The waiver would have shut the door on the most popular pathway for enrollment – healthcare.gov, said Laura Colbert, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future. “Consumers will have…
Health exchanges are a central feature of the Affordable Care Act and are intended to provide meaningful and affordable health insurance options for individuals and families who don’t have access to health insurance at work. The exchange, or marketplace, will be a place where consumers can shop for private health insurance plans utilizing decision tools and accessing tax credits to make the plans affordable. By 2014, these marketplaces will be up and running in every state, with some states operating their own exchange marketplaces, some states partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on a “state partnership exchange,” and some states deferring to a federally facilitated exchange.
States planning to move forward with their own state-based exchanges must submit a blueprint by November 16th of this year. Georgia is not expected to be ready for a state-based exchange, as reported in the Atlanta Journal Constitution last week, and thus a default to a federally facilitated exchange is likely in Georgia.
Ensuring that a health insurance exchange works for Georgia consumers is a key priority for Georgians for a Healthy Future, whether it is a state-based exchange, partnership exchange, or federally facilitated exchange. Regardless of who is administering the exchange on the back end, we must make sure it works for consumers on the front end. To that end, Georgians for a Healthy Future remains engaged in this important issue on behalf of health care consumers. Our Executive Director served on the Governor’s Health Insurance Advisory Committee in 2011, which studied options for Georgia, and submitted a minority report advocating for Georgia to move forward with planning for a state-based exchange despite the full committee’s recommendations against doing so; Georgians for a Healthy Future released a well-received policy brief in August 2011 making policy recommendations for a Georgia exchange; and our staff and coalition partners have been active in discussions with federal officials, along with consumer health advocates from around the country, about how to make sure federally facilitated exchanges are responsive to the needs of consumers within the states.
More information about the exchange blueprint submission process is available here; a summary of Georgia’s status on exchange planning is available here; and all archived materials from Governor Deal’s health insurance exchange advisory committee are available here.
Today, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director Cindy Zeldin presented to the annual Georgia Women’s Assembly, organized by Georgia Women for a Change, on the Medicaid expansion and why it matters for women. We know that covering Georgia’s uninsured by implementing the Medicaid expansion will improve access to care, provide resources for the state’s health care delivery system, and bolster Georgia’s economy. But what about women in particular? Medicaid today provides a lifeline for many women, serving as a source of coverage for low and moderate-income pregnant women, low-income mothers, and low-income women diagnosed with breast or cervical cancer. Yet too many women are left out. Expanding Medicaid will extend that lifeline to more low-income moms and low-income women without children who aren’t eligible for Medicaid today. More than two-thirds of uninsured women report difficulty accessing care, which tells us that too many women who want and need an entry point to the health care system to meet basic medical needs cannot get it today. The Medicaid expansion will help open that door. Another reason to Cover Georgia!
To download Cindy Zeldin’s power point presentation from the Georgia Women’s Assembly, click here.
More than 26,000 Americans die every year because they lack health insurance. Right here in Georgia, an estimated 1,000+ people died in 2010 because they didn’t have health insurance, among the most in the nation. People who are uninsured are less likely to have a usual source of care, often go without screenings and preventive care, and delay or forgo needed care. This tragic reality has persisted for too long. Please join our friends at HealthSTAT in a candlelight vigil on Wednesday, October 24th at 7pm on the steps of the Georgia state capitol in memory of those who have lost their lives because they could not afford or did not have access to health insurance. Then, let’s redirect our energy towards covering all Georgians.
The 2012 Legislative Session continues today as legislators meet for Day 27 of the 40-day Session. Crossover Day (Day 30), when a bill must pass at least one chamber to remain viable for the Session, will be March 7th. Here is what health care advocates are watching:
- The House and Senate have both passed versions of the Amended FY 2012 Budget (HB 741); since there are minor differences, HB 741 now heads to conference committee. Notably, the Senate version added $1.2 million in the Department of Public Health budget for the Children 1st program to replace the loss of Supplemental TANF funds. This program provides screenings for newborns. Also in the Senate version, funds were added to the Department of Community Health budget to reflect projected need in Medicaid but there were also cuts to reflect the rounding down of co-payments to the nearest dollar. Meanwhile, work continues on the FY 2013 budget. Click here for the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s analyses of the implications for the state’s health care agencies on the governor’s proposed 2013 budget recommendations.
