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Peach Pulse: June 3, 2011


 
What’s New in Georgia

Building a Healthy Georgia Campaign Georgians for a Healthy Future, along with many of our coalition partners is embarking on a series of educational forums across the state aimed at bringing together community leaders, health care providers, consumers and small business owners to foster a dialogue on the most pressing health care issues in local communities.  Between now and October, we will hold forums in 9 cities: Alpharetta, Athens, Butler, Macon, Rome, Savannah, Gainesville, Augusta and Tifton. To learn more about the Building a Healthy Georgia campaign and ways to collaborate on the events, contact Amanda Ptashkin.
Governor Deal Establishes Advisory Committee on Health Insurance Exchange Earlier this week, Governor Nathan Deal issued an Executive Order creating the Georgia Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee. The charge of the committee is to determine if Georgia should establish a state-based health care exchange as authorized by the Affordable Care Act. Georgians for a Healthy Future Executive Director Cindy Zeldin will serve on the committee, providing a seat at the table for the consumer voice. We will keep you updated throughout this process, and in turn please send us your thoughts and ideas for how to build a consumer-friendly exchange so we can bring the best ideas to the committee. The Executive Order, including the list of committee members, is available here.
House Bill 47 Signed Into Law During the Legislative Session, Georgians for a Healthy Future worked in coalition with a range of patient and consumer advocacy groups to raise concerns about House Bill 47, which would allow Georgia insurance companies to sell individual health plans 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. Last month, Governor Deal signed House Bill 47 into law. We will monitor its implementation and keep you updated on advocacy opportunities.
Georgia Department of Community Health Looks at Medicaid Options The Department of Community Health (DCH) recently announced that they would be undergoing a process to assess the most appropriate approach for providing services to Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids members. The Board of Community Health meets monthly, and the Board’s Policy Committee and Care Management Committee meet periodically as well. Information about upcoming DCH Board Meetings is available here. As we learn more information about potential changes to the Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids programs, we will pass along this information.
Opening Arguments to Start on June 8th The United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit will hear oral arguments in Atlanta on Wednesday, June 8, 2011, in the case State of Florida v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Florida Attorney General’s challenge to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that has been joined by Attorneys General from a number of other states. Consumers and small businesses are already benefiting from the law through new tax credits, an insurance plan for people with pre-existing conditions, and additional consumer protections. Georgians for a Healthy Future is joining Families USA and several consumers who have been impacted by the law for a briefing prior to the oral arguments. The briefing will start at 8am on Wednesday morning at the corner of Forsyth St, NW and Walton St, NW outside the Elbert P. Tuttle United States Court of Appeals Building in Atlanta. Please join us to show your support!
National News

Premiums to Drop 15% for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan Last week, the Department of Health and Humans Services announced that premium rates for the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) would be lowered to encourage more people to enroll.  In Georgia, consumers will see a 15% reduction in premium costs and will no longer need to submit a formal denial letter from an insurer, but rather just send in a doctor’s note confirming the existence of a pre-existing condition.  Consumers hoping to join the PCIP will still need to show that they have been uninsured for six months.  This is a welcome change that should allow more of our state’s 1.9 million uninsured to find and enroll in health insurance.  To read a recent Georgia Health News article on the PCIP, click here.
Health Transformation Grants Now Available: Through the Affordable Care Act, $100 million dollars is now available for up to 75 Community Transformation Grants across the country.  These grants are aimed at helping communities implement projects proven to reduce chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. By promoting healthy lifestyles and communities, especially among population groups experiencing the greatest burden of chronic disease, these grants will help improve health, reduce health disparities, and lower health care costs.  State and local government agencies as well as state and local non-profit organizations are eligible to apply for the grants. Letters of interest are due on June 6 and applications are due to the CDC in July 2011, with awards expected to be announced near the end of summer. To learn more about the grant opportunity, click here.
600,000 Young Adults Get Coverage Since September 23rd, 2010, an estimated 600,000 young adults, up to age 26, have been able to remain on or rejoin a parent’s insurance plan through the dependent care provision of the Affordable Care Act.  The Department of Health and Human Services estimated that 1.2 million young adults would gain coverage through this provision in 2011 alone, but given the numbers to date, that figure should be much higher.  This provision is particularly popular because people in their 20’s have the highest uninsurance rate of any group, 30%.  To read more about the dependent care provision of the ACA, click here and here. Have you been able to keep your children on your plan due to this provision? If so, let us know by emailing Amanda Ptashkin at aptashkin@healthyfuturega.org. MORE >

Peach Pulse: March 25, 2011

Georgians for a Healthy Future in the AJC: “Pro & Con: Is first year of health care reform law living up to promised claims?”

Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Cindy Zeldin and Voices for Georgia’s Children’s Joann Yoon marked the one-year anniversary of the new health care reform law by setting the record straight in the AJC on the benefits of the new law to Georgia consumers. The article is available here.


Second Annual Cocktail Reception

Thank you to everyone who came out for Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 2nd Annual Cocktail Reception and Fundraiser!  We were delighted to see so many new and also familiar faces supporting the work of our organization.  Click here to view pictures from the event.  If you were unable to attend and would still like to support the important work of our organization, please click here.


What’s New in Georgia

Update on the 2011 Legislative Session

Thirty-three of the 40 legislative days are now complete. The Legislature is out of session for the remainder of this week; in session each day next week for legislative days 34 through 38, out of session the week of April 4th; and in Session for the final two legislative days on April 12th and April 14th.  Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring several bills that would impact health care coverage and access in Georgia. If you’d like to weigh in on these bills, you can find your legislator’s contact information here.

Recent Action Was Taken on the Following Bills:

House Bill 47 would allow Georgia insurers 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. The bill was passed by the House and is now in the Senate Insurance Committee. For more information about the concerns this legislation raises for patients and consumers, click here. For more information about the legislation, click here.

House Bill 214 would move the Division of Public Health out of the Department of Community Health and establish a new, independent agency, the Department of Public Health, implementing the recommendation of the Public Health Commission. The new stand-alone agency would operate on the same budget as the Division of Public Health and provide Georgians a nimbler and more efficient public health agency with a clear focus on prevention and population-level health. The bill was passed by the House and passed through the Senate HHS Health Care Delivery Subcommittee on Wednesday. It now moves to the full Senate HHS Committee. For more information about the legislation, click here.

House Bill 229 would require that DCH process appeals requests and refer them for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) within 15 days. Currently, after the ALJ hears a case and renders an impartial decision, DCH may appeal the decision to itself.   HB 229 would remove DCH’s ability to overturn the ALJ’s decision. The bill did not pass by Crossover Day, which means that it is no longer viable this year unless attached to another piece of legislation. To learn more about the benefits of HB 229, click here. For more information on the legislation, click here.

House Bill 476 (pulled from the calendar on Crossover Day) would have established the Georgia Health Exchange Authority, the governance body for Georgia’s health insurance exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act, Georgia recently received a $1 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to begin planning for a health insurance exchange. HB 476 also would have created an Advisory Committee to make policy recommendations to the exchange governing board and the Governor by November 15, 2011 for next steps. The bill was pulled under pressure from tea party activists just prior to Crossover Day and is no longer viable this Session. Governor Deal has indicated he will move forward with an Advisory Committee. For the AJC article on HB 476 and the Georgia Exchange, click here.

Senate Bill 17 would establish a Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits to study the social and financial impact of current and proposed health insurance benefit mandates and providers. The bill has passed the Senate and has passed through the House Insurance Committee.  To learn more about SB 17 and benefit mandates, click here for a recent AJC article. For more information about the legislation, click here.

Senate Bill 63 would enact a Georgia Medical Assistance Fraud Prevention Program utilizing smart card technology to verify identification of Medicaid recipients, first directing the Department of Community Health to develop and implement a pilot program. Implementing the bill could present barriers to accessing care, and the methodology proposed has not been proven to be a successful method to target fraud within the Medicaid system. Further, there has been some controversy over a vendor that has been lobbying for the bill. SB 63 has passed the Senate and has not yet had a hearing in the House.  To see the fiscal note on the bill as originally proposed, click here. For a recent AJC article on this issue, click here. For more information on the legislation, click here.

