Public Heath’s COVID tracking website is less user-friendly than the reopening scorecard, said Laura Colbert of the consumer group Georgians for a Healthy Future. But the state site may be…
Tag: affordable care act
Thank you to the dozens of community groups, nonprofit organizations, and health care stakeholders who responded to our survey about your plans to conduct consumer outreach and facilitate enrollment into the new health insurance options that will become available to many uninsured and underinsured Georgians later this year through the new health insurance exchange, or marketplace. Georgians for a Healthy Future will compile the results and share them as part of a resource document later this summer. In the meantime, here are two new resources that may be useful for you.
- Families USA, a national consumer health advocacy organization, has developed an online resource center for navigators and others working on outreach and enrollment. You can visit the resource center here.
- Consumers Union, the policy and action division of Consumer Reports, has developed a consumer-tested brochure to help consumers understand the new health insurance tax credits. The brochure is available here.
You can also find links and resources regarding health insurance navigators on the Georgians for a Healthy Future website here.
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.
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.
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!
Open enrollment into the new health insurance marketplace, or exchange, begins in just under six months (October 1, 2013) for coverage starting in January 2014. Georgia has one of the highest numbers of uninsured in the nation (1.86 million), and many of these uninsured Georgians will be able to access health care coverage for the first time through the marketplace.
According to research from Enroll America, however, more than three-quarters of the uninsured don’t know about the new health insurance marketplace. Multiple surveys have also found that when uninsured individuals learn about the new health insurance options that will become available to them through the marketplace, they say they will need help navigating the process.
That’s why the new navigator program is so important. Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a funding opportunity announcement inviting organizations and individuals to apply for the navigator program. Groups may apply individually or as a consortium, although HHS is encouraging the consortium approach. Navigator responsibilities include:
- Maintain expertise in eligibility, enrollment, and program specifications;
- Conduct public education activities to raise awareness about the Exchange;
- Provide information and services in a fair, accurate, and impartial manner. Such information must acknowledge other health programs (such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP));
- Facilitate selection of a Qualified Health Plan;
- Provide referrals to any applicable office of health insurance consumer assistance or health insurance ombudsman established under Section 2793 of the Public Health Service Act, or any other appropriate state agency or agencies, for any enrollee with a grievance, complaint, or question regarding their health plan, coverage, or a determination under such plan or coverage; and
- Provide information in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate to the needs of the population being served by the Exchange, including individuals with limited English proficiency, and ensure accessibility and usability of Navigator tools, such as fact sheets, and functions for individuals with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act used in Holistic Drug and Alcohol Treatment centers and other similar types of organizations.
For entities interested in applying for the navigator funds, letters of intent (optional but recommended) are due on May 1, 2013 and applications are due to HHS on June 7, 2013. To learn more about the navigator funding opportunity, click here.
Nearly 100 of you joined us last week for a meeting to begin discussing how consumer and community-focused nonprofit organizations can work collaboratively to maximize enrollment in Georgia. The meeting also was an opportunity for organizations considering applying to HHS for the navigator grants to network with each other and see if there were opportunities to submit joint applications. To those of you who were unable to join us, here are the resources and materials that were shared:
- HHS navigator funding opportunity announcement
- Georgians for a Healthy Future’s navigator fact sheet
- Enroll America’s enrollment assisters fact sheet
- Enroll America’s navigator and in-person assistance programs
- Enroll America’s bridging the enrollment gap: the importance of providing in-person assistance
- Enroll America’s power point presentation
- Seedco’s power point presentation
- Webinar power point presentation
Join us for a webinar and in-person meeting about ACA Navigators April 10 and 11
If you or your organization are interested in applying for the upcoming funding opportunity provided through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for navigator grants or you would like to connect with other organizations who will be applying, please join Georgians for a Healthy Future, Seedco, Families USA and Enroll America for an important webinar on April 10th, 2013 at 11am and an in-person meeting on April 11th, 2013 from 2:30 to 4:30pm at the Philip Rush Center (1530 DeKalb Ave).
