on the front end. To that end, Georgians for a Healthy Future remains engaged in this important issue on behalf of health care consumers. Our Executive Director served on the Governor’s Health Insurance Advisory Committee in 2011, which studied options for Georgia, and submitted a minority report advocating for Georgia to move forward with planning for a state-based exchange despite the full committee’s recommendations against doing so.  Georgians for a Healthy Future also released a well-received policy brief in August 2011 making policy recommendations for a Georgia exchange and our staff and coalition partners have been active in discussions with federal officials, along with consumer health advocates from around the country, about how to make sure federally facilitated exchanges are responsive to the needs of consumers within the states.

More information about the exchange blueprint submission process is available here; a summary of Georgia’s status on exchange planning is available here; and all archived materials from Governor Deal’s health insurance exchange advisory committee are available here.


Keeping Treatment in Reach

Georgians for a Healthy Future is a proud partner in the Specialty Tiers Coalition of Georgia, a group of consumer and patient advocates committed to ensuring affordable access to medications for patients with rare, chronic conditions. Earlier this month, the coalition hosted an educational forum at Emory University in Atlanta to raise awareness among policymakers and consumers about the growing trend of specialty tiers and the related risks to patients and consumers.

Specialty drugs are typically breakthrough prescription drugs that are used to treat complex, chronic health conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hemophilia, and HIV/AIDS. Traditionally, insurance plans cover prescription drugs on a 3-tiered drug formulary (Tier One: generic drugs; a typical co-pay is around $10; Tier Two: preferred brand name drugs; a typical co-pay is around $30; Tier Three: non-preferred brand drugs; a typical co-pay is around $50). Specialty tiers, also known as Tier IV, V, or VI, add an additional structure for specialty medications — cost sharing known as “co-insurance” — where the patient pays 20-35% of the cost of the medication, rather than a fixed, predictable co-payment.  Unfortunately, there is no limit on what a beneficiary may be required to pay for therapies relegated to specialty tiers.

The trend towards specialty tiers shifts costs to patients and places needed treatment out of reach for too many patients who are paying health insurance premiums to get the medical care they need.  Specialty tiers can result in drug costs well into the thousands of dollars per month for patients, increasing the likelihood that patients will go without needed treatment. In fact, a recent study found that one in four patients with an out-of-pocket prescription cost of $500 or more failed to fill their prescriptions. This indicates patients with insurance are having to choose between needed medications and everyday living expenses.

The Specialty Tiers Coalition will be active in the upcoming 2013 Legislative Session to grow awareness about this issue, and advocate for patient protections. Georgians for a Healthy Future and the coalition are currently serving as a community partner to the Health Legislation & Advocacy course at Georgia State University’s College of Law. Through this partnership, law students are providing research assistance and helping craft potential legislation to ensure adequate patient protections.

To read coverage of the October 10th forum at Emory University, click here and here. To download a fact sheet on this issue from a coalition leader, Advocates for Responsible Care, click here.


Managed Care for Foster Care Kids 

Back in July, the Department of Community Health (DCH), decided to postpone plans to undergo a full-scale redesign of Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare programs.  Instead, DCH decided to focus on a few particular pieces of the current system and work to improve them–focusing on foster kids was one such designated area.  Over the last several months, DCH has continued to engage the Children and Families Task Force that was created at the beginning of the redesign process and has asked for task force members to provide input on the Department’s plans to manage care for our foster care populations.  While DCH anticpate that the new plan will go live until January 2014, a lot of work is being done behind the scenes to ensure that the transition for those children is seamless and that their care can be properly managed moving forward.  To view the presentation from the Children and Families task force meeting last week, click here and here.


Upcoming Events

Health Care + Substance Abuse Webinar: November 8th 12pm-1pm: There are many provisions in the ACA that impact people needing services for substance use disorders. This is a critical time in Georgia for families of and people suffering from addiction.  The Affordable Care Act will, for the first time:

  • require insurers to cover treatment for drug and alcohol addiction the same way they cover other chronic illnesses (think, diabetes and hypertension.
  • could bring 650,000 to 900,000 currently-uninsured Georgians into the expanded Medicaid program.

If you are still wondering about how the ACA impacts you or those you work with, join GHF and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse for a one-hour webinar on substance use disorder policy in Georgia and what the ACA and Medicaid expansion mean for those suffering from or serving people with substance use disorder.  To RSVP, click here.
The Georgia Supportive Housing Association Annual Conference: November 13:  The conference will explore the role that housing must play if the state is to succeed in reforming the criminal justice system, the healthcare system, and the mental health system.  If people with health needs are going to live outside expensive institutions they must have affordable housing in the community that connects them to the health services they need. The Conference will explore policies that can help expand the state’s capacity to serve people with supportive housing. Supportive housing works but production and finance are laging behind need. To register for the annual conference, click here.

Shine a Light on Lung Cancer Vigil: November 13th 6:30pm
On November 13, 2012 at The SunTrust Club at Turner Field (behind homeplate) at 6:30pm, join the Lung Cancer Alliance as they will ease the burden of all those impacted by lung cancer and connect the community in a national call to action. The Atlanta, GA Vigil will provide hope and compassion and empower attendees to join the historic movement to reduce lung cancer mortality by 50% by 2020.  Speakers include:

  • Dr. Bill Mayfield, WellStar, on lung cancer screening;
  • Dr. Suresh Ramalingam, Emory Healthcare, on current issues in lung cancer
  • Comments from lung cancer survivors/caregivers
  • Our guest emcees are Elaine Hendrix, TV and movie actor, and Chris Draft, former Atlanta Falcon

On the night of the 13th, they will honor those impacted by lung cancer with a lighting of glow sticks and a reflection on experiences. It is a moving event and not one to be missed.  Registration is free. To register, click here.

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 3rd Annual Policy Breakfast, Health Care Unscrambled: January 10, 2013 7:30am to 10:30am: Please join us for the third annual Health Care Unscrambled policy breakfast event, where health care consumer and patient advocates, health care experts and stakeholders, and policymakers come together for an energizing look ahead at the top health issues facing our state as the 2013 Legislative Session gets underway.  Sponsorship opportunities at a range of levels are available to help support this important event, and tickets are also available for purchase here.

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Peach Pulse: October 8, 2012


Medicaid Expansion and Cover Georgia

Georgia policymakers are currently weighing the opportunity to cover an estimated 650,000 uninsured Georgians through an expansion of the Medicaid program. Under the Affordable Care Act, states can create a new category of eligibility for Medicaid to cover low-income individuals and families, financed almost entirely with federal dollars. Implementing this expansion is the only viable way to cover Georgia’s low-income uninsured, and it will pump resources into our state’s health care delivery system. We can’t miss this opportunity to improve access to health care and to strengthen Georgia’s health care economy, but we need your voice to make it happen.