House Bill 461 and Senate Bill 177 would enter Georgia into an interstate “health care compact” to allow member states to opt out of any federal health care law. While interstate compacts are typically used to handle regional and multi-state problems such as transportation issues, water rights or environmental protection, they require approval from the U.S. Congress and the President of the United States. Thus, the compacts have no chance of becoming law. HB 461 passed the House and is in the Senate Insurance Committee. SB 177 passed the Senate and is in the House Insurance Committee. For a recent AJC article on this issue, click here.


Additional Analyses & Resources on Proposed Health Care Legislation in Georgia
You can also track the status of various health care related bills and download analyses and resources on these bills on our new legislative tracking page on the Georgians for a Healthy Future website. The page is available here.


Bump It Up a Buck Delivers Petitions and Rallies for an Increase in the Cigarette Tax

This week, the Georgia Coalition for Tobacco Prevention ran a 48-hour petition drive to raise awareness and support for the Bump It Up a Buck campaign—an effort to raise the state’s tobacco tax by a dollar.  Doubling expectations, at the end of the drive the coalition had collected over 1,000 names and on Wednesday, held a press conference with local physicians to highlight the momentum behind the movement and hand deliver the petitions to the Governor’s office.  Dr. Harry Heiman, a Professor at Morehouse School of Medicine and Board Member for Georgians for a Healthy Future explained that “tobacco has no redeeming quality.  There is nothing good that comes out of smoking tobacco.  We have the support—the only question is, do we have the political will?” To view coverage of the Press Conference, click here, and here and to read more, click here.


The Affordable Care Act and You

Insurance Commissioner Hudgens Requests Adjustment to Medical Loss Ratio Rules

Last week, Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of the state of Georgia for an adjustment to the recently issued rules pertaining to medical loss ratio (MLR). The MLR rules are designed to ensure that consumers get value for their premium dollar by requiring insurers operating in the individual health insurance market to spend at least 80% of premiums they collect from consumers on medical care and health care quality improvement as compared to administrative expenses such as marketing and profits. The rules were developed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) after a thorough process. States requesting waivers can propose a phase-in to the MLR requirements for the years 2011, 2012, and 2013 if they can demonstrate immediate implementation of the MLR standard would destabilize the individual health insurance market in their state. They cannot waive them entirely. Georgia thus proposed a phase-in period for the MLR Standard. The application detailing the adjustment request is available here. The data on Georgia insurers that the Insurance Department provided in support of its application is available here. A recent article on this issue from Georgia Health News is available here. The application is under review by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Once deemed complete, public comments will be accepted. More information about how to file public comments is available here.

Focus on Primary Care

By 2014, more than a million uninsured Georgians will gain health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act, either through the Medicaid program (when it will be expanded to all Georgians at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level) or through private insurance purchased through the exchange. Once these Georgians become insured, it is imperative that this coverage translates to access to the health care delivery system. A new state-by-state study of primary care physician supply projects that Georgia will need between 177 and 285 additional primary care physicians to meet the expected increase in primary care utilization resulting from the coverage expansion. In addition to sheer physician supply, an important policy priority will be to ensure that there is an adequate network of primary care physicians participating in the Medicaid program. Beginning in 2013, under the Affordable Care Act, there will be an increase in the Medicaid reimbursement rate for primary care providers such that it is at parity with Medicare reimbursement rates. This increase is funded entirely with federal dollars. Several new reports take an in-depth look at this issue. First, a study in the journal Milbank Quarterly provides state-specific projections of primary care utilization and necessary supply; second, a report by the Center for Studying Health System Change specifically examines primary care participation in the Medicaid program; and third, the Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc, provides a policy roadmap for states to implement the Medicaid primary care rate increase. Finally, a recent media article examines a renewed interest in primary care among medical students due to health reform. For more Georgia-specific information and policy recommendations on our state’s primary care supply, please see this recent presentation to the Georgia General Assembly made by the Georgia Area Health Education Centers.

One Year Later

This week marks the one year anniversary of the passage of the Affordable Care Act and advocates across the state and the country are evaluating the provisions that have already taken effect and seeing how far we have come in just one year.  On Monday, Georgians for a Healthy Future held a press teleconference with Terry Gardiner of the Small Business Majority and Alpharetta small business owner Julie Haley to detail the provisions of the law that help small businesses. These provisions include tax credits that offset the cost of providing insurance coverage for employees.  To read the press release, click here.  Beyond the benefits that small businesses see from the new law, young adults to seniors are also enjoying some new provisions.   The ability for a young adult to remain on a parent’s insurance plan up to age 26 will help get the next generation off on the right foot as they enter the job market in this sensitive economy.  The $250 donut hole checks for Medicare beneficiaries and free preventive services helps lower costs for seniors and allows them to better manage their care.  For more information about the impact of the ACA to date, check out our blog series, “One Year Later,” that explores these topics and more.

New Resources Available

The Consumers Union Guide to the Affordable Care Act was released this week and is a free, easy-to-use guide that walks the reader through parts of the ACA that have already been enacted.  It explores implications for people who currently have insurance, are uninsured, are a Medicare beneficiary, or own or work for a small business.  To access the guide, click here.  Additionally, Young Invincibles released a tool kit this week designed to help young adults figure out the best way to get covered.  To access the tool kit, click here.

MORE >

Peach Pulse: March 14, 2011

March 15th: Cocktail Reception and Fundraiser

If you haven’t done so already, please register for Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 2nd Annual Cocktail Reception and Fundraiser.  Taking place at Ri Ra on Tuesday, March 15th from 6:00pm to 8:00pm, the evening will include substantive updates on important issues facing the General Assembly as well as an opportunity to network and unwind before Cross-Over Day. We hope to see you there! Click here to purchase your ticket.


What’s New in Georgia

Update on the 2011 Legislative Session

Twenty-eight of the 40 legislative days are now complete. The Legislature is in session Monday and Wednesday of this week for legislative days 29 and 30. Day 30 is also known as crossover day, the deadline for bills to pass their chamber of origin to remain viable, unless attached to another piece of legislation as an amendment. Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring several bills that would impact health care coverage and access in Georgia. If you’d like to weigh in on these bills, you can find your legislator’s contact information here.

Recent Action Was Taken on the Following Bills:

House Bill 476 establishes the Georgia Health Exchange Authority, the governance body for Georgia’s health insurance exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act, Georgia recently received a $1 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to begin planning for a health insurance exchange. The exchange will be a structured marketplace where, beginning in 2014, individual consumers and small businesses can purchase health insurance plans from a range of private insurers, in many cases with tax credits to offset the cost of the premiums. HB 476 also creates an Advisory Committee to make policy recommendations to the exchange governing board and the Governor by November 15, 2011 for next steps. This is a constructive first step towards developing a better functioning, value-driven health insurance market for consumers in Georgia. The bill was favorably passed out the House Insurance Committee last week. For more information on HB 476, including several policy reports outlining policy choices for states, click here. For more information about the legislation, click here.

House Bill 47 would allow Georgia insurers 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. The bill was passed by the House last week and moves to the Senate Insurance Committee. For more information about the concerns this legislation raises for patients and consumers, click here. For more information about the legislation, click here.

House Bill 229 requires that DCH process appeals requests and refer them for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) within 15 days. Currently, after the ALJ hears a case and renders an impartial decision, DCH may appeal the decision to itself.   HB 229 removes DCH’s ability to overturn the ALJ’s decision, providing a fair and efficient administrative appeal process that protects the integrity and impartiality of the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge. The bill was favorably passed by the House Judiciary Committee last week and will be voted on by the House this week. To learn more about the benefits of HB 229, click here. For more information on the legislation, click here.

