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…
Legislative Update: Week 7
Legislative session passes halfway mark
Last week marked the halfway point of the 2020 Georgia legislative session. The General Assembly was busy with legislative hearings and committee votes last week, illustrated well by the flurry of activity in all of the health-related committees. We have your complete updates below.
The Senate is expected to pass their version of the amended FY2020 state budget this week and work continues in the House on the FY2021 budget. Committee hearings will continue in earnest this week ahead of next week’s Crossover Day deadline. (Crossover Day is the 28th day of session and the deadline by which bills must pass the House or the Senate in order to remain viable to become law.)
Effort to modernize HIV laws moves forward
HB 719 passed by House Health & Human Services committee
HB 719, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Silcox, would modernize Georgia’s HIV-related laws and make progress towards decriminalizing HIV. Current Georgia law deems it a felony for people living with HIV to have sex or donate blood without disclosing their status, or for spitting at or using bodily fluids on a law enforcement officer by a person living with HIV. Under HB 719 only the act of having sex without disclosing a person’s HIV status would remain illegal and the punishment for that would be downgraded to a misdemeanor. This legislation has the backing of LGBTQ+ advocates and public health professionals.
The House Health & Human Services committee approved HB 719 on Wednesday. The bill will now be considered by the House Rules committee.
Addressing childhood lead exposure
Resolution introduced to establish study committee on child lead poisoning
Last year, 2,333 Georgia children under six years of age were found to have lead poisoning, which is irreversible and can cause speech, language, and behavioral problems, lower IQ levels, and nervous system damage. To address this issue, Rep. Katie Dempsey has introduced HR 1280 to establish a Joint Study Committee on Childhood Lead Exposure. The resolution has been referred to the House Health & Human Services committee for its consideration.
For more information on this important public health issue, check out this helpful fact sheet from Voices for Georgia’s Children.
Pharmacy benefit managers in the spotlight
Georgia’s House and Senate committees have taken a keen interest in legislation to change how pharmacy benefit managers operate in Georgia. Pharmacy benefit managers (commonly called PBMs) are companies that manage prescription drug benefits for health insurance companies. in order to secure lower prices on medications, PBMs have adopted practices that are seen as to burdensome by pharmacies, restrictive and hard-to-navigate by consumers, and opaque by elected officials. Here are a few of the bills that are moving forward that would reform PBM practices in Georgia.
HB 918: Restricts onerous PBM audits of pharmacies
PBMs may audit the practices of pharmacies as part of their responsibilities for a health insurer. However, these audits can strain independent and small pharmacies with fewer employees. HB 918, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, puts in place limits on the practices of PBMs within these audits so that pharmacies can more easily meet audit requests and the benefit of the doubt is given to pharmacies when small or innocuous mistakes are discovered.
The House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care approved HB 918 on Friday. The bill will now be considered by the House Rules committee.
HB 946: Increases accountability for PBMs
HB 946, sponsored by Rep. Matt Knight, would increase fines on PBMs when they “steer” consumers to specific pharmacies and would prohibit PBMs from paying affiliated pharmacies more than independent ones. The bill would require PBMs to pass along rebates to insurers (who would presumably pass those savings on to consumers) and would ban programs called “co-pay accumulators.” Co-pay accumulators increase out-of-pocket costs for consumers who need prescription drugs, especially those with expensive medications and those with high deductibles and other cost-sharing.
The House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care approved HB 946 on Friday. The bill will now be considered by the Hosue Rules committee.
HB 947: Examining the costs of PBMs in Medicaid
HB 947, also sponsored by Rep. Matt Knight, would require Georgia’s Department of Community Health to complete an independent study to find out if Georgia would save money by removing the current PBM structure from its Medicaid plans. If the estimated savings are more than $20 million annually, Georgia would eliminate PBMs from most of the state’s Medicaid plans.
The House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care approved HB 946 on Friday. The bill will now be considered by the Hosue Rules committee.
SB 313: Benchmarking for prescription drug prices
SB 313, sponsored by Senator Dean Burke, is expected to receive a vote today in the Senate Insurance & Labor committee.
This bill is consistent with HB 946 in many ways, although not an exact match. SB 313 requires that PBMs use the “national average drug acquisition cost,” as a reference point for reimbursing pharmacies for prescriptions. The bill also includes many of the same patient protections as those in HB 946.
GHF has you covered
Stay up-to-date with the legislative session
GHF will be monitoring legislative activity on a number of critical consumer health care topics. Along with our weekly legislative updates and timely analysis of bills, we have the tools you need to stay in touch with health policy under the Gold Dome.
- Sign up for the Georgia Health ActionNetwork (GHAN) to receive action alerts that let you know when there are opportunities for advocacy and action
- Track health-related legislation
- GHF’s 2019-2020 legislative priorities
Georgians for a Healthy Future hosted an educational forum titled Strong Foundations: Building a System of Care to Address the Behavioral Health Needs of Georgia Children on Tuesday, May 15. The forum explored the behavioral health needs of Georgia children and youth, Georgia’s publicly-supported behavioral health landscape, and successes and opportunities in the current system of care. The event also raised awareness about Georgia’s system of care in an effort to improve access to behavioral health services for children and youth.