Health care consumer and patient advocacy groups, providers, stakeholders, and community groups are coming together under the Cover Georgia umbrella to show support for expanding Medicaid, and we invite you to join us. If you are interested in getting involved in this discussion, please contact Amanda Ptashkin.

In November, the Cover Georgia campaign will unveil a website full of resources to help you better understand and advocate for the Medicaid expansion with policymakers and in your community. In the meantime, please visit Families USA’s Medicaid Expansion Center, with links to studies and reports about the value of Medicaid, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Tool Kit for State Advocates on the Medicaid expansion.


Update on Essential Health Benefits (EHB)
As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), beginning in 2014 all health insurance plans sold in the private individual and small group markets must include a minimum package of benefits to ensure that all consumers purchasing health insurance have access to comprehensive health care services. In a process outlined late last year by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, states were instructed to choose a benchmark plan and supplement it to fill any gaps (the essential health benefits package must, under federal law, include items and services within ten broad categories, described here). Georgia chose the default option, the largest small group plan sold within the state, as our state’s benchmark plan. According to the Georgia Department of Insurance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will review and supplement the plan. Later this fall, HHS is expected to issue a notice of proposed rule-making listing each state’s minimum essential health benefits package. The National Academy for State Health Policy is also tracking all states’ progress on essential health benefits. You can view their latest chart here.

The 2013 Budget
Over the next couple of months, budget recommendations will be finalized by the Governor and the Office of Planning and Budget (OPB).  Proposed cuts are being made across the board and will potentially affect patients, providers and communities across the state.  For a detailed look at the budget prospects for the coming year, click here for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s 2013 Budget Primer.

Recent Events
Keepin’ it rural with the Georgia Rural Health Association
Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Cindy Zeldin and the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s Tim Sweeney gave a joint presentation at the Georgia Rural Health Association’s annual “Keepin’ it Rural” conference. We discussed the uninsured in Georgia and how expanding Medicaid could cover these Georgians and improve access to care. All presentations from the event are available on the Georgia Rural Health Association’s website here.

Georgia consumer health leaders go to Washington

Consumer health advocates from across the country met with officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week to discuss implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) through the consumer lens. We discussed Medicaid, health insurance exchanges, and the new consumer protections within the ACA, among other topics.

 

 


Meeting with the Greater Augusta Healthcare Network

Georgians for a Healthy Future was invited to be a guest speaker at the Greater Augusta Healthcare Network’s September meeting. We had a great conversation about health reform, Medicaid, and the uninsured in Augusta.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Events

October is shaping up to be a busy month for health advocates and there are some opportunities we wanted to be sure to share with you:October 10th 12:30pm-2:30pm: Join the Center for Black Women’s Wellness for their community forum, “Getting to the Root: Breast Cancer Disparities,” for health care professionals, breast cancer survivors, caregivers and community advocates. GHF Outreach and Advocacy Director, Amanda Ptashkin, will present on health care reform and what it means to breast cancer survivors, caregivers and advocates.  Registration is closed for lunch but those interested can still attend at 12:30.  Click herefor more information.

October 19th 8am-11am: Join the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute for their Fall Forum, “Expanding Health Coverage in Georgia” at the Carter Center.  Join them for this highly anticipated discussion on the benefits of the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.  Click here to register.

October 23rd 12pm-1pm: Join GHF and the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse for a one-hour webinar on substance use disorder policy in Georgia and what the ACA and Medicaid expansion mean for those suffering from or serving people with substance use disorder.  To RSVP, email Amanda Ptashkin.

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Peach Pulse: September 6, 2012


An opportunity to cover Georgians and improve access to care

Today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution features an op-ed from Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director in support of expanding Medicaid to cover the uninsured and improve access to care in Georgia. Zeldin writes, “Covering the lowest-income uninsured through Medicaid will provide access to basic prevention and treatment services that uninsured Georgians lack today.” The benefits also go far beyond covering an estimated 650,000 uninsured Georgians. Expanding Medicaid will strengthen our state’s health care delivery system and bolster Georgia’s economy by bringing new resources into Georgia.  “We have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the health of Georgia patients and consumers, strengthen our state’s health care delivery system, and bolster the state’s economy by moving forward with the Medicaid expansion.”  To read the full op-ed, click here.

Cover Georgia

The next big opportunity to improve access to care for hundreds of thousands of Georgians will be deciding whether Georgia should move forward with the Medicaid expansion.  Georgians for a Healthy Future has begun work on building a large-scale, statewide coalition that will help make the case that this is good for consumers, good for the health care infrastructure and good for the economy.  We are in the process of reaching out to partner organizations, civic groups, community leaders, etc. to join our efforts.  If you are interested in getting involved in this discussion, please email us.


Capturing the Moment: An Evening with Georgians for a Healthy Future

Last month Georgians for a Healthy Future held a cocktail reception and fundraiser at Nelson Mullins to bring together our partners, our champions and our allies to celebrate our health care victories over the past three years and to plan for the future.  We are grateful to those who attended and contributed to the future of our organization.  To see pictures from the event, click here.  To support our efforts, click here.

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Peach Pulse: July 13, 2012

Special Medicaid Redesign Edition

This morning the Department of Community Health announced its plans for moving forward with changes to our Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids systems.  Over the last several months, DCH along with consulting firm Navigant have been convening task forces and work groups to work through recommendations and innovations to our current delivery system.  This redeisgn process is seperate but parallel from the conversations currently taking place regarding whether or not to move forward with the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provisions but ultimately will impact our overall Medicaid delivery system.  In their press release, DCH said:

“Today, the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) announced that it will move forward with implementing key recommendations from its Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) Redesign task forces and workgroups. It will not, however, pursue wholesale restructuring of Georgia’s Medicaid program at this time because of increasing uncertainty at the federal level.”

The changes that the state will move forward with include: 

  • Proceeding with at-risk managed care to serve Georgia Families members
  • Transitioning children in foster care to one designated vendor statewide within the new Georgia Families program
  • Maintaining Georgia’s current Fee-For-Service structure for ABD populations and services
  • Moving forward with Home and Community-based Services Rebalancing. This rebalancing will help move patients from skilled nursing facilities to home and community based services.
  • Begin utilizing a value-based purchasing model. Value-based purchasing will allow DCH to continuously improve the quality of care for our members while better engaging our providers and ultimately containing costs.
  • Creating a one-stop portal will improve accountability and efficiency. Specifically the portal will give health care providers better information about their members and their medical history, streamline their credentialing process, and present providers with a measurement of key performance metrics and allow them to monitor quality and outcomes compared to their peers.
  • Creating a Common Pharmacy Preferred Drug List that will simplify the program and reduce administrative burden on providers

The Department has committed to continuing its work with the task forces and work group through the RFP process and past the go-live date.  As members of the Children and Families Task Force and Substance Use and Mental Health Working Group, Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to provide a consumer voice in these discussions and will continue to advocate for greater access to care for Georgia’s most vulnerable citizens.  For more information about the redesign process, visit http://healthyfuturega.org/issues/medicaid-and-peachcare-redesign.