- HB 1166, sponsored by Representative Atwood, would restore child-only health insurance policies to Georgia’s individual market. Georgians for a Healthy Future, along with a range of child health advocacy groups, is in strong support of this measure to provide this option for families who need coverage for their kids. The bill is expected to be before the House Insurance Committee on Wednesday. You can learn more about this issue by downloading our fact sheet.
- HB 801 and SB 418 were introduced by Representative Gardner and Senator Orrock, respectively, as companion bills to establish a health insurance exchange in Georgia. While leadership in the House and Senate have indicated that there will not be movement on an exchange this year, please thank Representative Gardner and Senator Orrock for their leadership on this important issue. You can learn more about how a Georgia exchange could work by downloading our issue brief here. All information from the Governor’s Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Committee, which met throughout the second half of 2011 to develop recommendations on this issue, is available here.
- HB 1159, sponsored by Representative Pruett, is known as the New Parent Information Bill and would create a Joint Study Commission on Education for Parents with Newborn Children to determine how best to gather information, raise funds and create a comprehensive informational video. The video would include but not be limited to information on the prevention of childhood obesity; how to prevent SIDS, shaken baby syndrome, and other forms of child abuse; how to prevent death and injury and additional information which would assist parents to raise safe and healthy children. The bill is expected to be before the House Health and Human Services Committee this week.
Don’t forget to download our Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the 2012 Georgia Legislative Session to help you navigate the Capitol! A limited number of hard copy guides are available. Please contact us if you’d like a copy.
Georgia lags other states in progress towards establishing a health insurance exchange as authorized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite the fact that Georgia stands to experience one of the largest drops in the uninsured as a result of the ACA reforms, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. At our Health Care Unscrambled breakfast in January, a panel of Georgia policymakers discussed prospects for a health insurance exchange and indicated that exchange legislation would not move through the General Assembly in 2012. Nevertheless, Representative Pat Gardner has introduced HB 801 to establish a Georgia health insurance marketplace, or exchange. Please thank Representative Gardner for taking a stand on this important issue! For recent news articles on health insurance exchanges and Georgia, click here and here.
Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring developments at the federal level that will impact benefits and consumer protections for new individual and small group health plans in Georgia beginning in 2014. In December, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), the division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charged with implementing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) related to private health insurance, released a bulletin on the essential health benefits (EHB) that all new plans will need to include.
Just in time for the 2012 Georgia Legislative Session, Georgians for a Healthy Future has a new resource for advocates: A Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the 2012 Georgia Legislative Session: Information for Action. Our legislative guide walks you through the legislative process; identifies the committees with jurisdiction over health care issues, which legislators sit on them, and how to contact them; provides contact information for a range of health care organizations, associations, and advocacy groups as well as key health care reporters; and provides other tools to help you be a strong and effective advocate. The guide is available here.
Georgians for a Healthy Future is a non-profit, non-partisan health policy and advocacy organization that addresses health care issues through a consumer lens. Our 2012 policy priorities were developed with broad input from community stakeholders. We will work collaboratively with our community partners to advance these priorities.
Maximize opportunities and benefits presented by the Affordable Care Act for Georgia health care consumers. Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to monitor legislation and agency-level activity to implement the ACA and support Georgia laws and regulations that establish structures and systems that maximize benefits for consumers in this process.
Preserve consumer protections for Georgians in private health insurance plans. State laws and regulations provide a basic level of protections and benefits to consumers who buy private health insurance plans. These protections ensure that consumers who purchase these plans obtain meaningful health insurance that covers essential medical services in the event they get sick. Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to support efforts to preserve and strengthen consumer protections and oppose legislation that would place consumer protections at risk.