In the next few days, HHS is planning to announce funding that will be available to organizations for outreach and assistance to help individuals and small employers enroll in health coverage. These grants are created as part of the navigator program that was established by the Affordable Care Act. To learn more about navigators, click here.
To join us for the webinar, please click here to RSVP. To join us for the in-person meeting to further discuss this funding opportunity and opportunities for collaboration on outreach and enrollment, click here.
For a bill (except for the state budget) to remain viable, it must pass at least one chamber by the end of Day 30, known as Crossover Day. Crossover Day was last Thursday, March 7th. Below is a summary of bills that have passed at least one chamber and that Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring, as they could have an impact on Georgia health care consumers if enacted into law.
Legislation impacting health insurance consumer protections and access to insurance
A trio of health insurance related bills are moving through the General Assembly. Consumer health advocates are concerned about these bills because they could restrict information and choices for consumers.
SB 236 would require insurance companies to indicate on statements sent to consumers that provide notice of premium increases the portion of any premium increase that is due to the Affordable Care Act. How this is determined would be left to insurance companies to calculate, and they would not have to disclose their methodology. There would also be no requirement to present information about any other factors leading to premium increases or to notify consumers about any cost savings or benefit enhancements they are receiving as a result of the Affordable Care Act. As such, this bill would result in consumers receiving incomplete and potentially misleading information. SB 236 has passed the Senate and is in the House insurance committee.
HB 198 would require licensing, certification, and training for health benefit exchange navigators and would restrict their ability to assist consumers. While ensuring that consumers receive accurate information from navigators about their health insurance options is an important goal, HB 198’s restrictive language and potentially duplicative training requirements could deter community-focused nonprofits, whose participation in the navigator program will be essential in reaching vulnerable populations who have historically faced barriers to enrolling in health insurance, from becoming navigators or from providing appropriate consumer assistance. HB 198 has passed both the House and and the Senate.
HB 389 would allow insurance companies to terminate, cancel, or non-renew conversion policies or any health insurance policies offered through the health insurance assignment system when guaranteed issue becomes available (with a 90-day cancellation period and a 90-day open enrollment period into new health insurance options made available through the Affordable Care Act). HB 389 has passed the House and is in the Senate Insurance committee.
Legislation that could impact Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries
HR 107 would create a joint study committee on Medicaid reform that would study current Medicaid policies and procedures, models in other states, and other aspects of the Medicaid program and report to the General Assembly and the Governor by December 31, 2013 with recommendations. HR 107 has passed the House and is in the Senate Rules committee.
SB 62 would create Federal and State Funded Health Care Financing Programs Overview Committee, a joint committee of the General Assembly. SB 62 has passed the Senate.
SB 163 would direct the Department of Community Health to examine and identify options for reforming Medicaid in Georgia, including but not limited to more use of managed care, with the purpose of bringing savings to the state. SB 163 has passed the Senate and is in the House Health and Human Services committee.
An analysis conducted by Dr. Bill Custer of Georgia State University and released today by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation finds that, if Georgia policymakers choose to accept the $40.5 billion in federal funds available to the state between 2014 and 2023 to expand Medicaid, this infusion of resources would create more jobs in Pensacola FL and 70,000 jobs countrywide, adding an annual $8.2 billion to statewide economic output and generating $276 million in state and local tax revenue annually.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, states can create a new eligibility category for Medicaid for people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or approximately $15,850 for an individual or $26,950 for a family of three. In Georgia, according to the report, about 694,000 people would gain health coverage under this expansion, mostly childless adults and some parents.
To date, Governor Deal has rejected the offer to expand coverage citing concerns about the cost to the state. As this new report details, however, expanding Medicaid would be an economic engine for Georgia. Of the more than 70,000 jobs that would be created, just over half would be in the health care sector; however, other industries such as real estate, food services, and wholesale trade businesses would also gain jobs. The report also shows the geographic distribution of jobs created throughout Georgia by state service delivery region. To read the full report, click here.
Each year, Georgians for a Healthy Future develops policy priorities that guide our advocacy work on behalf of health care consumers. Below are the legislative and policy priorities we are supporting in 2013.