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Peach Pulse: July 6, 2012


Special Post SCOTUS Edition

 

Last week, the United States Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, a major victory for health care consumers in Georgia and across the country. Now, all eyes turn to the states for implementation of two of the most critical pieces of the law: the expansion of the Medicaid program and the establishment of health insurance exchanges.


 

The Medicaid Expansion
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) expands the Medicaid program by creating a new eligibility category for people with incomes at or below 133% of the federal poverty level (approximately $14,856 for a single adult or $25,389 in annual income for a family of 3). While the ACA, as written, made this expansion mandatory for states, the Supreme Court ruled that it was effectively optional for states. Because a large portion of Georgia’s uninsured population stands to gain coverage only if Georgia moves forward with the Medicaid expansion, it is critically important that state policymakers implement this piece of the law. Here is what you need to know about the Medicaid expansion:

  • If the state does not expand Medicaid, approximately 684,000 Georgians who would have gained coverage through the Medicaid expansion would likely remain uninsured.
  • The Medicaid expansion is financed entirely with federal dollars in the first three years and 90 percent federal dollars thereafter. This means that, for every ten dollars Georgia invests in Medicaid, the state will draw down ninety dollars in federal funds, a major infusion of resources into the state’s health care delivery system.
  • The Affordable Care Act provides substantial tax credits for people with incomes between 100% of the federal poverty level and 400% of the federal poverty level to help purchase private health insurance. Because the law envisioned people with incomes below 100% of the federal poverty level obtaining health care coverage through Medicaid, these low-income Georgians will not be eligible for tax credits and will be without any affordable options for health insurance unless the Medicaid expansion is implemented.

Georgia policymakers have an unprecedented opportunity to improve the health of Georgia consumers and communities, address the state’s high number of uninsured, strengthen our state’s health care delivery system, and bolster the state’s economy by moving forward with full implementation of the Medicaid expansion authorized by the law.


Health Insurance Exchanges
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) authorizes state-level health insurance exchanges for individual consumers and for small businesses. States can choose to design and implement their own exchanges within the basic framework outlined by the ACA or they can opt for a federally facilitated exchange. Governor Deal and key legislators have not yet announced a decision on which route Georgia will take.

Below is a summary of Georgia’s work and progress to date on making this choice:

  • In June 2011, Governor Deal issued an executive order establishing an advisory committee to study the issue and report back at the end of 2011. The committee’s final report did not recommend moving forward at that time with a state-based exchange due to uncertainty pending the Supreme Court decision.
  • The Governor’s Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee did, however, conduct considerable research on the issue. All materials from the committee’s work are housed here.
  • At the federal level, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a new round of funding opportunities for states and has released considerable guidance for states on exchanges.

A health insurance exchange is an exciting concept for consumers. Put simply, it’s a one-stop shop where consumers can access tools and information to select an insurance plan that best meets their needs and can apply tax credits to ensure that plan is affordable.

Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, it is an ideal time for Georgia policymakers and stakeholders to ramp up planning to ensure Georgia consumers have affordable health insurance options available to them through an exchange by 2014. It is also critical that policymakers weigh consumer input throughout the process to ensure the exchange works for Georgia individuals and families who plan to use it to secure meaningful health coverage.

Georgians for a Healthy Future released an issue brief in August 2011 providing additional information and recommendations around designing a consumer-friendly exchange. Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director, Cindy Zeldin, also served on the Governor’s Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee and submitted a minority report advocating for Georgia to move forward right away in building an exchange. The issue brief is available for download here and the minority report is available for download here.

If you or your organization would like to engage in advocacy on either or both of these issues on behalf of Georgia consumers, please contact Amanda Ptashkin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach & Advocacy Director, to get involved.

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Peach Pulse: May 17, 2012

What’s New in Georgia
Governor Deal Signs Legislation Restoring Child-Only Health Plans

Governor Deal signed HB 1166 (sponsored by Representative Atwood) into law on May 1st. The legislation requires insurance companies who sell policies in the individual health insurance market to also sell child-only plans during an open enrollment period. These plans had previously been available in Georgia, but insurance companies stopped writing new policies in response to a change in federal law that prohibited discrimination against children due to pre-existing conditions. HB 1166 drew widespread support and Georgians for a Healthy Future was proud to be a part of the coalition effort that ensured its passage.


Access to Care a Concern for Georgians

Two recent studies highlight the need for statewide strategies to improve access to care in Georgia. Last week, Kaiser Health News reported that Georgia was one of three states with the greatest increase in the number of people with unmet medical need over the past decade. Back in April, USA Today reported on a study of community health centers that found Georgia was the only state to rank at the bottom on 4 of 6 performance measures.


Insurance Rebates on the Way for Some Georgia Health Care Consumers

A provision of the Affordable Care Act requires health insurance companies in the individual market to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical care or quality improvement activities (it is 85 percent in the group market). Georgia insurance companies were permitted to phase this requirement in for the individual market over three years (requiring them to spend at least 70 cents on the premium dollar on actual health care in 2011, 75 cents on the dollar in 2012, and 80 cents on the dollar in 2013.) Designed to spur greater transparency, value, and accountability, the provision also requires insurance companies who do not meet this reasonable standard to issue rebates to consumers. As a direct result of this provision, Georgia consumers will receive an estimated $30 million in rebates this year. State-by-state information about anticipated rebates is available here, and a report from Georgia Health News is available here.


Medicaid and PeachCare Redesign Continues

The Department of Community Health (DCH) is continuing its work in redesigning Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare programs.  Various taskforces and workgroups have been convening to provide input into the process to ensure that the resulting redesign ensures coverage, access, and quality care to those eligible or enrolled in the programs.  There is still an opportunity to reach out to DCH to share your opinion on the process.  Send an email to MyOpinion@dch.ga.gov and let DCH what you care about when it comes to covering our most vulnerable populations.

Georgians for a Healthy Future is proud to be a part of CARE-M: the Coalition to Assure Redesign Effectiveness for Medicaid.  CARE-M is comprised of several advocate groups across the state that have a vested interest in the ultimate redesign of Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare systems.  Many of these groups have been following DCH and Navigant’s progress and have drafted recommendations and policy papers on the topic.  To access these documents, click here. To learn more about our collective efforts, click here.  If you or your organization would like to learn more about the redesign process and would like to request a presentation, email Amanda Ptashkin.