Modernize Medicaid and PeachCare by utilizing best practices to improve coverage rates, access to care, and health outcomes. The Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids programs provide health insurance for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. The Georgia Department of Community Health is currently weighing options to redesign these programs. Georgians for a Healthy Future will monitor this process as well as legislative activity and will support policy changes that facilitate continuous coverage and enrollment, preserve and expand access to care, and improve health outcomes. Georgians for a Healthy Future will oppose policy changes that restrict access to vital health care services for Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries.
Establish a consumer-friendly health insurance exchange. A well-designed health insurance exchange can add transparency to the health insurance marketplace, spur competition and choice, help make insurance more affordable and available, and give consumers the information they need to make optimal purchasing decisions. Georgians for a Healthy Future will support a health insurance exchange compatible with the American Health Benefit Exchanges (AHBE) authorized by the Affordable Care Act that provides consumers with the appropriate information, tools, and navigation assistance to make optimal purchasing decisions and a governance structure that can effectively and transparently oversee the exchange without conflicts of interest.
Restore child-only health insurance plans to the private health insurance market. Due to a recent change in federal law, insurance carriers in the individual market can no longer deny coverage to a child with a pre-existing condition. Even though insurers may still medically underwrite these policies, insurance carriers in Georgia stopped issuing these policies altogether. Georgians for a Healthy Future will support legislation to restore these plans to Georgia’s health insurance marketplace.
Strengthen Georgia’s public health system. Our 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 services, Georgia’s per capita public health spending is among the lowest in the nation. The establishment in 2011 of the new Department of Public Health presents an opportunity to rebuild our public health infrastructure and to place renewed focus on the critical role of public health. Georgians for a Healthy Future supports a robust, adequately funded public health system to meet the critical 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. Tobacco taxes are a proven strategy with the dual benefit of bringing in additional state revenue and increasing the health of Georgians by reducing adult and youth smoking.
Beginning in 2014, many health insurance plans, including those to be offered through the new state-based health insurance exchanges, must cover a minimum package of preventive, diagnostic, and therapeutic services and products comparable to those offered in a typical employment-based plan. Federal law defines ten major categories to be included in this essential health benefits package, but the specifics will be determined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), based on guidance from the Institute of Medicine. Earlier this month, the Institute of Medicine released criteria for HHS to use in developing the package.
A really negative effect of modern medicine is the fact that they ignore herbal medicines such as Kratom. It is one of the so-called miracle herbs in the alternative medicine world. You can buy kratom powder online and take advantage of some super good pricing, rather than buying it locally. Online is usually the way to go!
Now HHS is seeking input from consumers, providers, businesses, insurers, state government officials, and other stakeholders like Lee Rosen holding regional listening sessions. The Region IV (which includes Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee) listening session will be held in Atlanta on November 16th from 10am to 12pm at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center. RSVPs are accepted on a first come, first serve basis. To RSVP for this opportunity to provide input in this important process, e-mail your name, title, organization, e-mail address, and phone number to the HHS Regional Office at ORDAtlanta@hhs.gov. Please note that we are passing along this opportunity to provide your voice in this process as a courtesy and you must RSVP directly to HHS
Guest Blog By Pat Nobbie
The Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD) is currently traveling the state to speak with families about their experiences. In a guest post, GCDD Deputy Director Pat Nobbie shares her thoughts with us.
The Unlock the Doors to Real Communities: 2011 Listening Tour has been making its way across the state of Georgia since late September and will have three more stops: Gainesville, Summerville and Athens on October 28th. Many wonderful people have welcomed us into their communities. They have shared their experiences, what they care about, the challenges they are struggling with and how they want to make an impact. We have discussed effective ways to advocate for change and how to get involved during the legislative session. And, we gathered to enjoy each other over delicious pot-luck dinners!
Take a moment to hear some of the thoughts of the Georgians we met and what we have learned along the way. Use the links below to read our impressions: