Peach Pulse: September 24, 2010

What’s New in Georgia

Care Beyond College

September 23rd marked the 6-month anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act.  On the 23rd, several key provisions impacting children and families took effect.  To highlight these new provisions and what they mean for Georgia families, Georgians for a Healthy Future hosted a public forum at Emory University entitled “Care Beyond College.”  Among the elements of the law now in effect is a provision allowing young adults up to age 26 to remain on a parent’s insurance plan regardless of school status. Other pieces of the Affordable Care Act that went into effect this week include the elimination of lifetime benefit caps, a requirement that there be no cost sharing tied to preventive services in private health plans, the elimination of pre-existing condition exclusions for children, among others. A summary of the new provisions now in effect can be found here.

At Thursday’s “Care Beyond College” event, a line-up of speakers shared their unique perspectives on the health law and the new provisions.  Joann Yoon, Associate Policy Director of Child Health for Voices for Georgia’s Children, explained how the new provisions will work and shared a personal story about her experience trying to maintain coverage when she graduated from law school. Dr. Minesh Shah, a Primary Care Internal Medicine Physician at Grady Health System, shared his experiences in serving young adults who often go without coverage to the detriment of their health and often times their academics.  Dr. Michael Huey, Executive Director of the Emory Student Health and Counseling Services, was on hand to speak specifically to the Emory community and how changes in the Affordable Care Act will affect the student plan on campus.  Vicky Kimbrell, a parent and legal services attorney, shared her personal story of being a health care attorney with an uninsurable 22-year old who will now benefit from the dependent care provision of the law.  To round out the forum, Representative Pat Gardner shared her thoughts on the legislature’s role in making sure implementation goes smoothly and works for Georgia’s families.

Several resources and information sheets were shared to further explain the new provisions of the law.  For the U.S. PIRG “The Young Person’s Guide to Health Insurance,” click here.  For the Center for Children and Families briefing, “September 23 Health Care Reforms: Making Insurance Work for Children and Families,” click here.  For the Georgia “Getting Covered” fact sheet, click here.

Nearly Two Million Georgians Uninsured in 2009

On September 16th, the Census Bureau released new figures on health insurance in the United States. In 2009, the number of uninsured Americans topped 50 million, propelled by unprecedented declines in employer-sponsored coverage during the recession. Here in Georgia, there were 1.9 million individuals without health insurance, or one in five Georgians. The Affordable Care Act will extend coverage to most of these uninsured Georgians by 2014, when the law is fully implemented. To read the Census Bureau’s report on the new health insurance figures, click here. To read more about the implications for Georgia, click here.

Health Care 2010 and Beyond: A Symposium Exploring the Health Care Law and What it Means for Georgia

During the month of September, Georgians for a Healthy Future partnered with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Voices for Georgia’s Children, and AARP to engage community leaders, public health professionals, medical providers, and other stakeholders in six cities throughout the state of Georgia in a discussion about the Affordable Care Act and what it means for Georgia. We visited Athens, Rome, Butler, Tifton, Macon, and Savannah. If you are interested in copies of the power point presentations that the speakers gave or in the materials we distributed, please e-mail us. You can also view our photos from the symposia here.

Public Health Commission Meeting Underscores Need to Highlight Importance of Public Health

The Public Health Commission, charged by the Georgia Legislature with identifying and recommending an appropriate organizational structure for the Division of Public Health, held its third meeting in Atlanta on September 13th.  The Commission heard from legislators, state officials, and policy experts. The legislators highlighted the need for clearer communication between the Division of Public Health and legislators about the mission and function of public health in Georgia. According to the testimony, creating a new state agency in the current budgetary climate is a challenge compounded by a lack of overall confusion within the Legislature about the role of public health. More information about the Commission is available here. A presentation given by the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute at the September 13th meeting explaining public health and the state budget is available for download here. The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled for October 18th.

Next Meeting of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness

The next meeting of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness will be held on Wednesday, September 29th at 1:00 PM in the auditorium of Cecil B. Day Hall at Mercer University’s Cecil B. Day Graduate and Professional Campus in Atlanta. The purpose of the council is to study the state’s revenue structure and make recommendations for legislation by January 10, 2011. Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring the work of the council because we want to ensure that our state has adequate revenues to meet the essential health care needs of Georgia’s most vulnerable children and families. More information about the council, including meeting minutes and background materials from previous meetings, is available here.

National News
Update on the Prevention and Public Health Fund

The Prevention and Public Health Fund, a $15 billion fund designated by the Affordable Care Act for use in communities across the country to target key public health issues such as tobacco cessation and obesity prevention and to strengthen local and state public health infrastructures was at risk of being gutted through an amendment under consideration in the United States Senate last week. In a 52-46 vote, the amendment failed and this vital fund was preserved. More information about the fund is available on the website of the Trust for America’s Health. Information about last week’s Senate vote is available here.

HHS Reopens Application Process for Rate Review Grants

On September 1st, the Department of Health and Human Services reopened the application process for states to apply for federal grants of $1 million per state to review proposed health insurance premium increases and take action against unreasonable rate hikes. In the first round of applications, Georgia was one of only five states that did not apply for the grant. Only those 5 states are eligible to apply for the second round of grants, and applications are due to HHS by September 30, 2010. Should Georgia apply, this grant opportunity would enable our policymakers to develop strategies to protect consumers against unfair premium increases. More information is available here and here.

The Affordable Care Act and You

New Provisions Go in to Effect: New Resources Available

September 23 marked the 6-month anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act and with it came many new provisions that will benefit families all across Georgia.  A number of new resources are now available to explain these new provisions and help health care consumers understand exactly how they can benefit from the new changes.  Consumers Union released a consumer’s guide to health reform, available for download here. Community Catalyst has a publication, entitled “Six Months In: Who is the Affordable Care Act Benefiting in your community?”  You can read that publication here.  Additionally, Families USA has compiled several useful fact sheets, publications, videos and other useful resources describing, in detail, the new protections.   You can access that information here.

Health Reform Hits Main Street

Got a few minutes to be entertained and educated at the same time? This new animated video from the Kaiser Family Foundation hits the highlights of the Affordable Care Act in a fun-to-watch and easy-to-digest format. Share it with all of your friends! A new health reform gateway from the Kaiser Family Foundation also features a customizable health reform implementation timeline and an interactive map of the United States containing state-by-state health care data and news.

Health Reform and Rural Communities

Rural communities in Georgia face a unique set of health care challenges, particularly in the area of access to medical care. Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act aim to increase the number of physicians and health care providers practicing in rural communities. The Center for Rural Affairs analyzed the elements of the new law that target an expansion of the rural provider workforce in a new issue brief entitled “Health Care Reform, What’s In it:  Rural Communities and Rural Medical Care.” The report is available here.  Earlier this week, the Georgia Rural Health Association held its annual meeting in Young Harris, Georgia. The meeting featured a strong line up of presentations and break-out sessions.  Visit the GRHA website for more information and to obtain copies of the presentations.