New Changes in Effect for Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP)

As of May 1, 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services, which administers high-risk insurance pools in twenty-four states including Georgia, reverted to its original requirements. In order to enroll in the program, applicants must submit one of the following pieces of documentation:

  • A denial letter from an insurer
  • An offer of coverage from an insurer that includes a pre-existing condition clause
  • A letter from a broker or agent that states the individual would be denied coverage

Applicants must still be uninsured for six months before enrolling in the PCIP, a provision that has not changed since the program began. The Department will also end the $100 broker referral bonus, which began in spring of 2011, as an incentive to increase enrollment.

As of February 2012, 56,257 people were enrolled in the 24 states that participate in the federal PCIP. In Georgia, 1,707 people have been enrolled since August 2010.

Celebrate National Women’s Health Week

National Women’s Health Week is a week-long health observance coordinated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health. National Women’s Health Week empowers women to make their health a top priority. It also encourages women to take the following steps to improve their physical and mental health and lower their risks of certain diseases:

Representative Pat Gardner sponsored HR 2027 declaring May 13 through May 19, National Women’s Health Week in Georgia. The resolution urges all Georgians to participate in activities that support women’s health awareness and support all local efforts and initiatives to improve awareness of key women’s issues, including women participating on May 14, 2012, in National Women’s Checkup Day, a day on which women across the country are urged to visit their health care professionals.

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Peach Pulse: April 12, 2012

What’s New in Georgia
Legislative Wrap-Up

The 2012 Legislative Session came to a close on March 29th with mixed results for health advocates.

The good news: Our top legislative priority, restoring child-only plans to the individual health insurance market (HB 1166 sponsored by Representative Atwood), was successfully passed by both the House (by a vote of 161-1) and Senate (by a vote of 42-2). This legislation requires insurance companies who sell policies in the individual health insurance market to also sell child-only plans during an open enrollment period. These plans had previously been available in Georgia, but insurance companies stopped writing new policies in response to a change in federal law that prohibited discrimination against children due to pre-existing conditions. HB 1166 drew widespread support and Georgians for a Healthy Future was proud to be a part of the coalition effort that ensured its passage.

The bad news:  Georgia did not pass health insurance exchange legislation in 2012. While HB 801 and SB 418 were introduced by Representative Gardner and Senator Orrock, respectively, as companion bills to establish a health insurance exchange in Georgia, neither bill received a hearing. All information from the Governor’s Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee, which met throughout the second half of 2011 to develop recommendations on this issue and ultimately did not recommend establishing an exchange in 2012, is available here. Georgians for a Healthy Future had been strongly supportive of the exchange concept for Georgia (see our issue brief on this issue here); however, failure to pass legislation in 2012 means that Georgia will not be able to demonstrate readiness for an exchange on the timeline currently outlined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Georgia consumers will likely have access to a federal exchange beginning in 2014; Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to monitor exchange developments at the federal and state level.

The rest: Georgians for a Healthy Future works collaboratively with a range of consumer and patient advocacy groups to advance policy priorities around health care coverage, access, quality, and affordability. Several organizations with whom we frequently partner have released excellent legislative summaries featuring health care issues. Here is a sampling:

  • Voices for Georgia’s Children reports on legislation that impacted children here.
  • The American Cancer Society gives us the lowdown on legislation that impacts access to care through the cancer lens here.
  • The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities explains legislation that impacts Georgians with developmental disabilities here.
  • Georgia Women for a Change fills us in on legislation that impacts women and girls in Georgia here.
  • The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute provides its recap here.

Medicaid and PeachCare Redesign Continues

The Department of Community Health (DCH) has been convening taskforces to gather feedback from consumer advocates, providers and other stakeholders on the current state of Medicaid and PeachCare, areas to be improved, gaps, and other barriers. These task forces will continue to meet over the next several months and through the procurement process.  In a recent meeting, DCH officials noted that they have already heard from hundreds of providers, advocates and consumers on their ideas and suggestions for the redesign, but there is still an opportunity to reach out to DCH to share your opinion on the process.  Send an email to MyOpinion@dch.ga.gov and let DCH what you care about when it comes to covering our most vulnerable populations.

Georgians for a Healthy Future is proud to be a part of CARE-M: the Coalition to Assure Redesign Effectiveness for Medicaid.  CARE-M is comprised of several advocate groups across the state that have a vested interest in the ultimate redesign of Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare systems.  Many of these groups have been following DCH and Navigant’s progress and have drafted recommendations and policy papers on the topic.  To access these documents, click here. To learn more about our collective efforts, visit www.healthyfuturega.org/issues/careforgeorgiaskids.  If you or your organization would like to learn more about the redesign process and would like to request a presentation, email Amanda Ptashkin.


2nd Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

March 23, 2012 marked the 2nd anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act.  In the past two years alone, 1500 Georgians with pre-existing conditions have enrolled in the pre-existing condition insurance plan (PCIP); 85,000 Georgian young adults have gained health insurance through dependent care coverage; 106,000 seniors received rebates from the closing of the Medicare donut hole; and 850,000 Georgians accessed free preventive services.  To learn more about how the law has expanded coverage and saved the state money, read the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s latest report.

To celebrate these early successes and show support for the law, Georgians for a Healthy Future along with Doctors for America, Health STAT, Votehealthcare.org, and Know Your Care held a rally at the Capitol on March 26–the same day that oral arguments began at the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of the ACA.  After hearing from doctors, advocates, and patients affected by the new law, the crowd then walked in to the Capitol to present the Governor and Attorney General with a petition with close to 1000 signatures showing broad support of the law.  While a Supreme Court decision is not expected until June, thousands of Georgians have already seen the positive impact of the law and this rally urged our state leaders: “Don’t Take Away My ACA!”  To view more pictures from the rally, click here.   To view the ACA video, click here.


