Peach Pulse Archive 2015
Today 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!
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!
Cornelia, 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.
Scott 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.”
Mechul 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?
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!
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.
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