Senate Bill 63 would enact a Georgia Medical Assistance Fraud Prevention Program. The bill, as introduced, would have put in place a pilot program that would involve fingerprinting Medicaid patients at the point of service. A committee substitute bill stripped the biometric identification requirement and instead requires a pilot program utilizing smart card technology along with language that the Department may also implement a biometric verification process if it so chooses. Implementing the bill could present barriers to accessing care, and the methodology proposed has not been proven to be successful method to target fraud within the Medicaid system. To see the fiscal note on the bill as originally proposed, click here. For more information on the legislation, click here.

Additional Analyses & Resources on Proposed Health Care Legislation in Georgia
You can also track the status of various health care related bills and download analyses and resources on these bills on our new legislative tracking page on the Georgians for a Healthy Future website. The page is available here.


Budget Update

Last week, the House of Representatives passed the FY 2012 budget.  For the Department of Community Health, the House version of the budget restored proposed funding cuts to dental, vision, and podiatry services for adults on Medicaid; partially restored Medicaid reimbursement cuts to providers; and partially restored funding for the Children 1st program which provides screening services for newborns and other at-risk children and links children to services to address developmental and other health needs.  To learn more about the health care budget, click here to read Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s latest report.


Bump It Up a Buck Campaign Launches

On March 3rd, the Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention (American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, American Heart Association, ACS CAN, GASCO, Georgians For A Healthy Future, Georgia Public Health Association) launched the “Bump It Up a Buck” campaign, aimed at increasing the state’s tobacco tax by a dollar.  The bump of $1 will generate an estimated $350 million per year in revenue at a time when the state is facing a $2 billion deficit, and will help save critical programs and services, save kids from addiction to tobacco and encourage current smokers to quit.  To learn more about the campaign and to see useful fact sheets on the issue, visit www.bumpitupabuck.org and find them on Facebook and Twitter.


The Affordable Care Act and You

Early Retiree Reinsurance Program Provides Financial Relief to Georgia Health Plan Sponsors, Including State Health Benefit Plan

The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program (ERRP) was established by the Affordable Care Act to assist businesses, state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and other plan sponsors that provide health insurance to early retirees with the cost of that coverage. The ERRP is intended to help stabilize plans that provide insurance to early retirees. Without such coverage, early retirees between the ages of 55 and 64 face difficulties securing an affordable health insurance policy in the individual market because of their age or pre-existing health conditions. As of December 31, 2010, over 5,000 plan sponsors were approved for participation in ERRP, including 74 Georgia-based plans. The Georgia Department of Community Health was among the approved applicants, receiving $34.9 million for the State Health Benefit Plan. More information about the ERRP and the funds directed to Georgia employers is available here. For a full report on the ERRP in 2010, click here.


New Report Finds Full Implementation of the Affordable Care Act Will Reduce Georgia’s Rate of Uninsured by 12.6 Percentage Points

A new report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation estimates the effects of the Affordable Care Act on states, in particular the increases in insurance coverage, subsidies in the exchanges, Medicaid enrollment and federal spending.  Nationally, full implementation will lead to a 10.3 percentage point decrease in uninsurance for the non-elderly—in Georgia that reduction is 12.6 percentage points. In terms of the Medicaid program, upon full implementation, 1.8 million Georgians will be enrolled in Medicaid. Among this group, 29% will be newly eligible and newly enrolled.  For more data on the effects of full implementation and to read the full report, click here.


Progress Continues on Health Insurance Exchanges

Georgia’s planning work on a state health insurance exchange continued with the introduction of HB 476, and progress continues in states around the country. For primers on how exchanges will work, what points of flexibility states have, and resources for how to ensure the exchanges are consumer friendly, see Families USA’s Health Insurance Exchange Resources. For a recent AJC article on Georgia’s progress, click here.


National News

New Flexibility

President Obama outlined a proposal to move up the date from 2017 to 2014 in which states wishing to innovate to achieve the same coverage and affordability goals as will be met under the Affordable Care Act can apply for a waiver to pursue these strategies. As Georgians for a Healthy Future discussed in media interviews (here and here) on this topic, the provision is intended for states that are already at near-universal coverage and it is unlikely that Georgia would be able to shift course and set up a separate system that would meet the coverage and affordability benchmarks without doing it under the framework in the Affordable Care Act.


Employers and Health Care Reform

A new policy brief issued by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines the issues surrounding the effects of health care reform on employers.  To expand access and strengthen the employment-based health system, the ACA requires midsize and large companies to make payments to the federal government if they do not offer health insurance to their employees and dependents starting in 2014. The brief explores the current state of employer-sponsored coverage and what the likely impact is of implementation.  To read the brief, click here.


Small Business: A Year Later

A new fact sheet from Small Business Majority details how provisions of the new health law address concerns with rising health care costs and ultimately affect small businesses across the country.   A recent study found that nationally 87% of small businesses are eligible for tax credits to help offset the cost of health care for employees.  Additionally, small businesses benefit from access to the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan and free preventive care now available through health plans.  To learn more about the effects of the law on small business, click here.

MORE >

Peach Pulse: February 25, 2011

What’s New in Georgia

Update on the 2011 Legislative Session

Nineteen of the 40 legislative days are now complete. The Legislature will be in session every day next week for legislative days 20 through 24. Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring several bills that would impact health care coverage and access in Georgia. If you’d like to weigh in on these bills, you can find your legislator’s contact information here.

Action was taken on the following bills this week:
House Bill 47would allow Georgia insurers 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. The bill was favorably passed out of the House Insurance Committee this week. For more information about the concerns this legislation raises for patients and consumers, click here. For more information about the legislation, click here.

House Bill 214would move the Division of Public Health out of the Department of Community Health and establish a new, independent agency, the Department of Public Health, implementing the recommendation of the Public Health Commission. The new stand-alone agency would operate on the same budget as the Division of Public Health and provide Georgians a nimbler and more efficient public health agency with a clear focus on prevention and population-level health. On Wednesday, the bill was favorably reported out of the House Health and Human Services Committee. Clickhere to read a release from Partner Up! for Public Health Campaign on this legislation. For more information about the legislation, click here.

House Bill 229 requires that DCH process appeals requests and refer them for hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) within 15 days. Currently, after the ALJ hears a case and renders an impartial decision, DCH may appeal the decision to itself.   HB 229 removes DCH’s ability to overturn the ALJ’s decision, providing a fair and efficient administrative appeal process that protects the integrity and impartiality of the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge. This week, the bill was recommitted to subcommittee to incorporate amendments suggested by members after subcommittee approval. It will be heard again next week. To learn more about the benefits of HB 229, click here. For more information on the legislation, click here.

Senate Bill 17would establish a Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits to study the social and financial impact of current and proposed health insurance benefit mandates and providers. The Senate passed the bill this week. However, because the Affordable Care Act will establish an essential benefits package—a federal floor—for all new health plans beginning in 2014, the impact of the proposed Commission is unclear. To learn more about SB 17 and benefit mandates, click here for a recent AJC article. For more information about the legislation, clickhere.


Additional Analyses & Resources on Proposed Health Care Legislation in Georgia
You can also track the status of various health care related bills and download analyses and resources on these bills on our new legislative tracking page on the Georgians for a Healthy Future website. The page is available here.


Health Care & The State Budget

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Health Subcommittee held a public hearing on the FY 2012 Department of Community Health (DCH) budget. The Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids programs, administered by DCH, are a critical source of health insurance for our state’s most vulnerable children and families. Due to stability protections in federal law, eligibility levels for these vital programs are maintained in the proposed budget. Still, three proposed changes to these programs raise concerns about access to care:  the proposed FY 2012 budget places additional co-payments on low-income patients; eliminates adult dental, vision, and podiatry services; and reduces provider reimbursement rates. Each of these provisions would have a negative impact on access to care by creating financial barriers for patients, shifting care to inappropriate settings, or discouraging provider participation in these programs.

If your legislator sits on the Appropriations Committee, please ask them to protect Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids. Members of the appropriations committee can be found here. You can find your legislator’s contact information here. To learn more about the Governor’s Proposed Health Budgets, click here for a recent analysis from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute.


Primary Care in Georgia

On Monday, the House Appropriations Health Subcommittee heard invited testimony on Georgia’s primary care workforce. Georgia is below the national average on overall physician supply and primary care physician supply, and our primary care trends are getting worse. For more information about this important issue, click here.