GASOPHE Names New Advocacy Chair on Board of Directors

GASOPHE, the Georgia Society for Public Health Education, recently appointed GHF’s Outreach and Advocacy Director, Amanda Ptashkin, to their Board of Directors.  GASOPHE is a professional organization for professional health educators and others in public or community health.  As the new Chair of the Advocacy Committee, Amanda will help advance the organization’s legislative priorities which include: strengthening Georgia’s public health infrastructure; increasing the tobacco tax; and supporting implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

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Peach Pulse: March 12, 2012

What’s New in Georgia

Georgia Legislative Update

Now that Crossover Day (the 30th day of the 40 day Session and the day by which a bill must pass at least one chamber to remain viable for the Session) has passed, the 2012 Legislative Session enters its final stretch. The legislative calendar is now set through Day 37. Here is what health advocates are watching:

  • HB 1166 would restore child-only health insurance policies to Georgia’s individual market. Georgians for a Healthy Future, along with a range of child health advocacy groups, is in strong support of this measure to provide this option for families who need coverage for their kids. The bill passed the House last week and passed through the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee this afternoon. It now heads to the Rules Committee.
  • HB 879 would allow non-medical staff to be trained to assist students with diabetes in a school setting when a school nurse is not present. The legislation also allows children, who are able, to manage their own diabetes. This legislation passed the Georgia House of Representatives and will be before the Senate Health and Human Services committee tomorrow.
  • SB 471 authorizes an alternative approval process for health insurance policies sold in Georgia and could place hard-fought consumer protections at risk. This bill passed the Senate last week and we will monitor it on the House side.

Several bills that consumer health advocates were supporting did not make the Crossover Day cut:

  • HB 1159, sponsored by Representative Pruett, would have created a Joint Study Commission on Education for Parents with Newborn Children to determine how best to gather information, raise funds and create a comprehensive informational video.  The video would include but not be limited to information on the prevention of childhood obesity; how to prevent SIDS, shaken baby syndrome, and other forms of child abuse; how to prevent death and injury and additional information which would assist parents to raise safe and healthy children. HB 1159 passed through the House Health and Human Services Committee but did not make it out of the Rules Committee.
  • SB 484 would help fight childhood obesity by encouraging – but not requiring – schools to open up and share their safe places for kids to play with responsible groups in their communities like churches, scouting troops, YMCAs and others. SB 484 passed the Senate Health and Human Services Committee but did not make it out of the Rules Committee.
  • HB 801 and SB 418 were introduced by Representative Gardner and Senator Orrock, respectively, as companion bills to establish a health insurance exchange in Georgia. Neither bill received a hearing.

To read Georgia Health News’ Health Care Scorecard on Crossover Day, click here.


Redesigning Medicaid and PeachCare

In the on-going efforts to redesign Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare programs, the Department of Community Health (DCH) has been convening three taskforces to gather feedback from consumer advocates, providers and other stakeholders on the current state of these programs, areas to be improved and gaps and other barriers. For those not appointed to these task forces, there is still an opportunity to reach out to DCH to
share your opinion on the redesign process.  Send an email to MyOpinion@dch.ga.gov and let DCH what you care about when it comes to covering our most vulnerable populations.


To help advocates across the state get involved in the redesign conversation, GHF and Voices for Georgia’s Children have created these fact sheets focused on Access, Coverage and Quality.  Click here to download them now.

If you or your organization would like to learn more about the redesign process and would like to request a presentation, email Amanda Ptashkin.  To learn more about our efforts, visit www.healthyfuturega.org/issues/careforgeorgiaskids

 

 

 

 


Bump It Up a Buck: Kick Butts Day 3/21/12


On March 21st, national Kick Butts Day, the Bump It Up a Buck Coalition will gather at the Capitol to highlight the dangers of teen smoking as well as encourage the legislature to raise the tobacco tax rate–currently among the lowest in the nation.  Experts say a dollar increase in the tax would reduce smoking levels in the state, improve the health of all Georgians, conservatively generate more than $340 million in new tax revenue for the state each year, as well as deter youth smoking. According to a recently released report from the Surgeon General, nearly one in four high school seniors and one in three young adults under age 26 smoke and the use of smokeless tobacco is on the rise.  To read that full report, click here.

The event will be held on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, and will include a rally on the steps of the Capitol and online activities as well.  Georgia currently has the 48th lowest per pack tax in the nation at only 37 cents (national average: $1.46). You can show your support for the initiative by joining the hundreds who Like the idea at http://www.facebook.com/BumpItUpaBuck.


Update on Health Insurance Exchanges

While Georgia policymakers have adopted a “wait and see” approach on developing a health insurance exchange, or marketplace, progress continues at the national level and in many other states across the country. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has released its long-awaited final rule on health insurance exchanges. Information about the rule is available here. Separately, the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) released a report spotlighting key issues for building a consumer-oriented health insurance exchange. NASHP interviewed policymakers and advocates from several states, including Georgia, for the report. It is available here. For Georgians for a Healthy Future’s policy brief on a state-based health insurance exchange, click here.


Update on Health Insurance Model Rules and Regulations from the NAIC Spring Meeting

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director, Cindy Zeldin, participated in the Spring Meeting of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) as a consumer representative—one of 28 chosen from across the country. The NAIC is currently developing model rules to implement a number of features of the Affordable Care Act that will impact health care consumers across the country and here in Georgia. The group of consumer representatives presented to the NAIC’s Consumer Liaison Committee at the Spring meeting last week in New Orleans. The materials presented by the consumer representatives are available here. We will keep you updated on issues of importance to Georgia health care consumers as they arise.

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Peach Pulse: February 27, 2012


What’s New in Georgia

Legislative Update

The 2012 Legislative Session continues today as legislators meet for Day 26 of the 40-day Session. Crossover Day (Day 30), when a bill must pass at least one chamber to remain viable for the Session, will be March 7th. Here is what health care advocates are watching:

  • The House and Senate have both passed versions of the Amended FY 2012 Budget (HB 741); since there are minor differences, HB 741 now heads to conference committee. Notably, the Senate version added $1.2 million in the Department of Public Health budget for the Children 1st program to replace the loss of Supplemental TANF funds. This program provides screenings for newborns. Also in the Senate version, funds were added to the Department of Community Health budget to reflect projected need in Medicaid but there were also cuts to reflect the rounding down of co-payments to the nearest dollar. Meanwhile, work continues on the FY 2013 budget. Click here for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s analyses of the implications for the state’s health care agencies on the governor’s proposed 2013 budget recommendations.
  • HB 1166, sponsored by Representative Atwood, would restore child-only health insurance policies to Georgia’s individual market. Georgians for a Healthy Future, along with a range of child health advocacy groups, is in strong support of this measure to provide this option for families who need coverage for their kids. The bill is expected to be before the House Insurance Committee on Wednesday. You can learn more about this issue by downloading our fact sheet.
  • HB 801 and SB 418 were introduced by Representative Gardner and Senator Orrock, respectively, as companion bills to establish a health insurance exchange in Georgia. While leadership in the House and Senate have indicated that there will not be movement on an exchange this year, please thank Representative Gardner and Senator Orrock for their leadership on this important issue. You can learn more about how a Georgia exchange could work by downloading our issue brief here. All information from the Governor’s Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee, which met throughout the second half of 2011 to develop recommendations on this issue, is available here.
  • HB 1159, sponsored by Representative Pruett, is known as the New Parent Information Bill and would create a Joint Study Commission on Education for Parents with Newborn Children to determine how best to gather information, raise funds and create a comprehensive informational video.  The video would include but not be limited to information on the prevention of childhood obesity; how to prevent SIDS, shaken baby syndrome, and other forms of child abuse; how to prevent death and injury and additional information which would assist parents to raise safe and healthy children. The bill is expected to be before the House Health and Human Services Committee this week.

