Peach Pulse: October 8, 2010

What’s New in Georgia:

New Medicaid Figures in Georgia

In December 2009, nearly 1.5 million Georgians (874,000 children and 573,000 adults) were enrolled in the Medicaid program, an increase of 8.8 percent over December 2008 figures, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In the wake of the 2009 recession and unprecedented declines in employment-based coverage, Medicaid programs across the country saw the largest leaps in enrollment since the 1960s. While the Medicaid program provided coverage to many Georgians who lost workplace health insurance and would have otherwise gone uninsured, the number of Georgians without health insurance still leapt to nearly 2 million in 2009.

The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) release provides state-by-state data on Medicaid enrollment in 2009 as well as figures on FY 2010 Medicaid spending from a 50-state survey of Medicaid officials. For more state figures, visit the snapshot here.  For the survey of Medicaid officials, click here. For a recent AJC article discussing this topic, click here.

Georgia Community Health Centers receive more than $8 million in federal funds through the Affordable Care Act

On October 8th, the Department of Health and Human Services announced $727 million in awards to 143 community health centers across the country. Over the next five years, under the Affordable Care Act, $11 billion in funding for the operation, expansion, and construction of community health centers will be available, nearly doubling the capacity of these centers to provide primary care services to patients regardless of insurance status or ability to pay. Two community health centers in Georgia received grants totaling more than $8 million. The full list of grantees is available here. For more information about community health centers in Georgia, see the Georgia Association for Primary Health Care.

Step up for Kids Day

On Monday, October 4, Voices for Georgia’s Children, in partnership with Every Child Matters, held their annual Step Up for Kids Day at the Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Center.  The speakers discussed the importance of investing in children from birth to age five, thus providing a strong foundation for their future success. Parents, teachers and legislative leaders powerfully described the need to invest in the early years of children’s lives and urged those in attendance to get involved and speak up for children’s issues.  To learn more about the event and ways you can get involved, visit the Voices for Georgia’s Children website.

Yes 2 Save Lives

With less than a month to go until the general election, efforts to improve the state of Georgia’s trauma system are in full swing.  The Yes 2 Save Lives campaign was formed to educate Georgians about the current status of trauma care across the state and to build support for a constitutional amendment to allow for an annual $10 car registration fee. Funds would be directly used to provide a dedicated funding source to improve and expand the trauma care system across the state.  Deaths from trauma injuries in Georgia are 20 percent higher than the national average.  It is estimated that funds collected will generate $80 million a year and go directly toward improving our statewide trauma care system.  To check out the latest ads from the Yes2SaveLives campaign, click here.

HealthSTAT will feature a panel of experts on trauma care at their next meeting, Wednesday, October 20, at 8:00pm at Manuel’s Tavern.  They will also have campaign materials and yard signs available.  Contact Michelle Putnam at HealthSTAT if you are interested in learning more about the campaign or need any campaign materials.

Revenues Continue to Rise in September

State revenues in September increased by 5.7 percent over September 2009 revenues, according to data released by the Georgia Department of Revenue. While this increase is good news, vital services are still at risk as the long road to recovery continues. For more information about what the revenue numbers mean and the impact on the state budget, see the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.

Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness Continues its Important Work

At a September 29th meeting, the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians which is charged with studying the state’s revenue structure and making recommendations for legislation, heard presentations from a variety of business industries, learned how city and county taxes work, and dedicated the last hour of the meeting to presentations from emerging industries in Georgia. The meeting minutes are available here.

