Peach Pulse: January 30, 2015

Legislative Update


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

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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