Don’t forget to download our Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the 2012 Georgia Legislative Session to help you navigate the Capitol! A limited number of hard copy guides are available. Please contact us if you’d like a copy.


Redesigning Medicaid and PeachCare

In the on-going efforts to redesign Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare programs, the Department of Community Health (DCH)
is continuining to analyze and evaluate its options and has convened three taskforces to gather feedback from consumer advocates, providers and other stakeholders.  The latest taskforce, focused on children and families will hold its first meeting on March 9th.  GHF’s Outreach and Advocacy Director Amanda Ptashking will be there to represent health care consumers who currently access these programs or who will gain access through the Medicaid expansion in 2014.  Part of the charge of this taskforce includes identifying:

  • Program features identified in the Navigant report that are most/least appealing to meeting the needs of families and children;
  • Current features of the program that should be maintained;
  • Largest unmet need of the current program;
  • Better medical management and coordination for children in foster care;
  • Additional insights not identified in the report; and
  • Identification of critical design features needed to protect the needs of children and families

If you or your organization have thoughts on the above charge, please email Amanda Ptashkin.  To learn more about the redesign process, visit www.healthyfuturega.org/issues/careforgeorgiaskids

DCH is still soliciting feedback on Navigant’s Strategy Report either through their Feedback Tool or by submitting a brief comment or question to MyOpinion@dch.ga.gov.  The deadline for submitting detailed feedback, comments or questions is February 29, 2012, at 5 p.m. (ET).


Final rules issued for new plain-language information and tools

A new survey shows that consumers aren’t satisfied with the level of customer service they receive from their health insurance plans. In fact, the industry ranked the lowest of any industry measured in this survey. Additionally, other studies have found that consumers often find health insurance jargon confusing, which makes it challenging for consumers to select a policy that best meets their needs, to know what is covered and what isn’t, and to understand their rights as consumers if disputes arise. While overshadowed by some of the other major reforms included in the law, the Affordable Care Act contains some exciting reforms for consumers in this area, including making available access to clear, plain language information about their insurance plans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued final regulations on February 9th requiring an easy-to-understand Summary of Benefits and Coverage and a uniform glossary of terms. These new tools will be available to consumers on September 23, 2012. More information is available here and here.


Hospital infection rate information now online

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has made data on hospital-acquired infections, including data for Georgia hospitals, available online. Nationally, about one in twenty patients are affected by a hospital-acquired infection. While 27 states require disclosure of patient safety information such as data on hospital-acquired infections, Georgia does not, making this new online resource an important tool for Georgia consumers. Georgia Watch, which has spearheaded support for public disclosure of this information in Georgia for years, has more information here.


Bump It Up a Buck Coalition Maintains Momentum in 2012

Members of the Bump It Up a Buck coalition (including Georgians for a Healthy Future) are working together to maintain the momentum needed to secure an increase in the consumption tax on cigarettes by $1.  Experts say the measure would reduce smoking levels in the state, improve the health of all Georgians and conservatively generate more than $340 million in new tax revenue for the state each year. As part of our efforts to increase awareness of the issue, members of the coalition will participate in the first celebration of national Kick Butts Day to be held in Atlanta since 2008. The event will be held on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, and will include a rally on the steps of the Capitol and online activities as well. Georgia currently has the 48th lowest per pack tax in the nation at only 37 cents (national average: $1.46). You can show your support for the initiative by joining the hundreds who Like the idea at http://www.facebook.com/BumpItUpaBuck.

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Peach Pulse: February 6, 2012


What’s New in Georgia

2012 Legislative Session Update

Fifteen days of the 2012 Legislative Session have passed.  Last week, the House passed the Amended FY 2012 budget  with several changes to the Governor’s proposal. Both the House and Senate are continuing to hold hearings throughout the week on the FY 2013 budget.


Health Insurance Exchange Stalls in Georgia

Georgia lags other states in progress towards establishing a health insurance exchange as authorized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite the fact that Georgia stands to experience one of the largest drops in the uninsured as a result of the ACA reforms, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. At our Health Care Unscrambled breakfast in January, a panel of Georgia policymakers discussed prospects for a health insurance exchange and indicated that exchange legislation would not move through the General Assembly in 2012. Nevertheless, Representative Pat Gardner has introduced HB 801 to establish a Georgia health insurance marketplace, or exchange. Please thank Representative Gardner for taking a stand on this important issue! For recent news articles on health insurance exchanges and Georgia, click here and here.


Modernizing Medicaid and PeachCare

The Department of Community Health recently released a long-anticipated Strategy Report from Navigant, the consulting firm hired to evaluate the state’s redesign options for Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare programs.  The Strategy Report includes a national and Georgia-specific environmental scan of Medicaid and CHIP programs, as well as three delivery options for DCH to consider as it moves into the Procurement and Implementation Phases of the redesign process. To read DCH’s press release on the Navigant Report, click here.  To read the report and appendices, click here.

The next part of the Recommendation Phase includes an analysis and evaluation of the Strategy Report with the goal of finalizing the redesign model by April 2012.  DCH is soliciting feedback on the Strategy Report either through their Feedback Tool or by submitting a brief comment or question to MyOpinion@dch.ga.gov.  The deadline for submitting detailed feedback, comments or questions is February 29, 2012, at 5 p.m. (ET).

In order to assist health care advocates as they respond to the Navigant report, Georgians for a Healthy Future has designed a mircosite to house all relevant information on this on-going process.  Visit www.healthyfuturega.org/issues/careforgeorgiaskids to find a study commissioned by Georgians for a Healthy Future and Voices for Georgia’s Children featuring our recommendations for modernizing Medicaid and PeachCare to improve coverage rates, access to care, and health outcomes for Georgia children eligible for these programs; the Navigant report and appendices; and other resources on Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare programs.


Bump It Up a Buck

With the 2012 Legislative Session underway, the Bump it Up a Buck campaign is once again advocating for a $1 per pack increase in the state’s tobacco tax. Raising cigarette taxes is one of the most effective ways to reduce smoking, particularly among Georgia’s kids, and will raise important new revenue for the state. Georgians for a Healthy Future is proud to be a part of the Bump It Up a Buck coalition along with leading members the American Cancer Society, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Cancer Action Network of the American Cancer Society, the Georgia Society of Clinical Oncology, and the Georgia Public Health Association. To learn more and to get involved, visit www.BumpItUpaBuck.org.