A Statewide Screening Program for Children is At Risk

Children 1st is a statewide program that identifies and screens at-risk children ages birth to five and connects them to appropriate health care services.  The proposed FY 2012 budget cuts $2.9 million from this program, making it impossible for the program to continue to operate as a statewide program.  For more information or to raise your concerns about this cut, please contactHealthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia, which has been closely monitoring this issue.

Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention

Georgians for a Healthy Future continues to work with the Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention to increase the tobacco tax from $.37 to $1.37.  This dollar increase would bring us closer to the national average of $1.45 and bring in an estimated $400 million in new revenue to help balance the state budget.  If you would like to learn more about the Alliance or ways to get involved, please email Eric Bailey at the American Cancer Society.


The Affordable Care Act and You

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan:  New Resources & Information

The Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP), authorized by the Affordable Care Act, is a new health insurance option for uninsured Georgians who are locked out of the insurance market due to a pre-existing condition. The PCIP covers a range of benefits, including the applicant’s pre-existing condition, and does not base eligibility for the program on income or any other factors aside from having been uninsured for 6 months, having been denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, and meeting U.S. citizenship requirements. Premiums for the plan are based on a standard population and vary only by age. As of February 1stof this year, 399 Georgia consumers gained coverage through the PCIP. The premiums are subsidized entirely with federal dollars and no state funds are associated with the program. In fact, the Governor’s FY 2012 budget proposal realizes savings of $680,263 from the movement of previously uninsured hemophilia patients who had been accessing life-saving drugs through a state program into the PCIP, where those drugs are now covered. For more information about the PCIP, click here to download our new fact sheet. If you think you are eligible for the program, you can apply here. If you work with consumers, patients, or volunteers and want additional resources to raise awareness of the program, including a downloadable widget to add to your website, click here.


Progress on the Health Insurance Exchange

This week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Insurance Commission Ralph Hudgens said Georgia should move forward with creating and running its own insurance exchange.  The state health insurance exchanges, which must be operational by 2014, will be new marketplaces where most individuals and small businesses will buy insurance.  States are given the option of operating their own exchange or allowing their citizens to access a federal exchange.  Over the past few months, with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Governor’s Office of Planning Budget has been convening stakeholders and advocates to gather input on the feasibility of establishing a health insurance exchange in Georgia.  This week, Georgia PIRG released a new policy brief entitled, “Building a Better Health Care Marketplace” that discusses the key components of creating a strong exchange.  To read that brief, click here.


Medical Loss Ratio Update:  Consumer-Friendly Rules on Insurance Premiums May be at Risk in Georgia

Under a provision of the Affordable Care Act known as medical loss ratio, insurers operating in the individual health insurance market are required to spend at least 80% of premiums on medical services, improving value for consumers by limiting the amount of consumers’ premiums that can go towards administrative costs such as marketing and profits. This standard was developed through a transparent, fair, and methodical process undertaken by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). The rules are good for consumers, they promote value, and they hold insurers accountable for how premium dollars are spent. If states can demonstrate that these rules would have a destabilizing effect on the individual health insurance market, however, a state’s Insurance Commissioner can apply for an adjustment to the rules. Although there may be instances in which insurers genuinely cannot meet the new MLR standard and would be forced to leave a state’s market unless an adjustment is granted, most individual market insurers should be able—and expected—to spend no more than 20 percent of the premium dollars they collect on non-medical costs. Georgia’s Insurance Department is currently collecting information from insurers and will likely file a request for adjustment. Once the request is filed, there will be a 10-day window for public comment. To ensure that the insurance industry voice is not the only perspective heard, we encourage our partner groups to join us in filing public comments from the consumer perspective at the appropriate time. We will continue to provide information and updates on this issue as we learn more. If you or your organization would like to assist with preparing public comments, please contact us.


National News

D.C. Federal Court Ruling in Favor of ACA

On Tuesday, D.C. Federal Court Judge Gladys Kessler upheld the Affordable Care Act.  This is the third time that a court has reviewed the health reform law on its merits and found it constitutional.  Two rulings have struck down all or parts of the law and 12 cases have been dismissed outright. This ruling reinforces that the individual responsibility provision of the law was a reasonable measure for Congress to take and is in line with the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.  While the issue continues to be litigated by district, appellate and most likely the Supreme courts, it is clear that states must continue the work of implementation while these issues are being resolved to ensure that all Americans are able to access the benefits of the new law.


The CLASS Program

Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services released a new implementation brief on the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program.  The CLASS Program was created by the Affordable Care act to be a federally administered health insurance program designed to assist eligible individuals in purchasing long-term community living services and support.  Approximately 10 million seniors and people with disabilities need long-term services and supports and current options in place are insufficient to adequately provide for these citizens.  The CLASS Program will offer eligible beneficiaries:  advocacy services, advice and assistance counseling, and cash benefit. To learn more about the Class Program and its implementation timelines, click here.

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Peach Pulse: February 11, 2011

What’s New in Georgia

Update on the 2011 Legislative Session

With thirteen Legislative days complete, several bills have been introduced that could impact health care consumers in Georgia.

House Bill 47 would allow Georgia insurers to sell individual health insurance products with benefits equivalent to those sold in other states. This could circumvent current Georgia standards for basic consumer protections and essential medical services that all insurers must cover today under Georgia law. The Health and Life Subcommittee of the House Insurance Committee heard testimony on this legislation on Wednesday. Georgians for a Healthy Future expressed our concerns to the subcommittee. The subcommittee plans to vote on the legislation next week.

House Bill 214 would create a separate public health agency, the Department of Public Health. On December 1, 2010, The Public Health Commission issued its final report to the Governor, Speaker, and Lieutenant Governor recommending that the Division of Public Health become an independent, cabinet-level state agency, with the Commissioner reporting directly to the Governor and serving as the state’s chief health officer.
This legislation implements the recommendation of the Public Health Commission. The bill is assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee.  To read a recent Georgia Health News Article on HB 214, click here.

Senate Bill 17 would create a special advisory commission on mandated health insurance benefits in Georgia. The purpose of the commission would be to assess the impact of mandated health benefits and providers and advise the Department of Insurance on these issues, among other responsibilities. The bill was unanimously passed out of the Insurance and Labor Committee on Thursday.

Senate Resolution 140 seeks to dedicate funds for trauma care from existing vehicle registration fees that are already being paid to the state.  Trauma care is a significant problem in Georgia since there are only 16 trauma centers for the state’s 159 counties and particular lack of access in rural areas.  To read recent articles on trauma funding, click here and here.

We will continue to monitor these and other health-related bills throughout the Legislative Session.


Progress Continues on Health Insurance Exchange Feasibility Study

Over the past few months, with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Governor’s Office of Planning Budget has been convening stakeholders and advocates to gather input on the feasibility of establishing a health insurance exchange in Georgia. As policymakers consider options for how to structure an insurance exchange, Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to weigh in on behalf of Georgia consumers. Our top priorities for the exchange are that the governing body be transparent and free of conflicts of interest and that the exchange will seamlessly facilitate enrollment into private health plans as well as Medicaid and Peach Care and that it will provide a robust mechanism for consumers to make true apples-to-apples plan comparisons based on value. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has announced a new round of exchange establishment grants. We do not yet know if or when Georgia will apply for the grants, but we will keep you updated as we learn more.  To read a recent article on the exchange feasibility study, click here.


Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention Works for $1 Increase

Georgians for a Healthy Future has joined with a range of health care focused organizations to support a $1 increase in Georgia’s tobacco tax. Our current tobacco tax is only 37 cents per pack, well below the national average of $1.45. Increasing a state’s tobacco tax has demonstrable public health benefits: it reduces smoking and related death and disease; keeps kids from starting to use tobacco products; and reduces the long-term health care costs associated with treating illnesses attributed to tobacco use. A $1 increase will also generate an estimated $400 million in new revenue to mitigate cuts to other vital health care programs in the state budget. As the Special Joint Committee on Georgia Revenue Structure considers the recommendations of the Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness for Georgians, we will alert you for opportunities to support a $1 increase in the tobacco tax.