The Affordable Care Act and You:
Georgia Preparing for Health Insurance Exchanges

Georgia has been awarded a $1 million planning grant for the development of a health insurance exchange where consumers can shop for coverage.  The Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget will administer the grant and use it do the following:

  • Form an Exchange Work Group to carry out the activities of the Georgia Health Benefit Exchange Feasibility Study. An Exchange Advisory Committee will also be formed with broader representation from key State agencies and stakeholder groups.
  • Gather stakeholder input through an advisory committee, large group meetings to educate and inform stakeholders, focus groups, and web-based surveys. Website and email notices will be used to keep stakeholders and the general public informed.
  • Determine whether or not Georgia should establish an Exchange and the implications of doing so on insurance markets both in Georgia and nationally.
  • Provide recommendations on governance structure and regulatory changes required to establish as Exchange to decision makers. Gets an Upgrade:

In an on-going effort to provide health care consumers with the most up-to-date and useful information about the new health care law, the web portal,, has added more information aimed at helping people navigate the health care waters.  On October 1, they added important new pricing and benefits information for private insurance plans offered to individuals and families, giving consumers the power to compare costs and the protections offered by different plans.  In addition, information about preventive care has been updated to reflect services that insurers are now required to cover at no cost.  To learn more about new additions to the web portal, watch this video.

New Resources Available

New resources are now available, courtesy of AARP, to help people understand the implications of the new health care law.  The first is a fact sheet that is aimed at helping people in rural areas understand what the new law means for them.  Click here to learn more. Second, AARP has held and will continue to hold a series of webinars aimed at explaining the law and what it means for different populations.  Click here to access the archived webinars or to sign up for one in the future.  Lastly, there is a helpful question and answer document aimed at highlighting and dispelling Medicare and Medicaid scams.  Click here to access that document.

Missed Opportunity: Rate Review Grant Funding

The Affordable Care made significant changes to the purchase and regulation of health insurance, including the allocation of funds for states to improve accountability and oversight over insurance industry premium increases — a rate review process open to the public. On August 16, the Department of Health and Human Services announced grant awards of $1 million apiece to forty-five states and the District of Columbia; Georgia did not apply for the funding.  Georgia was one of only five states that did not apply for the rate review funds (the other four being Alaska, Wyoming, Iowa, and Minnesota).  The application process was reopened for the five states who had not applied for the funding but Georgia has no immediate plans to apply for those funds.

Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan Briefing Now Available:

One of the earliest elements of the Affordable Care Act, the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) went into effect over the summer. In Georgia, there are an estimated 224,658 individuals who are potentially eligible for the PCIP, according to a new issue brief from the Commonwealth Fund. Georgia was one of 24 states that opted not to establish its own plan; however, uninsured Georgia consumers with pre-existing conditions can sign up for the federal PCIP. The new Commonwealth Fund report examines eligibility, benefits, premiums, cost-sharing, and oversight of the PCIP programs, as well as variation of the plans from state to state. The issue brief is available here.

National News:

On the national level, there have been many issues our partner organizations have been following. Here is an update on some of these pieces of legislation.

School Nutrition Bill Fails

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act expired on September 30, 2010 without a vote by the House of Representatives. In August, the U.S. Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307), which in part expands access to healthy school meals, establishes higher health standards for school lunches, and regulates the food available in school vending machines. On the House side, the House Education and Labor Committee passed the Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act (H.R. 5504), but the full U.S. House of Representatives had not yet voted on that legislation. Though authorization of the child nutrition programs, including school meals, the special nutrition programs for women, infants and children known as WIC and other feeding programs, expired Sept. 30, they were extended by the resolution that will fund the government until Congress returns.  Despite the setback, advocates will continue to work on this issue.  It is speculated that the issue may be taken up after the November election.

The National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act Passes House

The National Neurological Diseases Surveillance System Act (H.R. 1362) would direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to create a national surveillance program on neurological diseases, such as MS and Parkinson’s. This legislation will establish a national data surveillance system that will track and collect data on the epidemiology, incidence, prevalence, and other factors of neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s. Currently, such a national coordinated system does not exist to collect data on MS. The development of a surveillance system will address this gap by gathering all existing data on the incidence and prevalence of MS in one location. As a result, this system could help uncover and inform promising areas of MS research such as: genetic and environmental risk factors, and support the discovery of disease therapies, treatments, and one day—a cure.