Extend health insurance coverage to a substantial portion of Georgia’s uninsured by expanding Medicaid. Approximately 1.9 million Georgians are uninsured, many of whom are low-income working adults without access to an employer-sponsored health plan. An estimated 650,000 of these Georgians could gain health insurance coverage in 2014 at minimal state cost by extending Medicaid to those newly eligible through the Affordable Care Act. The infusion of federal Medicaid dollars into Georgia will both support our state’s health care delivery system and foster economic growth. Georgians for a Healthy Future supports expanding coverage through Medicaid to individuals and families with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
Preserve and strengthen consumer protections for Georgians in private health insurance plans through both federal and state advocacy. The private health insurance marketplace is rapidly evolving, largely as a result of changes spurred by the Affordable Care Act. As these reforms are implemented, it is critical that the consumer perspective is represented in the policy-making process and that rules and regulations incorporate consumer needs. Many of the decisions that would impact health care consumers are currently being made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. To that end, Georgians for a Healthy Future will monitor and advocate on behalf of Georgia consumers on issues including the development of a federal health insurance exchange, essential health benefits, and other private market reforms. At the same time, Georgia policymakers retain authority over many aspects of our state’s health insurance marketplace. Georgians for a Healthy future will continue to support efforts that preserve and strengthen patient and consumer protections and oppose state legislation that places these protections at risk.
Ensure access to quality health care for Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries. The Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids programs provide health insurance for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Georgians for a Healthy Future will monitor legislative and agency level activity and support proposals that facilitate continuous coverage and enrollment, preserve and expand access to care, and improve health outcomes. Because ensuring access to quality care for Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries also requires a Medicaid system that is financially sound, Georgians for a Healthy Future will support proposals that ensure the program is adequately funded and will oppose cuts to the program, including cuts to provider reimbursement rates, which jeopardize access to care. We will also continue to monitor the Georgia Department of Community Health’s Medicaid redesign process.
Strengthen Georgia’s public health system. Our state’s public health system plays a critical role by vaccinating children, monitoring and preventing epidemics, ensuring safe food and water, and providing both clinical and community-based preventive services. Despite an increasing need for these services and a growing awareness of the importance of social determinants to community health outcomes, Georgia’s per capita public health spending is among the lowest in the nation. Georgians for a Healthy Future supports a robust, adequately funded public health system to meet the needs of our state.
Increase the tobacco tax. The current funding environment demands evidence-based policy solutions that both advance the health of our state and generate needed revenue. In recent years, even the most basic, vital, and cost-effective programs have been subject to deep budget cuts. Georgians for a Healthy Future opposes further cuts to these vital programs and supports budget solutions such as a substantial increase in the state’s tobacco tax of at least a dollar per pack. Tobacco taxes are a proven strategy with the dual benefit of bringing in additional state revenue and improving the health of Georgians by reducing adult and youth smoking.
Support policies and practices that advance health equity. In addition to overall health outcomes and indicators that consistently place Georgia in the bottom tier nationally, our state has considerable health disparities between communities. Racial and ethnic minority communities, rural and low-income urban communities, and those with disabilities and chronic mental illness, all experience worse health and worse opportunities for health than their peers. Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to support policies and practices that advance the opportunities for optimal health for all Georgians.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, beginning in 2014 all new individual and small group health insurance plans must cover a core set of health care services and items across ten broad categories including hospitalization, prescription drugs, maternity and newborn care, and preventive services, among others. This core set of services and items is known as Essential Health Benefits.
The benefits that health plans are currently required to cover vary by state. To ease the transition to essential health benefits in 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) set out a process for each state to select a benchmark health insurance plan (which would include all benefits currently mandated in that state) that would then be supplemented to fill in any gaps and ensure health benefits across all ten categories are covered.
Last week, HHS issued a proposed rule outlining each state’s benchmark plan. HHS is accepting public comment on all states’ proposed benchmark plans, including Georgia’s benchmark, until December 26th, 2012 (instructions for how to comment are included within the proposed rule). You can view the proposed benchmark plan for Georgia here. For additional information about the Essential Health Benefits process, see a recent Health Affairs article here. For additional information through a Georgia lens, see a recent Georgia Health News story on Essential Health Benefits here.