The Affordable Care Act and You

Small Businesses and the Economy

A recent survey of 619 small business owners revealed that 1/3 of employers who do not offer health insurance said they would be more likely to do so because of the small business tax credits—credits which are available to 84% of small businesses here in Georgia because of the Affordable Care Act.  Additionally, the report explained that there is still a gap in education about the new law to small businesses—only 43% are familiar with the new tax credits available to them.  To read the full report, click here.  Small Business Majority has a tax credit calculator to help small business owners to determine what their credits might be.  Additionally, the National Women’s Law Center has a handy tool for non-profits to determine if they too qualify for the small business tax credits.  That can be accessed here.  In addition to the tax credits available through the new law, a recent report by Small Business Majority showed that the Affordable Care Act is helping to stimulate the economy and since its enactment, job growth has consistently grown and will continue to do so in the future.   To learn more about health reform and the economy, click here.

To those of you in the small business community or to those who work with them, Small Business Majority is holding a webinar on Thursday February 17th at 3pm that will focus on what the new healthcare law means for small business.  It will focus on both federal and state provisions to help local small business owners understand how the law will affect them. Topics being discussed include: Small business tax credits— who’s eligible for them and how to claim them; State insurance exchanges; High-risk pools; Shared responsibility; Cost containment and; Tools and resources available for small businesses interested in learning more about the law. To RSVP for the webinar, click here.

Additionally, as we gear up to celebrate the 1st Birthday of the Affordable Care Act, we are looking for small businesses that have benefitted from the new law and would love to hear your story.  Please contact Amanda Ptashkin to learn how to get involved.


New Proposed Rules Benefit Students

This week, the Department of Health and Human Services released proposed rules that would apply the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections to college health plans starting in 2012, meaning college students will be guaranteed the same consumer protections and benefits as all Americans under the new law.  To read the proposed rules, click here.


National News


The Florida Ruling and Its Implications

On January 31st, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida was the first in the nation to strike down the entire health care reform law—a suit to which Georgia was a party. To date, 25 challenges to the law have been filed and 4 have been decided: 2 upholding the law and 2 finding all or part of the law unconstitutional.  Twelve cases were dismissed outright.  This ruling will have little impact on what is happening on the ground where many states are already moving ahead with implementation of the ACA.

This week, Gov. Deal, along with 28 other governors, sent a letter to President Obama urging him to direct the U.S. Department of Justice to expedite the appeals process in the multistate litigation against the new law before states begin implementing portions of it.  To read the letter sent to the President, click here.

Georgia consumers cannot afford to lose the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, including discounts for seniors struggling with the cost of lifesaving prescriptions, protections for children due to pre-existing conditions, and coverage for young adults up to age 26. To read a recent Georgia Health News article on the ruling, click here.


Medicaid Stability Protections May be at Risk

Stability protections, also known as “maintenance of effort” requirements, ensure that states do not adopt more restrictive eligibility levels or enrollment procedures in their Medicaid and Peach Care programs so that children and families can maintain stable health coverage. Several states have asked Congress to eliminate these federal stability protections so that they have flexibility to roll back eligibility for populations they cover at state option. While we recognize that states, including Georgia, are facing difficult budgetary climates, cutting health care coverage would make it harder for consumers to access primary care and manage conditions, resulting in poorer health outcomes and higher costs down the line. Cutting Medicaid would also have a negative impact on the doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals in Georgia who rely on Medicaid reimbursement funds. Please urge your Member of Congress in Washington to preserve stability protections in Medicaid and CHIP. For more information, click here.

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Peach Pulse: January 18, 2011

What’s New in Georgia

The 2011 Legislative Session is Underway

Last week, the Georgia General Assembly briefly convened amid the ice and snow to begin the 40-day Legislative Session. Both the House and the Senate leadership have released committee assignments. In the House, the key committees for health care-related legislation are Insurance (Chair:  Representative Richard Smith), Health and Human Services (Chair:  Representative Sharon Cooper), and Appropriations (Chair:  Representative Terry England). On the Senate side, they are Insurance and Labor (Chair: Senator Greg Goggans), Health and Human Services (Chair:  Senator Renee Unterman), and Appropriations (Chair:  Senator Jack Hill). Information on the House Committee assignments is available here. Information on the Senate Committee assignments is available here. The Legislature is in adjournment this week for budget hearings. The Department of Community Health budget briefing is scheduled for this Thursday, January 20th, at 10am in Room 341 of the State Capitol. Other budget briefings of interest on Thursday include the Department of Human Services budget briefing at 9am and the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities briefing at 11am.

Georgians for a Healthy Future will be monitoring health care-related developments throughout the 2011 Legislative Session. Click here to learn about our 2011 policy priorities and here to identify your state legislators. We also now have a calendar featuring a range of health care advocacy events associated with the 2011 Legislative Session available on our site. If you’d like to get involved with a lobby day or deepen your engagement in health care advocacy, please contact Amanda Ptashkin, our Outreach & Advocacy Director.


Georgians for a Healthy Future Calls for Transparent and Systematic Health Reform Implementation in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To make the most of the Affordable Care Act, Georgia should move swiftly to establish a commission to proactively coordinate the pieces of the law our state is required to put into place, such as an expansion of Medicaid, design elements that we can tailor for our state’s needs, such as the new health insurance exchanges, and maximize grants to strengthen our public health system and our health care workforce. A commission or task force could offer diverse input, including from the consumer, who is often overlooked. Some of this work is already happening informally within state agencies, but a systematic and transparent process accessible to consumers and stakeholders will ensure opportunities aren’t missed, all pertinent perspectives are heard and cross-cutting issues are handled efficiently. For the full article, click here.


Governor Deal Releases Budget Proposals

On Wednesday, Governor Deal released his budget proposals. The FY 2012 budget proposal for the Department of Community Health features a one percent Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids provider rate cut; the elimination of vision, dental, and podiatry services for adults within the Medicaid program; additional co-pays for patients within Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids; and reductions in funding for public health programs, among other provisions. While larger provider rate cuts had been anticipated, taken together, these budget cuts stand to negatively impact access to care for some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens.  For more information on the Governor’s health care budget proposals, click here. Additional details about the proposed budget will become available during the budget hearings on Thursday and at the February Department of Community Health Board Meeting. For more information on the state budget, see the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s budget primer. For information on the budget process, see the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget.


Health Insurance Exchange Planning Continues

Georgians for a Healthy Future is actively engaged in the Health Insurance Exchange Feasibility Study currently underway. Under the Affordable Care Act, an exchange, or structured health insurance marketplace, must be up and running in each state by 2014. While most of the participants in the workgroups are representing the insurance industry, Georgians for a Healthy Future is representing the consumer voice in these meetings. As one of the central elements of implementation of the new health law, making the exchange work for consumers is critical. The next full meeting is this Friday, January 21st. For more information about the exchange concept and the key benchmarks to build an effective exchange, click here.


Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness Issues Final Report

The Special Council on Tax Reform and Fairness has released its final recommendations to the Legislature. While there is a recommendation within the final report to increase the tobacco tax to the regional average, Georgians for a Healthy Future has joined with other advocates to oppose this 31 cent increase and instead call for at least a $1 per pack increase in the tobacco tax. A 31 cent increase still places Georgia’s tobacco tax well below the national average and is insufficient to have a quantifiable impact on deterring youth smoking rates (keeping kids from starting to use tobacco and getting others to quit). A $1 per pack increase, by contrast, has clear health benefits and would bring much needed revenue to our state at a time when other vital health care programs within the state budget are being cut.


The Affordable Care Act and You
Health Reform Implementation Grant Opportunities for States in 2011

As states, medical providers, and community health centers, among others, prepare for full implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the new law provides a range of grant opportunities to improve access to quality health care. Last month, Families USA released a compilation of selected grant opportunities that pertain to health care coverage and access, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Grants, Demonstration Projects, and Enhanced Federal Funding Opportunities Available in 2011.”  While not exhaustive, it is a useful document to determine the types of opportunities currently available in 2011.  To access the report, click here.


