Peach Pulse: April 3, 2013

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.

 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.

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.