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Flexibility in the Affordable Care Act: A Georgia Opportunity

Thanks to Carolyn Ingram from the Center for Health Care Strategies for serving as the keynote speaker for Georgians for a Healthy Future’s 4th annual Health Care Unscrambled policy breakfast event! Carolyn’s presentation described opportunities for flexibility with respect to the Medicaid program and provided illuminating examples from a handful of states taking innovative approaches. Carolyn’s presentation is available here.

 

 

 


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GHF in today’s AJC!

The following opinion piece by Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin originally appeared in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

 

Large majorities of young adults say they need and value health insurance, yet people in this age group are far more likely to be uninsured than children, seniors or older adults. Thirty-five percent of Georgians between 18 and 34 are uninsured. How can something so important be so elusive?

 

Until now, the health insurance of millenials had largely been neglected by public policy, leaving them with few options that provided adequate benefits at an affordable cost.

 

Most Americans get health insurance as a workplace benefit. They get a substantial employer contribution and receive these benefits on a pre-tax basis. Today’s young adults, however, are entering the job market in a tough economy. They are less likely to land jobs with health insurance. They often cobble together internships and part-time work to gain experience and make ends meet. For too many young adults, there simply has been no viable pathway to coverage.

 

The tide is turning. An estimated 3.1 million young adults nationwide — and 123,000 here in Georgia — have gained coverage as a direct result of an Affordable Care Act provision that allows parents to keep their children on policies up to age 26. This popular and effective public policy change was just a first step. The new health insurance exchanges will provide options for young adults who previously had nowhere to go.

 

These plans provide decent benefits and, in many cases, access to tax credits to make them affordable. The tax credits, available to individuals with annual incomes between $11,490 and $45,960, can be taken either at the time health insurance is purchased or at tax time. Some moderate-income individuals also can get help with out-of-pocket expenses.

 

For millenials who had been underwhelmed with the health insurance options available to them in the past, this is a breath of fresh air. For example, maternity coverage had been nearly impossible to secure in the Georgia non-group market for young couples ready to start a family. Now, this important benefit will be available.

 

While it is true some young adults enrolled in old plans may see higher premiums, many of those old plans didn’t provide adequate protection. Further, young adults who had a pre-existing chronic helath condition were locked out of the market entirely, a practice insurance companies must discontinue.

 

 The private insurance plans available through the exchanges won’t meet the needs of all young adults in Georgia. Those who have incomes that place them below the poverty line will likely remain uninsured unless Georgia expands its Medicaid program.

 

Most young adults want what Americans of all ages want: the peace of mind that comes with knowing that an unexpected cancer diagnosis or accident doesn’t equal financial ruin, and that they have access to basic medical services. The new coverage options are finally leveling the playing field for this generation. It’s about time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Certified Application Counselors: How are they different from Navigators?

With the changing healthcare landscape, there are new words and phrases that the average consumer is unfamiliar with. Navigators….Certified application counselors (CACs)….and even Marketplace.  As consumers try to gather as much information as they can to make informed health care decisions, Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to demystify the changes and provide you the information you need to make the right decision for you and your family. (more…)


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Health insurance navigator grants announced!

CGC logoToday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded health insurance navigator grants to 105 organizations in states with federally facilitated or partnership exchanges to conduct outreach and facilitate enrollment into qualified health plans when open enrollment begins in October. Georgians for a Healthy Future is excited to announce that we are part of a consortium of 15 partners, led by Seedco, a national non-profit organization that advances economic opportunity for people, businesses, and communities in need, that received one of two grants awarded for Georgia. We look forward to playing an active role in connecting Georgia consumers to the new health care coverage opportunities available to them.

 

 

Georgians for a Healthy Future will support the consortium’s success by drawing upon our strengths as a consumer health care advocacy leader, experience building and managing coalitions, and knowledge of the Affordable Care Act. In particular, we will work to ensure that the consortium’s activities are coordinated with a wide array of organizations in Georgia that share the goal of maximizing health insurance enrollment in our state. Through our Connecting Georgians to Coverage initiative, we have already held several webinars and meetings for organizations planning to participate in outreach and enrollment in Georgia. To learn more about our work to date in this area, click here. If your organization is planning to engage in outreach and enrollment, either as a navigator, certified application counselor organization, or champion for coverage and if you would like to coordinate your efforts with ours, please email Amanda Ptashkin at aptashkin@healthyfuturega.org.

 

 

Here is a full list of our navigator consortium members who will work collaboratively with Seedco and with other organizations and stakeholders to connect Georgia’s uninsured to health care coverage:

 

  • Boat People SOS
  • Center for Black Women’s Wellness
  • Emory-Grady Urban Health Initiative
  • Georgia Equality & The Health Initiative
  • Georgia Refugee Health and Mental Health
  • Georgia Watch
  • Georgians for a Healthy Future
  • Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia
  • Jewish Family & Career Services
  • Latin American Association
  • Mental Health America of Georgia
  • Parent to Parent
  • Quality Med-Care Inc.
  • Spring Creek Health Cooperative

 

We look forward to working with Seedco and this strong and diverse coalition over the next year!