National News
Repeal Efforts Renewed This Week

Though the 112th Congress is only a few days old, a major issue is already taking center stage: repeal of the new health law.  This Wednesday, January 19, the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on HR 2, a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. On Wednesday, January 19, please take a moment to let your Representative know that Georgians do not want our new health care protections taken away. Call 1-888-876-6242 and tell Congress to vote NO on the HR 2.

The cost of repeal is just too great.  Approximately 43,500 young adults would lose their insurance coverage through their parents’ health plans.  An estimated 80,400 on Medicare would see significantly higher prescription drug costs.  Repeal would also strip tax credits from 120,300 Georgia small businesses.  Beyond these setbacks, the financial burden is also overwhelming.  The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that repeal of the law will add $230 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years.  To read recent reports on the cost of repeal, click here and here.

On Wednesday, January 19, please take a moment to tell your Representative that Georgians have already started seeing the benefits of the law and what reform means to you.  Call 1-888-876-6242 and tell Congress to vote NO on the HR 2.

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Peach Pulse: December 16, 2010

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Here at Georgians for a Healthy Future, we wish you and your families and happy and healthy Holiday Season and New Year!  The Peach Pulse will return to its every-other-week format in the New Year.  Happy Holidays!


What’s New in Georgia
Georgians for a Healthy Future Unveils Our 2011 Policy Priorities

Georgians for a Healthy Future formally unveiled our 2011 policy priorities last week. The priorities were developed with broad input from community stakeholders, and we look forward to working with our coalition partners to advance them in the coming year. Our advocacy efforts will be focused on five core issues:

1)    Support Consumer-Friendly Implementation of the Affordable Care Act

2)    Protect and Strengthen Quality Care for Medicaid and PeachCare Beneficiaries

3)    Preserve Consumer Protections for Georgians in Private Health Insurance Plans

4)    Strengthen Georgia’s Public Health System

5)    Support a More Sustainable Revenue Structure, Including an Increase in the Tobacco Tax

For more details about each of these policy priority areas, please visit the Georgians for a Healthy Future website. If you’d like to work with us to advance them, please contact us.


Health Care Unscrambled: Recap

Last week, Georgians for a Healthy Future held our first annual policy breakfast, Health Care Unscrambled, to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in 2011 for health care policy. Anton Gunn, Regional Director for the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), spoke about the Affordable Care Act and opportunities for collaboration and partnership between stakeholders and HHS as implementation of the law moves forward. Alan Weil, Executive Director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, spoke about key decision points facing states around implementation of the new law. Dr. Phaedra Corso from the College of Public Health at the University of Georgia presented Georgia-specific demographic and political information that policymakers and advocates should consider as they move forward on health reform. All three presentations are now available on our website. Our Executive Director, Cindy Zeldin, rounded out the breakfast by presenting Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 2011 policy priorities. We look forward to working with you in 2011 to advance these priorities, and we’ll keep you informed on developments and advocacy opportunities around these issues. Finally, we’d like to issue a special thank you to our sponsors as well as to all in attendance. We hope you will join us again next year!


Public Health Commission Releases Final Report and Recommendations

The Public Health Commission, charged by the Georgia Legislature to determine the most appropriate structure for the Division of Public Health, issued its final report to the Governor, Speaker, and Lieutenant Governor on December 1, 2010. The unanimous recommendation of the Commission is for the Division of Public Health to become an independent, cabinet-level state agency, with the Commissioner reporting directly to the Governor and serving as the state’s chief health officer. To download the Commission’s full report, click here. To learn more about how to become an advocate for public health, visit the Partner Up for Public Health campaign website.


New Department of Community Health Commissioner Named

Governor-Elect Deal has named David Cook, Executive Director of the Medical Association of Georgia, as the incoming Commissioner for the Department of Community Health. In January, he will replace Clyde Reese, who will transition to the role of Commissioner of the Department of Human Services. For more information, click here.


2011 Legislative Session Calendar

The 2011 Legislative Session is shaping up to be a busy one.  With only 40 short days to get everything done, advocates needs to be well prepared and informed of important events and issues as they occur throughout the session.  To that end, Georgians for a Healthy Future has created the 2011 Legislative Session Calendar.  This calendar is a storehouse for upcoming advocacy events that impact the health and well being of Georgians.  Check back often to see what’s happening and how to get involved.  To have your event added to the calendar, please email Amanda Ptashkin.


Georgia Budget & Policy Institute Release 4 New Reports

Last week, the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute released four new reports that explore health and tax reform and what it means to the state and its residents.  The first report, Tax Reform Facts: Sales Tax Exemption on Groceries, discusses alternatives for raising revenues other than shifting the burden to middle to low-income Georgians through a regressive grocery tax—a tactic that is feared to gain traction once session starts.  The second report, Medicaid Expansion Facts: What’s in Store for Georgia’s Medicaid Enrollment?, explains how the new health law increases eligibility for Medicaid and provides states significant new funding to pay for the expansion and how the billions in new federal funding will help increase health coverage for nearly 500,000 Georgians without insurance. The third report, Georgia and the Federal Government Ensure Elderly and Newborns Have a Safety Net, explains how the Georgia works to protect its most vulnerable residents. This fact sheet provides an overview about who is served by the Medicaid program, how costs vary by population, and the income-eligibility criteria for Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare programs.  The last report, New Federal Tax Credit Benefits 84% of Small Businesses in Georgia, examines the new tax credits that rise from the new health law and how they could help nearly 120,000 small businesses in Georgia better afford health coverage for their employees.  For more information, visit the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute website.


The Affordable Care Act and You

State of Georgia Begins Work on Health Insurance Exchange Feasibility Study

Recently, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (OPB) was awarded a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to assess the feasibility of establishing a state run health benefit exchange. Under the Affordable Care Act, a health insurance exchange, or structured marketplace where individuals and small businesses can purchase affordable health insurance with federal tax credits, must be up and running in every state by 2014. States may set up their own exchange (either a single exchange for individuals and small groups or two separate exchanges) or rely on a federal fallback exchange that the Department of Health and Human Services would set up. With technical assistance from Georgia State University and the University of Georgia, OPB has been convening stakeholders over the past two months to examine these issues. Georgians for a Healthy Future and our coalition partners have been participating in these workgroups to ensure that the consumer and patient voice is at the table. The workgroups have been tasked with identifying the factors to consider, potential approaches, and the data needed for decision-making around several structural features of the exchange.  The next meeting is January 14th.  To get involved with one of the workgroups and for more information about upcoming meetings, click here. To learn more about health reform implementation in Georgia, see OPB’s new website at www.healthcarereform.ga.gov. For a detailed look through the consumer lens at the choices states face as they set up an exchange, click here. For a closer look at the population that would utilize the exchange, click here.


Update on Medical Loss Ratio Rules in Georgia

In November, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued interim final rules around medical loss ratio requirements. These rules require insurers operating in the individual health insurance market to spend 80 percent of premiums on medical services and were issued following a deliberative process by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), which developed the model regulation, as charged to do under the health law. These requirements will encourage transparency and facilitate better value for consumers. However, this win for consumers is at risk in Georgia. Our Insurance Department has indicated it will seek an adjustment for Georgia insurers under a process laid out within the federal rules. States may apply for an adjustment if the rules will destabilize their insurance marketplace. To determine this, HHS will weigh five factors when considering adjustment requests:  number of insurers likely to leave the market, number of individuals affected, availability of other coverage options, impact on premiums, and availability of brokers and agents. Once a request is made, public comment will be accepted for 10 days, and HHS has 30 days to consider the request. If you would like to join with Georgians for a Healthy Future as we develop our written comments, please contact us. For more information on this issue, click here.


