Peach Pulse: June 30, 2011

What’s New in Georgia

Georgia Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee Begins Work

The first meeting of the newly appointed Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee was held on June 6th. The committee, consisting of 25 members, heard presentations from the Governor’s staff and was given its charge to determine whether Georgia should establish an exchange and whether there should be a single exchange for small businesses and individuals or whether there should be separate exchanges. Information about the committee and the committee meetings is housed on the state of Georgia website here.

State-based health insurance exchanges are a central feature of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will serve as the mechanism for restructuring the individual and small group health insurance marketplaces. If designed well, the exchange can facilitate apples-to-apples comparisons of health insurance options for consumers, make these choices more affordable by providing access to substantial tax credits authorized by the ACA, and navigate consumers who are eligible for the Medicaid or PeachCare for Kids programs to those options. Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director was appointed to the committee to represent the consumer voice. To see our priorities for the exchange, read our recent op-ed on this issue here.

Still, we want your input! Please share your priorities for the exchange with us. If you have questions about the exchange or would like to learn more, please also be in touch and we can brief you about the details.   To view other states’ progress on setting up exchanges, click here to view a Commonwealth Fund map.

Cuts to Medicaid Will Harm Georgia’s Economy

Congressional proposals to reduce federal Medicaid support to states and turn the program into a block grant would stunt the economic recovery in Georgia by placing business activity and thousands of jobs at risk while shifting new costs to Georgia at a time when the state can least afford it. According to a new report released this week from the national consumer health advocacy organization Families USA, here in Georgia the proposed cuts could translate to as much as $1.9 billion in lost federal funding and place $4.4 billion in business activity and 38,420 jobs at risk.

Please contact your member of Congress and send the message: Don’t jeopardize Georgia’s fragile economic recovery and the health and economic security of seniors, people living with disabilities and low-income families by simply shifting costs onto individuals, families and the state.  Don’t cut Medicaid. If you don’t know who your member of Congress is, you can find out this information here.

For more specifics on the Georgia data, you can download a new fact sheet from Georgians for a Healthy Future and the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute here.  You can also download the full report from Families USA here.

Pathways to Coverage
Figuring out how to purchase insurance for yourself or your family is a confusing process, particularly if you have a pre-existing condition or are unable to afford coverage.  To help consumers navigate the system, Georgians for a Healthy Future has a new fact sheet called Pathways to Coverage. It’s a basic one-page overview of where and how you can access health insurance in Georgia today, and provides you contact information for relevant resources. If you interact with patients and consumers, please share with them, or any other individuals or organizations who you think would find it useful. Click here to access the fact sheet.

Starting July 1st, Insurance Companies Can Offer Stripped-Down Policies in Georgia
Throughout the 2011 Legislative Session, Georgians for a Healthy Future worked in coalition with a range of patient, consumer, and primary care advocacy groups to raise concerns about House Bill 47, which would allow Georgia insurance companies to sell individual health insurance products with benefit designs equivalent to those sold in other states, circumventing current Georgia standards for basic consumer protections and essential medical services that all insurers must cover today under Georgia law. Unfortunately, the legislation passed and was signed into the law by the Governor. It takes effect tomorrow. For a recent article on House Bill 47, click here.

New Changes to Take Effect July 1 for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP)
The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan, a new option for uninsured consumers who are locked out of the insurance market due to a pre-existing health condition, has had lower than anticipated enrollment since it became available in late 2010. To make the program more accessible, starting July 1st premiums will be reduced by 15% in Georgia and applicants no longer have to produce a letter of denial from an insurance company but can instead supply documentation from their physician that they do have a pre-existing condition. The requirement to have been uninsured for six months has not been changed. To date, 608 people in Georgia have enrolled in the plan. To download our updated fact sheet on the PCIP, click here. To apply for the PCIP, click here. For a recent report from the Commonwealth Fund on how the program is working around the country, click here.

Forums and Events

Building a Healthy Georgia: Exploring Policies and Practices to Improve Children’s Access to Health Care Services

Georgians for a Healthy Future, along with partnering groups HealthSTAT and Voices for Georgia’s Children, invites you to participate in a community conversation centered around the barriers that children face when accessing vital health care services in Augusta.  With your active engagement, the goal of this symposium is to catalyze a statewide effort to advocate for policy and practice changes to remove existing access barriers and strengthen the overall health care delivery system in Georgia.  Please share this information with your contacts and partners in the Augusta area and encourage them to attend.

WHEN:        Thursday, August 25th, 1:00 PM to 3:00 PM
WHERE:      The Salvation Army Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center of Augusta
CONTACT:  For questions, please contact Amanda Ptashkin.  To RSVP, click here.  While we request RSVP, please note that there is no cost to attend this event.

Sandra Mobley,PhD, RN, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Georgia Health Sciences University
Joann Yoon,JD, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health, Voices for Georgia’s Children
Denise Kornegay,MSW, Program Director,AHEC Network
Michelle Putnam,MPH, Executive Director, HealthSTAT
Amanda Ptashkin,JD,Outreach and Advocacy Director, Georgians for a Healthy Future

To learn more about this event, click here.

Campaign for Better Care Advocates for Quality Reforms
The Campaign for Better Care is a new effort that aims to ensure that our health care system provides the comprehensive, coordinated, patient- and family-centered care that individuals want and need. Here in Atlanta, Georgians for a Healthy Future joined with coalition partners Georgia Watch, Piedmont Healthcare, Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, The Center for Pan Asian Community Services, and the Urban League of Greater Atlanta in a town hall conversation about safely and effectively navigating healthcare today earlier this week to kick off the effort. To learn more about the campaign or to learn what you can do to support this effort, click here.

National News

6th Circuit Appellate Court Upholds Individual Mandate
In a 2-1 ruling issued this week, the United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld the constitutionality of the requirement to purchase health insurance in the Affordable Care Act. The 6th circuit is the first appellate court to rule on the issue; cases are pending before the 4th circuit and 11th circuit court of appeals. Full coverage of the ruling is available here.