Peach Pulse, March 2015

Legislative Update

georgia-capital-buildingWith Crossover Day behind us, we are fast approaching the 40th and final legislative day for the year, April 2nd.  This week, GHF spoke with House Insurance Chairman Richard Smith about what he saw as the most important role he played as chairman. You might be surprised with his answer – click the image below to watch the video!

With just a little more than two weeks to go, here’s an update on health care legislation important to Georgia health care consumers.  For a detailed chart of every health care bill we’re watching, click here.

The FY 2016 Budget passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate. The Senate expects to finish their revisions to the budget this week, possibly with some new revenue. They will then send it back to the House and then to a conference committee before it is finalized.

Medicaid Parity:  The Senate proposed $5.9 million in increased reimbursements for certain OB/GYN services and $13.6 million for certain primary care services, which is an increase over the House of Representatives’ proposal ($2.96 million for OB/GYN and $1.5 million for primary care services). Because Medicaid parity has been shown to be an effective strategy for improving access to care for consumers, GHF supports raising Medicaid reimbursement rates to parity with Medicare rates. We are advocating for a higher appropriation amount for Medicaid reimbursement rate increases as the budget moves through the process.  Click here to read Georgia Health News’s coverage of this latest development.

SBIRT Resolution:  Senate HHS Chairwoman Renee Unterman officially introduced SR 487 to form a Senate Study Committee on preventing youth substance use disorders. Through GHF’s work with the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, we are advocating for a public health approach to substance use disorders that focuses on prevention. This resolution gets the conversation started about how to do that in Georgia. Please take the time to thank Senator Unterman for her support of this effort and to let your elected officials know you support SR 487.

SB 158: (Sen. Burke) provides certain consumer and provider protections regarding health insurance, including network adequacy language. SB 158 has been referred to the Senate Insurance Committee where it received a hearing on Wednesday, March 3.  GHF provided testimony in committee, focusing specifically on the network adequacy component of the bill. GHF also met with committee members individually about the bill after the committee hearing to talk about why it is an important issue for consumers.  While the bill is not expected to move in its current form this legislative session, there will likely be a study committee on the network adequacy component. GHF has identified network adequacy as an important consumer issue and plans to remain engaged on this topic as discussions move forward.

Closing the Coverage Gap: No hearings have been scheduled or are pending to address the possibility of expanding Medicaid in Georgia. Closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would open a pathway to health insurance for approximately 300,000 uninsured Georgians, an approach which GHF supports.  Two bills have been introduced to address Georgia’s coverage gap (HR 226 and SB 38), although neither crossed over. Please thank the cosponsors of these bills, Rep. Rahn Mayo and Senator Vincent Fort, for their support and show your support by filling out a postcard that we’ll mail to your legislators!

Tobacco Tax:  No additional standalone proposals have been made to increase Georgia’s tobacco tax (other than HB 445 as previously reported).  The Senate however, may respond to the House proposal on transportation funding by including a tobacco tax increase to the regional average of around 68 cents. Importantly, Alabama’s Governor is proposing an increase in their state tobacco tax to $1.25 per pack, which would increase the regional average.  GHF continues to advocate for an increase to the national average by raising our tobacco tax by $1.23.  Such an increase would generate $585 million per year according to the fiscal note generated by the non-partisan fiscal office at GSU.  Check out our fact sheet for more info!

Medicaid Minute

Opponents often argue that closing Georgia’s coverage gap would be too expensive for our state, but data from states that expanded their Medicaid programs in 2014 contradict that claim.  According to a new study, closing the coverage gap produced big savings and increased revenues for states.

Early data from Kentucky and Arkansas show state budget savings that will offset the costs of covering the newly eligible Medicaid population beyond state fiscal year (SFY) 2021. Kentucky expects to see $820 million in net savings over the next seven years, while Arkansas expects to see $370 million over the same time period.  The savings and increased revenues fall into three major categories: 1) State savings from using new federal funds; 2) State savings from enhanced federal matching; 3) Revenue gains from provider and insurer taxes/fees.

The full issue brief, complete with a summary table of Medicaid-related savings and revenues in both states, can be found here.

GHF Welcomes New Navigator!

PranayPranaya Rana joined Georgians for a Healthy Future this week as our new Navigator! In this role, Pranaya will work with consumers to help them enroll in health insurance through the Marketplace.  Pranaya is a former Lieutenant from the Nepalese Army Elite Forces. He has served as a U.N. Peacekeeper in post-earthquake Haiti and as a Refugee Resettlement Program Officer in Connecticut before he came to Kennesaw State University, Georgia to pursue his Ph.D. in International Conflict Management in 2012.   He has been working as a certified Healthcare Navigator in Metro Atlanta since the first open enrollment began in 2013. He recently completed his 6 months long Navigator’s term at Georgia Watch before joining Georgians For a Healthy Future.  He specializes in refugees and international communities and has served a wide variety of international communities enroll into affordable healthcare using a community specific service model developed through continued outreach, education and  needs assessment. He is Fluent in Nepali and Hindi besides English, and, speaks Urdu and intermediate French. If you’d like to contact Pranaya by email or at 404-567-5016.

Using your Coverage: Tax-Time Special Enrollment Period

taxesDid you go without health insurance in 2014 and are now subject to a tax penalty? Good news! – You may still be able to enroll in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Starting last Saturday, March 15th, some people who are facing a fine on their taxes for not having coverage can now enroll in the Marketplace through a time-limited special enrollment period. To be eligible for this special enrollment period, you must not be currently enrolled in health insurance, attest that you owe the penalty for 2014, and attest that you first became aware of the penalty when you filed your 2014 taxes. This tax-related special enrollment period will run through April 30th, 2015.  Click here to learn more about who can qualify for this special enrollment period.

Health Advocates Day at the Capitol – 3/25

informationPlease join us on Wednesday, March 25, from 8:45 am to mid-day for a morning of advocacy!  GHF will provide individuals and organizations with the opportunity to advocate for the important health issues that matter to you in the closing days of this legislative session.  You may want to advocate for closing the coverage gap, Medicaid payment parity, raising the tobacco tax, rural health care access, or another health policy issue.  You’re all invited to participate!  We’ll provide breakfast, an advocacy training, and an opportunity to share and network with other health advocates.

To sign up, click here.  If you have any questions, please contact Laura Colbert.

Post-Legislative Session Webinar

Mark your calendars!  Please join GHF and Laura Colbert for a post-legislative session webinar. The webinar is free and will provide a review of bills, resolutions, and other actions taken by the Georgia General Assembly that will affect health care and health policy in our state.

Date:Thursday, April 9

Time:12:00 – 1:00 EST

Sign up here!


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