New Resources Available

New Resources are being released daily to help states and consumers understand the new health law.  Families USA has a new report dedicated to best practices states can take in implementing state health insurance exchanges and a new report on how health reform aims at improving the lives of seniors and people with disabilities. The Commonwealth Fund released a report examining how baby boomers will be impacted by the new law and found that boomers in Southern and Western states in particular will benefit from provisions in the law.

The National Academy for State Health Policy has updated their new State Refo(u)rum website with useful information on implementing the new health law from work plans and timelines to state-specific analyses.  The Kaiser Family Foundation has also released a new issue brief entitled the Impact of Health Reform on Women’s Access to Coverage and Care. The issue brief reviews how the new law is expected to affect access to care and affordability of health coverage for women and explains the provisions in the new law related to preventive screening services, reproductive health, maternity care and women on Medicare.


National News
Child Nutrition Bill Signed by President

This week, President Obama signed the The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.  The passage of this bill marks an important success in the fight against child hunger and childhood obesity, as it will expand access to healthy school meals and will establish higher nutritional standards for school lunches. A summary of the Act’s key provisions, prepared by the Food Research and Action Center, can be found here.  To read a recent Washington Post article highlighting 12 of the key changes in the new law, click here.

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Peach Pulse: November 8, 2010

What’s New in Georgia:

Georgia Elects New Statewide Officers, Governor-Elect Deal Names Transition Team

Last Tuesday, Georgia elected new statewide officials, including Governor-elect Nathan Deal, Insurance Commissioner-elect Ralph Hudgens, and several other constitutional officers. Governor Deal named his full transition team today. The list of members is available here.  To find out where the incoming Governor stands on health care issues, see the recent candidate questionnaire from the Healthcare Georgia Foundation. Also, while the role of the Insurance Commissioner on health care issues is less well known than that of the Governor, the new Insurance Commissioner is responsible for regulating health insurance in Georgia and enforcing consumer protections in health insurance. To learn more about how the incoming Insurance Commissioner plans to approach health care issues, see the results of our candidate survey. In addition, several new legislators were elected to the Georgia General Assembly.  To see the election results, click here.


Trauma Funding Referendum Fails on Election Day

The Yes 2 Save Lives Campaign was delivered a fatal blow on Tuesday when 53% of Georgians failed to approve Amendment 2, which asked voters to approve a $10 motor vehicle tag fee to fund a trauma care system, which would have generated approximately $80 million in revenue dedicated specifically to fund trauma care throughout the state. As such, Georgia missed an opportunity to secure a dedicated funding source for:  training 911 professionals, paramedics, critical care nurses and physicians; increasing rapid transport; providing the latest life-saving equipment and technology; and upgrading more emergency rooms to trauma centers.  Currently, there are only four level-1 Trauma Centers to serve 9.8 million Georgians.  Incidentally, deaths from trauma injuries in Georgia are 20 percent higher than the national average because access to trauma care is severely limited.  Despite the failure of the amendment to gain approval by the voters, groups like Georgians for a Healthy Future, Health STAT and others will continue to stress the need and urgency for trauma funding.  To read a recent AJC article on Amendment 2, click here.


161 Georgians Enrolled in Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan Since July

One of the early provisions of the new health law that went into effect this year was the creation of the Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (PCIP) which provides people with pre-existing conditions an opportunity to purchase insurance without exclusions or higher premiums because of their conditions.  The PCIP, often referred to as a high-risk pool, is a bridge measure until 2014 when the health insurance exchanges will be up and operational and prohibit exclusions based on pre-existing conditions.  Back in July, many states opted to implement and operate their own high-risk pools, but Georgia instead allowed the Federal Government to operate the plan.  Figures released last week show that so far, 161 Georgians have already enrolled in the PCIP, part of the 8011 across the nation reported to have enrolled.  To view the data across the country, click here.  An estimated one in five Georgians has a pre-existing condition which could prevent them from securing private health insurance coverage.  Given that statistic, it would appear that enrollment for the PCIP is lower than expected given the need for such coverage.  It is important to remember that this is still a new program which has only been operational since July and there are procedural requirements that may be hampering enrollment. For example, for anyone applying, they must have been without insurance for six months and have been denied coverage, in writing, because of their condition.  As such, it is far too early to judge the merits of the program, but as the months go on and enrollment continues, we will see how Georgians with pre-existing conditions fare.  To read a recent AJC article on this issue, click here.


New Resource:  Georgia Health News Launched

This week, longtime health journalist Andy Miller launched Georgia Health News, an independent, nonprofit news organization that provides crucial, substantive information about health care in Georgia, including original reporting, consumer resources, and a blog. Visit the site here.


AIDS Drug Assistance Program Faces Funding Crisis:  Advocacy Opportunity

Georgia is one of nine states currently facing a funding crisis for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which provides life-saving medications for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS. A waiting list was established for the program on July 1, and as of the end of October, there were 676 people on that list here in Georgia. The current funding gap is over $14 million. Advocates for people living with HIV/AIDS are seeking organizational sign-ons for a letter to President Obama and Members of Congress urging them to address this funding crisis with increased federal support. To learn more about the ADAP program, the consequences of this funding shortage for low-income people living with HIV/AIDS, and how to support the call for adequate funding of the program, please see Georgia Equality and the ADAP Advocacy Association.


The Affordable Care Act and You

State Health Refor(u)m

The National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) has devoted a section of its website to organizing and sharing resources developed by states to implement the new health law, including information about state legislation, coordinating councils, work plans, and timelines from across the country. The State Health Refor(u)m site is here. While there is no Georgia-specific information on the site at this time, the documents housed there are a helpful resource for advocates and policymakers working on implementation here in Georgia. We will hear from NASHP Executive Director Alan Weil about key decision points for states to consider at the Georgians for a Healthy Future policy breakfast on December 7th. If you haven’t yet purchased your ticket for Health Care Unscrambled, you can do so here.


New Resource Available for Cancer Patients and Their Loved Ones

The American Cancer Society released a new consumer-friendly guide to help explain how the new health law will affect cancer patients and their loved ones.  The guide, entitled, “The Affordable Care Act: How it Helps People with Cancer and Their Families,”  describes how provisions of the law improve the quality of care and make health care more affordable, available and easier for patients to understand.  The guide also shares personal stories to illustrate exactly what the new law means for families affected by cancer.  To read the guide, click here.


New Resource:  The New Health Law and Free Clinics

The Georgia Free Clinic Network has released a new guide for charitable and free clinics and their management to help navigate the changing health care safety net landscape in light of the new health care law. This is the nation’s first comprehensive manual aimed at assisting free and charitable clinics to understand the new health law and make informed decisions. For more information, see the Georgia Free Clinic Network’s website.


HHS Announces New Federal Support for States to Develop and Upgrade Medicaid IT Systems

Under the new health law, beginning in 2014 health insurance exchanges will be a one-stop shop for consumers to review and purchase insurance coverage, including those eligible for Medicaid.  With the new law, there will be a large increase in the number of people eligible for the Medicaid program, and it will be critical that infrastructure and Information Technology (IT) is in place to meet this new demand.  Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced new federal funding for states to streamline and upgrade their Medicaid eligibility systems in preparation for the changes.  Additionally, HHS announced guidance to help states design and implement the IT needed to establish exchanges.  These systems will help enroll people who qualify for Medicaid or PeachCare.  To read the HHS Press Release, click here.  This is different than a recent announcement regarding “Early Innovator” grants for IT Systems for the Exchange.  To learn more about that opportunity, click here.


New Funds Available to Support Community Health Centers

Last week, HHS Secretary Sebelius announced $335 million for existing community health centers across the country under the Expanded Services (ES) initiative. As part of the new health law, these funds will increase access to preventive and primary health care, including dental health, behavioral health, pharmacy, vision, and/or enabling services, at existing health center sites. Health centers requesting funds must demonstrate how the money will be used to expand medical capacity and services to underserved populations in their service areas. For more information and to view the grant application, click here.  Applications are due January 6, 2011 at 8 pm.  Currently, there are 26 Community Health Centers in Georgia that serve the needs of 76 counties.  They serve inner city neighborhoods, small towns and rural communities and make a difference in the lives of over 238,000 Georgians each year. To learn more about these Community Health Centers, visit the Georgia Association for Primary Health Care’s website.