 

 

 


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Hearing held on Georgia navigator regulation

During the 2013 Georgia Legislative Session, our state’s policymakers enacted HB 198 into law, which requires state training, licensure, background checks, and continuing education for navigators. Georgians for a Healthy Future has some concerns about this law and the potential hurdles it sets up for community-focused nonprofits already facing an uphill battle to reach, educate, and facilitate enrollment for consumers who haven’t historically had insurance. As such, we reached out to the Georgia Department of Insurance with suggestions to make the implementation of the law less burdensome for navigators, and some of our input was incorporated.

 

The proposed rule was presented at a hearing held by the Department of Insurance on July 30th. The regulation implementing HB 198 is available here. Georgians for a Healthy Future was also featured in two recent news articles in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the navigator program, available here and here.  Additionally, the Center for Public Integrity just released an article focusing on various state licensure laws as they affect navigators.  That article can be found here. We will continue to monitor this process with an eye towards ensuring navigators and assisters aren’t impeded from carrying out their important work.

 

 


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Health insurance rates a hot topic

Last week, health insurance premiums for the Marketplace were a hot topic, as Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner released some information about the rates that insurance companies proposed for the Marketplace. Georgians for a Healthy Future was frequently cited in media coverage of this issue, drawing attention to the fact that many consumers who were shut out of the market in the past would now be able to purchase insurance for the first time, with hefty tax credits that will make these plans affordable.

 

This issue was covered by the Atlanta Journal- ConstitutionGeorgia Health NewsThe Augusta Chronicle, and WSAV-Savannah. Articles featuring comments by Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director are available below.

 

Some Warn Exchanges Will Raise Insurance Rates 
WSAV | August 5, 2013

State grudgingly OKs insurance rates for exchange
Georgia Health News | August 1, 2013

State OKs new rates for insurance exchange
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | August 1, 2013

Georgia seeks delay on high health care premium approvals
Augusta Chronicle | July 30, 2013

State seeks delay on rate approval for exchanges
Georgia Health News | July 30, 2013

 

 


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Medicaid expansion could be a game changer for Georgians with mental illness

Georgia ranks 9th in the nation in the number of uninsured adults with a mental illness who could gain coverage through the Medicaid expansion, according to a new report from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). The NAMI report describes the barriers that people with mental illness face in accessing services and the important role that Medicaid plays in connecting people to services so they can be healthy and productive members of their communities. Expanding Medicaid in Georgia is a major opportunity to change the lives of more than 86,000 low-income uninsured adults with mental illness in Georgia–if you haven’t already, please sign the petition in support of expanding Medicaid in Georgia and join us in our campaign to Cover Georgia!  The full NAMI report on Medicaid and mental health is available here.

Please do help, share awareness and spread kindness. Feel free to visit About Leslie Zebel
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CMS announces simplified health coverage application

Based on feedback from consumer groups, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today a shortened and simplified health coverage application that will help individuals easily apply for coverage when open enrollment begins on October 1, 2013.  Additionally, for the first time consumers will be able to fill out one simple application and see their entire range of health insurance options including those in the marketplace, Medicaid, PeachCare, and tax credits to help pay for premiums.  To view the new applications for individuals and families, click here and here, and here

 

 


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More than 800,000 Georgians will be eligible for health care tax credits in 2014

Many of the Affordable Care Act’s major health insurance reforms take effect in 2014. One of the most important changes impacting consumers will be the availability of substantial new tax credits to help individuals and families afford health care coverage. Individuals with annual incomes between about $15,860 and $45,960 (or between about $32,500 and $94,200 for a family of four) will be eligible for the health insurance tax credits. According to a new study by Families USA, about 800,000 Georgians will be eligible for these credits to help make coverage more affordable for them or they could use credit cards for this also by getting amazing credit card advice from reasonable sources online. Georgians for a Healthy Future joined with Families USA in a co-release of the report to highlight the Georgia-specific findings. You can find media coverage of the report’s findings here, here, and here. You can download the report here.

 

 


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Connecting Georgians to coverage: we need your help!

Georgians for a Healthy Future is currently working with Enroll America to assess the interest and capacity of Georgia community-based organizations, health care-focused nonprofits, and other stakeholders in working collaboratively on education, outreach, and enrollment into the new health insurance options available to consumers in 2014 through the Affordable Care Act. As a first step, we held a webinar on April 10th and an in-person meeting on April 11th that many of you attended. For those who missed the meetings, the materials can be found here.

 

While a big part of those meetings focused on the navigator program, we are asking for your help today regardless of whether you plan to apply as a navigator. If your organization has a stake in covering the uninsured, we’re asking you to complete a brief survey about your current work and future plans to engage in connecting uninsured Georgians to coverage. Georgians for a Healthy Future plans to use the overall results of the survey to guide the formation of a new enrollment-focused coalition and to inform an upcoming policy brief on health insurance outreach and enrollment (all information will be reported in aggregate unless we seek and receive your permission to do otherwise).

 

Please take a few minutes to complete this survey. Georgians for a Healthy Future is committed to advancing the goal of covering Georgia’s uninsured by bringing stakeholders together who are interested in and able to collaborate towards this shared goal. The results of this survey will provide a baseline and starting point for this important work. Thank you!

 

 


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