Update on Essential Health Benefits

Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring developments at the federal level that will impact benefits and consumer protections for new individual and small group health plans in Georgia beginning in 2014. In December, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), the division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charged with implementing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) related to private health insurance, released a bulletin on the essential health benefits (EHB) that all new plans will need to include.

The bulletin allows states to select the EHB for plans in their state from ten benchmark plan options. These include: (1) any of the three largest Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) plans by enrollment, (2) any of the three largest state employee health benefit plans by enrollment, (3) the largest plan by enrollment in any of the three largest small group insurance products offered in the state, or (4) the largest commercial non-Medicaid Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan in the state.

Information about which plans these are in Georgia can be found here. Georgia has not yet made a benchmark selection from among these plans, and we are working to identify more specifics about the benefit packages within these plans. We will keep advocates informed as we learn more about this ongoing process. If you’re also monitoring developments around EHB, please share information with us so we can communicate it to a range of health care advocates.

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Peach Pulse: December 22, 2011


At Georgians for a Healthy Future, we envision a day in which all Georgians will have the quality, affordable health care they need to lead healthy lives and contribute to the health of their communities. Working towards this vision takes many forms: talking directly with local community members throughout Georgia about the health care issues they’re facing; partnering with other organizations to form coalitions to build and mobilize support for better health care policies to address these needs; and engagement with policymakers to extend health care coverage to more Georgians, expand access to care, and ultimately improve health outcomes. We couldn’t do any of this without YOU! Thank you for telling us your health care stories, for collaborating with us on shared goals, for volunteering with us, and for contributing your time and dollars to our health care advocacy efforts.

Please consider supporting Georgians for a Healthy Future with a financial contribution. As a nonprofit organization, our work is funded through foundation grants and contributions from supporters like you. Please provide your support and stand with us as we fight to improve health care for Georgia consumers.

Have a happy and healthy Holiday Season!


What’s New in Georgia
Georgians for a Healthy Future Executive Director Named as NAIC Consumer Liaison Representative

Our Executive Director, Cindy Zeldin, was named by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) as one of 28 consumer liaison representatives from across the country for 2012. The NAIC/Consumer Liaison Committee assists the NAIC in its mission to support state insurance regulation by providing consumer views on insurance regulatory issues and provides a forum for ongoing dialogue between NAIC Members and Consumer Representatives. This appointment comes at a critical time, as the NAIC has been delegated a central role in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act by establishing standards, definitions, and consulting on model regulations—policy choices that will have a big impact on health care consumers here in Georgia and around the country. The NAIC news release is available here.


Georgia Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee Issues Final Report

The Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee issued its final report this week, calling for the development of a small business health insurance marketplace outside the context of the exchange framework authorized by the Affordable Care Act but failing to explicitly recommend the establishment of a health insurance exchange for individual consumers. Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director, a member of the committee, wrote a minority report calling for Georgia to take advantage of the opportunity to cover the uninsured and improve our health insurance marketplace by building a Georgia exchange in 2012. You can read the committee report, the minority report, and all other supplemental materials here.


Healthcare Unscrambled

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 2nd Annual Policy Breakfast

Health Care Unscrambled, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s annual policy breakfast, brings together health care policymakers, stakeholders, experts, and advocates for an energizing look ahead at the top health issues facing our state as the 2012 Legislative Session gets underway. Please be sure to register today! This year’s breakfast will be on Thursday, January 12th from 8 AM to 10:30 AM and boasts:

• A panel discussion with Georgia legislators and state officials, including Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, Representative Pat Gardner, Representative Richard Smith, Senator Renee Unterman, and Senator Nan Orrock

• A keynote presentation from Dr. Len Nichols, one of the nation’s leading health economists

• Highlights from GHF’s forums and workshops with community leaders across the state

• GHF’s 2012 policy priorities announced

To purchase tickets or to become a sponsor of the event, click here. We hope to see you in January!

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Peach Pulse: November 22, 2011


 

What We Are Thankful For

At Georgians for a Healthy Future, we envision a day in which all Georgians will have the quality, affordable health care they need to lead healthy lives and contribute to the health of their communities. Working towards this vision takes many forms: talking directly with local community members throughout Georgia about the health care issues they’re facing; partnering with other organizations to form coalitions to build and mobilize support for better health care policies to address these needs; and engagement with policymakers to extend health care coverage to more Georgians, expand access to care, and ultimately improve health outcomes. We couldn’t do any of this without YOU!  Thank you for telling us your health care stories, for collaborating with us on shared goals, for volunteering with us, and for contributing your time and dollars to our health care advocacy efforts.
Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!


What’s New in Georgia
Advocacy Demystified: Tools and Strategies for Effective Consumer Health Advocacy

Advocacy may seem overwhelming, but it’s a lot easier–and can have a bigger impact–than you might imagine.  You already have the knowledge, passion, and commitment to be a successful and effective health care advocate.  All you need are the right tools.  Today we are releasing our latest issue brief: Advocacy Demystified: Tools and Strategies for Effective Consumer Health Advocacy, to arm you with the tools you need to advocate for health care change and empower you to start making a difference in your communities. This is a tool meant for sharing so feel free to send to any individuals or organizations who you think would find it useful. Click here to access the issue brief.


Georgia’s health insurance exchange committee finalizes work, receives national press

The final report of the Governor’s health insurance exchange advisory committee is expected on December 15th. The committee held its last full meeting on October 27th (click here for meeting minutes) and is now drafting the final report, which is expected to be the basis for legislation in 2012 reforming Georgia’s health insurance marketplace through the establishment of an exchange. The work of the committee received attention in the Washington Post and Kaiser Health News this week. Georgians for a Healthy Future is representing the consumer voice on the committee and will continue to provide updates and advocacy opportunities on this process as they arise. To see Georgians for a Healthy Future’s priorities for a consumer-friendly health insurance exchange, download our brief here.


Developing essential health benefits: Opportunity to provide input

Beginning in 2014, many health insurance plans, including those to be offered through the new state-based health insurance exchanges, must cover a minimum package of preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic services and products comparable to those offered in a typical employment-based plan. The specifics of the package are being developed right now by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and HHS has encouraged consumer advocates to provide input. Here is how to weigh in:

Step 1: Learn more about essential health benefits and this process by reading issue summaries here and here or by participating in an upcoming webinar hosted by the National Academy for State Health Policy here.