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Peach Pulse: October 21, 2010

What’s New in Georgia

Insurance Commissioner Candidate Survey Released

To educate Georgia voters on the role of the Insurance Commissioner with respect to health care issues, Georgians for a Healthy Future and Voices for Georgia’s Children surveyed all three candidates for Insurance Commissioner. Each candidate provided responses to eight questions about how they would approach the health insurance issues that fall under the purview of the office they are seeking. Today, our organizations are releasing a Voter Guide featuring those responses. Download the guide here.

On Election Day, Georgia voters will head to the polls to elect our state’s policymakers. Most voters are familiar with certain elected offices, like that of Governor, but many Georgians may be unaware of the importance, or perhaps even the existence, of the Office of State Insurance Commissioner.

The Insurance Commissioner runs the Georgia Department of Insurance and is elected every four years in a statewide vote. Among the core functions the Department of Insurance performs is the regulation of health insurance in Georgia. The Insurance Commissioner ensures that companies selling individual and small group policies in Georgia are financially solvent and enforces consumer protections and state laws regarding benefits that private insurers must include in policies sold in Georgia.

With the recent enactment of the Affordable Care Act, the new health care law, the role of the Insurance Commissioner has expanded. Our next Insurance Commissioner’s decisions will play an important role in shaping Georgia’s health insurance system for consumers in 2011 and well into the future.

Quality, affordable health coverage optimizes the health and wellbeing of Georgia’s children and families and ensures a healthy, productive workforce to grow our state’s economy. While the Insurance Commissioner alone is not responsible for the health of Georgia constituents, he or she will be one of a key group of elected and appointed state officials who together will implement different components of the new health law to maximize benefits for Georgians.


Georgia Receives Grant for Consumer Assistance Program

As part of the Affordable Care Act, the new health law, Georgia’s Department of Insurance applied for and received a grant for $822,156 on Tuesday to:

  • Expand and enhance ability to provide assistance to consumers with health insurance issues, including ability to assist consumers wishing to formally appeal decisions made by their health insurer
  • Improve capability to receive and track telephone calls from consumers seeking assistance by implementing calls center functionality
  • Upgrade existing database systems to enhance the security of personally identifiable information and to obtain the ability to collect, track, and report data requested by Department of Health and Human Services

While these resources are needed to bolster existing capacity within the Department of Insurance, Georgia has not funded and has left vacant the role of independent consumer advocate since 2003. The Affordable Care Act includes stronger regulations on private health insurers and a range of new consumer protections. As these new provisions take effect, there will be a commensurate increase in the need for consumer navigation and assistance. An independent consumer advocate accountable only to consumers would be a welcome first step to meeting this increased need.

A number of other states receiving grant awards used their funds to create this sort of position or department, including North Carolina and Tennessee. To learn how other states are utilizing the Consumer Assistance Program grants, click here.


New Report Shows that 934K Georgians to Receive Premium Health Care Tax Credits in 2014

A new report released by Georgians for a Healthy Future and Families USA shows that 933,900 Georgians will be eligible for new tax credits beginning in 2014 that will significantly reduce the cost of private health insurance for individuals and families. The tax credits will offset a portion of the cost of health insurance premiums, and Georgians’ tax reductions will approximate $3.6 billion in that year.

Some key findings of the report show that working families will benefit the most:

  • Approximately 823,700 Georgians will be in families with a worker who is employed full-time
  • Another 71,500 people will be in families with a worker who is employed part-time

The tax credits will benefit both Georgians who are currently uninsured , who will utilize the tax credit to help purchase health insurance and Georgians who are currently insured who will use the tax credit to relieve some of the burden of health costs by making premiums more affordable.

  • Approximately 466,400 uninsured Georgians will be eligible for a premium tax credit to purchase insurance
  • Another 467,600 insured Georgians will be eligible for a premium tax credit to help with the cost of insurance

These tax credits will be financed entirely with federal dollars and will be available to Georgians purchasing insurance through the new health insurance exchanges. The state of Georgia was just awarded a grant from the Department of Health and Human Services to begin planning for an exchange here in Georgia. This is an opportunity for our state to ensure this marketplace navigates consumers to the appropriate health insurance option, whether that be Medicaid, PeachCare for Kids, or private insurance that will now be made affordable through these hefty tax credits.

To read the report, Lower Taxes, Lower Premiums, in its entirety, click here.


Mental Health Care in Georgia to Improve with Recent Court Decision

This week, the State of Georgia and the United States Department of Justice settled the Justice Department’s litigation against the state based on both conditions in the state’s seven psychiatric hospitals and the lack of community services for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities.  Olmstead was at the heart of the lawsuit and is central to the settlement agreement.  In Olmstead, the U.S. Supreme Court held that people with disabilities have the right to receive services in the community rather than in institutions.

Highlights of the settlement include:

  • 9000 people with mental illnesses will receive services
  • Increased funding for individuals with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities by approximately 59 million over next year and a half.
  • 150 – 250 additional people with developmental disabilities will obtain Medicaid vouchers each year over next five years
  • Increased family supports to 2350 additional people with developmental disabilities by 2015
  • Housing subsidies for 2000 people with severe and persistent mental illness by 2015
  • 22 Assertive Community Treatment Teams that will serve 100 people each that will be brought to fidelity by 2015
  • New case management, peer support, crisis stabilization, and supports for individuals with disabilities.

The settlement, over a decade in the making, is a success for the mental health and developmental disability community and will make great strides to ensuring that these populations receive the care they need in the setting that is right for them. To learn more, click here for a recent AJC article and to read the Department of Justice press release, click here.


Public Health Commission Meeting

The Public Health Commission met for the fourth time on Monday, October 18.

The Commissioners voted to instruct their contract consultant to draft a report for their review that recommends Public Health become an independent agency, with an “attached” agency being the back-up preference. The next meeting of the Public Health Commission is scheduled for November 15 and its final report is due on December 1, 2010. For more information about the Public Health Commission, click here.


The Affordable Care Act and You

New Interactive Timeline for Implementation

The Kaiser Family Foundation has updated their Health Reform Source to include an interactive implementation timeline. The timeline is designed to explain how and when the provisions of the health reform law will be implemented over the next several years. You can show or hide all the changes occurring in a year by clicking on that year. Click on a provision to get more information about it.  To view the timeline, click here.  Additionally, if you have not done so already, be sure to check out KFF’s video Health Reform Hits Main Street here.


National News

Child-only Health Plans

Among the provisions of the Affordable Care Act that went into effect on September 23rd was a requirement that insurers no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. While only a small number of children are impacted by this change, they tend to be particularly vulnerable (without access to employment-based health insurance through a parent and ineligible for Medicaid or CHIP). In a controversial response to the new requirement, several insurance companies announced that they would stop selling child-only policies due to concerns that families would apply for these plans only after a child became sick. On October 13th, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sebelius sent a letter to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners clarifying the HHS regulation and outlining options for insurers and states. To read the letter, click here. For additional information on this issue from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, click here.


Health Care Lawsuit Moves Forward in Florida

Last week, the U.S. District Court in Pensacola, Florida permitted a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act to move forward.  Dismissing four other claims, Judge Vinson allowed the case to proceed to address the constitutionality of two main issues: the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion.  Georgia is one of twenty states involved in the suit.  Despite this ruling in Florida, judges in Maryland, California, and recently Michigan have dismissed cases challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.  Additionally, despite the legal challenges to the law, many provisions have already gone in to effect and will continue to do so while the issue is litigated.  Already, this law has:

  • Ensured that kids with pre-existing condition have access to coverage;
  • Given tax-credits to small-businesses that provide insurance to their workers;
  • Allowed recent college graduates looking for jobs to stay on their parents plans;
  • Sent checks to seniors to help pay for their prescriptions; and
  • Protected consumers from insurance company abuses.

To read more about the lawsuit, click here and here.

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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.

Healthcare.gov 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, www.healthcare.gov, 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.

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