The event began with Respect Institute speaker Tammie Harrison, who shared her experiences navigating the behavioral health care system and getting to a place of recovery.
Because many of the event attendees were new to the topic of children’s behavioral health (BH), GHF’s Executive Director Laura Colbert provided some foundational information about the prevalence of children’s BH conditions, contributors to poor BH, and the pathways to BH care and supports for young Georgians. You can find Laura’s PowerPoint slides here. She also debuted GHF’s new behavioral health fact sheet.
Dante McKay, Director of the Office of Children, Young Adults, & Families at the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) provided attendees with an overview of DBHDD’s work, the 2017 System of Care state plan, and how the recently signed FY19 budget would impact the department’s ability to serve Georgia children and youth.
Dr. Erica Fener-Sitkoff, Executive Director of Voices for Georgia’s Children moderated a panel discussion of BH service providers, which included Wendy Farmer of Behavioral Health Link, Laura Lucas of Project LAUNCH (DBHDD), and Monica McGannon of CHRIS 180. The panelists discussed barriers to accessing BH services, which they said include continued stigma, lack of trained workforce, and transportation. The panel also identified innovative efforts, like Project LAUNCH and mobile crisis services, to bring BH services closer to consumers when and where they need it. When asked how Georgia’s next Governor could continue to make progress in the area of children’s behavioral health, panelists suggested a focus on workforce development, increasing access to community-based substance use treatment for teens, and prevention and early intervention.
If you missed the event, a recording of the webcast is available here.
To see photos, review materials, and read more about our Strong Foundations event, please visit the event page.
GHF is partnering with the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine to host post-doctoral fellow Lizeth “Liz” Camacho. Liz has a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from San Diego State University and a Master’s in Community Psychology from Michigan State University. In 2016, she earned a PhD in Lifespan Human Development and Family Diversity. Liz has over ten years of community-based health research experience. Her research focuses on the relationship between social determinants of health, such as discrimination, poverty, and depression, as well as the role of resilience in mental health. She is passionate about behavioral health issues and mental health policy, with a special interest on diminishing mental health disparities. Liz is also interested in the role of public health, health policy, and advocacy in decreasing health inequalities, including access to care.
As part of her fellowship experience, Liz is completing a practicum at GHF where she is leading a research project focusing on children’s behavioral health needs and services in Georgia. The results of the research project will inform the work of the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. The project seeks to understand how prevalent different behavioral health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and oppositional defiant disorder are in children and youth across the state, and how those health needs are currently being addressed. To better support the behavioral health needs of children and youth in need, the project will examine what existing programs or policies could be scaled up and what new policies or programs may need to be introduced. The project also aims to inform the DBHDD about issues related to the state’s pediatric and youth-serving behavioral health workforce.
Georgia’s rate of uninsured children has dropped from 11 percent during the depths of the recession to 7.6 percent in 2014. Despite this improvement, that means that 189,000 Georgia kids do not have access to needed health care and their families are without the financial protection that comes with coverage. In order to address this need, people who regularly work with children need to be aware of the importance of health coverage to children, and have the resources they need to connect kids and families with coverage quickly and easily.
That is why GHF partnered with the Georgia Departments of Education and Public Health to conduct a webinar called “Covering Kids.” The webinar was created for school nurses because they are such important sources of health information for families and students. During the webinar, Laura Colbert, Director of Outreach and Partnerships, reviewed the short and long term benefits of health care coverage for kids, which include academic and economic benefits on top of improved health outcomes. She also discussed trends and current statistics on children’s coverage in Georgia, and highlighted the pathways to coverage for kids which vary based on family income. Most importantly, she identified valuable community resources so that school nurses across the state can connect families and children with local assistance and information to help get them enrolled. This webinar is available to view on the School Nurse Exchange, and nurses who complete the webinar and an evaluation can receive CEU credits.
For more information about children’s health care coverage, check out these resources:
We know that closing Georgia’s coverage gap would help adults who are uninsured. But how does it affect families and children in our state? GHF and Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families have teamed up to bring you new research to answer that question. Key findings include:
- Nearly three-in-ten Georgians potentially eligible for coverage should Georgia choose to close the coverage gap are parents with dependent children residing in their home.
- Of those parents that could benefit from expanded Medicaid eligibility, nearly two-thirds (57 percent) are employed. Nearly half of all uninsured parents (46 percent) work in restaurants, retail, or professional service occupations.
Children enrolled in Medicaid are more likely to receive well-child care and are significantly less likely to have unmet or delayed needs for medical care, dental care, and prescription drug use due to cost.