Step 2: Prepare and e-mail your comments to ExternalAffairs@HHS.gov. HHS has requested that comments address some or all of the following 5 points below:

  • In keeping with the title of the Institute of Medicine report “Essential Health Benefits—Balancing Coverage and Cost,” how can the Department best meet the dual goals of balancing the comprehensiveness of coverage included in essential health benefits and affordability?
  • How might the Department ensure that essential health benefits reflect an appropriate balance among the categories so that they are not unduly weighted toward any category?
  • What policy principles and criteria should be taken into account to prevent discrimination against individuals because of their age, disability status, or expected length of life as the Affordable Care Act requires?
  • What models should HHS consider in developing essential health benefits?
  • What criteria should be used to update essential health benefits over time and what should the process be for their modification?

Events and Forums

 

Building a Healthy Georgia: Widening the Safety Net and Ensuring Greater Access to Care

On Wednesday, November 30th, Georgians for a Healthy Future is hosting a Building a Healthy Georgia Event in Savannah.  The focus will be on widening the safety net and ensuring greater access to care for Georgians living in the Coastal Region. We’ll cover topics including:

  • Local perspectives on the specific health care challenges facing the coastal region
  • How the Affordable Care Act impacts the community and individuals; Georgia’s opportunity to customize
  • Widening the safety net and expanding access to care
  • Medicaid redesign and upcoming 2014 expansion

The event will take place at the Coastal Georgia Center from 4 PM to 6 PM. For more information and to register for the event, click here.

SAVE THE DATE: Healthcare Unscrambled 2012

Health Care Unscrambled, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s annual policy breakfast, brings together health care policymakers, stakeholders, experts, and advocates for an energizing look ahead at the top health issues facing our state as the 2012 Legislative Session gets underway.  Please be sure to save the date!  This year’s breakfast will be on Thursday, January 12th from 8 AM to 10:30 AM and boasts:

  • A panel discussion with Georgia legislators and state officials, including Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, Representative Pat Gardner, Representative Richard Smith, and several more to be announced
  • A keynote presentation from Dr. Len Nichols, one of the nation’s leading health economists
  • Highlights from GHF’s forums and workshops with community leaders across the state
  • GHF’s 2012 policy priorities announced
To purchase tickets or to become a sponsor of the event, click here.  We hope to see you in January!
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Peach Pulse: November 4, 2011


What’s New in Georgia
Reforming Georgia’s Health Insurance Marketplace: All About Exchanges

Earlier this week, Georgians for a Healthy Future joined with 150 health care advocacy organizations across the country to submit public comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on their proposed federal rule regarding health insurance exchanges, the new state-level health insurance marketplaces that will take shape across the country in 2014. One of the most important pieces of this process is making sure that the exchange works for consumers and not just for insurance companies. That’s why we joined in recommending that HHS prohibit people with conflicts of interest from serving on the governing body and take steps to ensure adequate representation of consumer interests. You can read the full public comments here.

Meanwhile, the Governor’s Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee has been meeting to make recommendations for a new health insurance marketplace in Georgia. The committee held its fifth and final full meeting on October 27th with a final report due to Governor Deal by December 15th. You can download all subcommittee reports, as presented at last Thursday’s meeting, here and the minutes from the meeting here. To read a recent Georgia Health News article highlighting the recent work of the Exchange Committee, click here.  It is also important to work towards ensuring consumer protections at the state level. As the lone consumer representative on the committee, we will continue to advocate for policy choices that are good for consumers and will share updates on this process and opportunities for advocacy as they arise. You can learn more about Georgians for a Healthy Future’s priorities for building a consumer-friendly exchange by downloading our issue brief here. If your organization would like to learn more about this important issue as you prepare for the 2012 Legislative Session, during which exchange legislation is expected, please contact us and we will be happy to give you additional information or possibly provide a briefing for your group.

Department of Community Health’s Medicaid Redesign Project Continues, Advocates Weigh In

Over the last several weeks, Navigant, the consulting firm hired by the Georgia Department of Community Health to oversee the Medicaid Redesign assessment, has been conducting focus groups across the state as part of the environmental scan stage of the process.  They have met with providers, consumers, advocates and vendors.

To ensure consumer health advocates have the information and tools to weigh in on this process, Georgians for a Healthy Future and our partner organizations have been monitoring the redesign process with an eye towards advocates for changes that improve health care coverage, access, and quality. In a few days, Georgians for a Healthy Future will launch a web page where we will house timely and relevant information to help advocates like you exercise your voice in this process.

Opportunity to Provide Input to HHS on Essential Health Benefits

Beginning in 2014, many health insurance plans, including those to be offered through the new state-basedhealth insurance exchanges, must cover a minimum package of preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic services and products comparable to those offered in a typical employment-based plan. HHS is seeking input from stakeholders by holding regional listening sessions. The Region IV listening session will be held in Atlanta on November 16th from 10am to 12pm at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center. RSVPs are accepted on a first come, first serve basis. To RSVP for this opportunity to provide input in this process, e-mail your name, title, organization, e-mail address, and phone number to the HHS Regional Office at ORDAtlanta@hhs.gov.

Upcoming Georgia Health Agency Meetings

The new Department of Public Health will hold its next monthly board meeting on November 8th. Details are available here.  The Department of Community Health’s board meets on November 10th. Those meeting details are available here.


A New Resource Guide on Affordable Care Act Grants

The Affordable Care Act authorized a range of grants that states, communities, and other entities can apply to receive for certain health care initiatives such as prevention, public health, and provider workforce development. A new guide presenting clear, easy-to-find, accurate information on the pilot projects, grants, and workforce development initiatives is now available. It includes a directory of departments and offices in charge of administering the programs. Included is a grant description, application timeline, most recent appropriation and information on eligibility requirements.  To access the guide, click here.


Events and Forums

Building a Healthy Georgia: The Impact of Health Care Reform on Central Georgia’s 50+ Community

On Tuesday, November 15th, Georgians for a Healthy Future and AARP of Georgia are hosting a Building a Healthy Georgia Event in Macon.  The focus will be on the impact of health care reform on central Georgia’s 50+ community. We’ll answer questions like:

  • What does the law means for uninsured adults aged 50+?
  • How will the individual insurance market change?
  • How will the law help me pay for my prescription drugs?
  • What will it take to make the ACA work for all Georgia citizens?
The event will take place at the Macon Marriott Convention Center from 2 PM to 4 PM. For more information and to register for the event, click here.

The Prevalence and Toll of Diabetes on Georgia

On Tuesday, November 22nd, Georgians for a Healthy Future will hold a webinar training for D-ATLAS, a unique tool that enables health advocates and policymakers to map health disparities in diagnose