Peach Pulse: January 18, 2011

What’s New in Georgia

The 2011 Legislative Session is Underway

Last week, the Georgia General Assembly briefly convened amid the ice and snow to begin the 40-day Legislative Session. Both the House and the Senate leadership have released committee assignments. In the House, the key committees for health care-related legislation are Insurance (Chair:  Representative Richard Smith), Health and Human Services (Chair:  Representative Sharon Cooper), and Appropriations (Chair:  Representative Terry England). On the Senate side, they are Insurance and Labor (Chair: Senator Greg Goggans), Health and Human Services (Chair:  Senator Renee Unterman), and Appropriations (Chair:  Senator Jack Hill). Information on the House Committee assignments is available here. Information on the Senate Committee assignments is available here. The Legislature is in adjournment this week for budget hearings. The Department of Community Health budget briefing is scheduled for this Thursday, January 20th, at 10am in Room 341 of the State Capitol. Other budget briefings of interest on Thursday include the Department of Human Services budget briefing at 9am and the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities briefing at 11am.

Georgians for a Healthy Future will be monitoring health care-related developments throughout the 2011 Legislative Session. Click here to learn about our 2011 policy priorities and here to identify your state legislators. We also now have a calendar featuring a range of health care advocacy events associated with the 2011 Legislative Session available on our site. If you’d like to get involved with a lobby day or deepen your engagement in health care advocacy, please contact Amanda Ptashkin, our Outreach & Advocacy Director.

Georgians for a Healthy Future Calls for Transparent and Systematic Health Reform Implementation in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To make the most of the Affordable Care Act, Georgia should move swiftly to establish a commission to proactively coordinate the pieces of the law our state is required to put into place, such as an expansion of Medicaid, design elements that we can tailor for our state’s needs, such as the new health insurance exchanges, and maximize grants to strengthen our public health system and our health care workforce. A commission or task force could offer diverse input, including from the consumer, who is often overlooked. Some of this work is already happening informally within state agencies, but a systematic and transparent process accessible to consumers and stakeholders will ensure opportunities aren’t missed, all pertinent perspectives are heard and cross-cutting issues are handled efficiently. For the full article, click here.

Governor Deal Releases Budget Proposals

On Wednesday, Governor Deal released his budget proposals. The FY 2012 budget proposal for the Department of Community Health features a one percent Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids provider rate cut; the elimination of vision, dental, and podiatry services for adults within the Medicaid program; additional co-pays for patients within Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids; and reductions in funding for public health programs, among other provisions. While larger provider rate cuts had been anticipated, taken together, these budget cuts stand to negatively impact access to care for some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.  For more information on the Governor’s health care budget proposals, click here. Additional details about the proposed budget will become available during the budget hearings on Thursday and at the February Department of Community Health Board Meeting. For more information on the state budget, see the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s budget primer. For information on the budget process, see the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.

Health Insurance Exchange Planning Continues

Georgians for a Healthy Future is actively engaged in the Health Insurance Exchange Feasibility Study currently underway. Under the Affordable Care Act, an exchange, or structured health insurance marketplace, must be up and running in each state by 2014. While most of the participants in the workgroups are representing the insurance industry, Georgians for a Healthy Future is representing the consumer voice in these meetings. As one of the central elements of implementation of the new health law, making the exchange work for consumers is critical. The next full meeting is this Friday, January 21st. For more information about the exchange concept and the key benchmarks to build an effective exchange, click here.

Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness Issues Final Report

The Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness has released its final recommendations to the Legislature. While there is a recommendation within the final report to increase the tobacco tax to the regional average, Georgians for a Healthy Future has joined with other advocates to oppose this 31 cent increase and instead call for at least a $1 per pack increase in the tobacco tax. A 31 cent increase still places Georgia’s tobacco tax well below the national average and is insufficient to have a quantifiable impact on deterring youth smoking rates (keeping kids from starting to use tobacco and getting others to quit). A $1 per pack increase, by contrast, has clear health benefits and would bring much needed revenue to our state at a time when other vital health care programs within the state budget are being cut.

The Affordable Care Act and You
Health Reform Implementation Grant Opportunities for States in 2011

As states, medical providers, and community health centers, among others, prepare for full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the new law provides a range of grant opportunities to improve access to quality health care. Last month, Families USA released a compilation of selected grant opportunities that pertain to health care coverage and access, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Grants, Demonstration Projects, and Enhanced Federal Funding Opportunities Available in 2011.”  While not exhaustive, it is a useful document to determine the types of opportunities currently available in 2011.  To access the report, click here.

National News
Repeal Efforts Renewed This Week

Though the 112th Congress is only a few days old, a major issue is already taking center stage: repeal of the new health law.  This Wednesday, January 19, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on HR 2, a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. On Wednesday, January 19, please take a moment to let your Representative know that Georgians do not want our new health care protections taken away. Call 1-888-876-6242 and tell Congress to vote NO on the HR 2.

The cost of repeal is just too great.  Approximately 43,500 young adults would lose their insurance coverage through their parents’ health plans.  An estimated 80,400 on Medicare would see significantly higher prescription drug costs.  Repeal would also strip tax credits from 120,300 Georgia small businesses.  Beyond these setbacks, the financial burden is also overwhelming.  The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that repeal of the law will add $230 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.  To read recent reports on the cost of repeal, click here and here.

On Wednesday, January 19, please take a moment to tell your Representative that Georgians have already started seeing the benefits of the law and what reform means to you.  Call 1-888-876-6242 and tell Congress to vote NO on the HR 2.