Did you know that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you can receive certain preventive services at absolutely no cost? It’s true! One of the key requirements of the ACA is that insurance companies must cover recommended preventive services at no cost to the consumer – even if you haven’t met your deductible. These include services such as mammograms, annual physicals, colonoscopies, well-woman exams, cholesterol screenings, tobacco cessation, and many more. Click here for a full list of the preventive services that must be covered by all insurance companies. There is also an additional list of required services for women and a separate one for children. It’s important to take advantage of these no-cost preventive services to keep you and your family healthy. Evidence shows that preventive services can save lives and improve health by identifying illnesses earlier, managing them more effectively, and treating them before they become complicated and debilitating conditions.
If you have any questions about your insurance, please contact our Consumer Education Specialist, Whitney Griggs by email or at 404-567-5016 x 5
Please join us on Wednesday, March 25, from 8:45 am to mid-day for a morning of advocacy! GHF will provide individuals and organizations with the opportunity to advocate for the important health issues that matter to you in the closing days of this legislative session. You may want to advocate for closing the coverage gap, Medicaid payment parity, raising the tobacco tax, the Family Care Act, rural health care access, or another health policy issue. You’re all invited to participate! We’ll provide breakfast, an advocacy training, and an opportunity to share and network with other health advocates.
Federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), known as PeachCare for Kids in Georgia, expires in September 2015. More than 200,000 Georgia kids rely on this program for access to health care services. The U.S. Congress has signaled that it is willing to consider extending CHIP funding. This is great news. However, some of the discussions include provisions that provide access barriers. Some concerning provisions include the removal of protections that were included in the ACA, an optional 12-month waiting period for coverage, and cuts to CHIP funding for certain groups of children in some states. (Click here for a full analysis of the draft plan.) You can help by telling your legislators to pass a clean renewal of CHIP funding that does not impose barriers to enrollment and coverage for kids. Here are some ways to get in touch:
- Write a letter or call your congressman. Click here to see suggested language from our partners, Voices for Georgia’s Children. Click here to find your congressman, senator and their contact information.
- Tweet at your representatives in congress. See the list below for their Twitter handles. Use the hashtags #ExtendCHIP #keepkidscovered and #CHIPWorks
- Share this image from Voices for Georgia’s Children (@georgiavoices) on social media to spread the word.
@SenatorIsakson 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
@sendavidperdue 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Buddy Carter (1st District)
@RepBuddyCarter 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Sanford Bishop Jr. (2nd District)
@SanfordBishop 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Lynn Westmoreland (3rd District)
@RepWestmoreland 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Hank Johnson Jr. (4th District)
@RepHankJohnson 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
John Lewis (5th District)
@repjohnlewis 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Tom Price (6th District)
@RepTomPrice 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Rob Woodall (7th District)
@RepRobWoodall 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Austin Scott (8th District)
@AustinScottGA08 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Doug Collins (9th ,District)
@RepDougCollins 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Barry Loudermilk (11th District)
@RepLoudermilk 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Rick Allen (12th District)
@RepRickAllen 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
David Scott (13th District)
@repdavidscott 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
Tom Graves (14th District)
@RepTomGraves 200,000 GA kids rely on PeachCare to receive the critical care they need. #ExtendCHIP so we can #keepkidscovered #CHIPWorks (Click here to tweet this)
New from GHF!
All kids need reliable access to quality health care. Children need to see the doctor even when they are healthy: shots for school, well-child visits, and dental care are all important for kids to grow up healthy and strong. Their parents need coverage too to stay on track with regular screenings and preventive care, to access the health care system if they become sick, and to experience the financial peace of mind that comes with being covered.
Thanks to new health insurance options available through the Marketplace, the uninsured rate among parents is dropping. Still, too many of Georgia’s low-income parents fall into what has become known as the “coverage gap,” meaning they don’t earn enough to qualify for subsidized private insurance and they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid because Georgia has so far declined to join the 27 states (and counting!) who have expanded Medicaid.
In an effort to provide accurate information to parents about the coverage options for themselves and their children, GHF has created a set of fact sheets about health insurance coverage for kids and parents in Georgia. These fact sheets are intended to be a resource for individual consumers and for organizations who represent or provide services for Georgia families.
Affordable Health Care for Your Children and For Uninsured Parents help parents understand the coverage options for themselves and their children. If you work with low- to moderate-income families through a charity care clinic, at a school or church, or in a community-based organization, you may want to provide these resources to the families you serve.
Covering Kids paints a picture for policy makers and the media who want to better understand children’s health care coverage in Georgia. If you work with policy makers or want to talk to your legislators about health care coverage for kids, this fact sheet will be a helpful resource.
A fourth fact sheet serves as a reference for those who need to know the income limits for the Medicaid and PeachCare programs.
You can view and download these new fact sheets on the GHF website. If you would like hard copies to distribute to your members, clients, or community partners, please contact Laura Colbert, GHF’s Community Outreach Manager.