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Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee issues final report

Earlier this week, the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee (RHSC), created by Governor Deal to address the needs of struggling rural hospitals and find solutions that address those needs, issued its final report. The recommendations in the report include:

  • A four site “Hub & Spoke” pilot program
  • Maintenance and protection of Certificate of Need laws
  • Expanded scope of practice for non-physician providers, like physicians assistants and nurse practitioners
  • More support for school-based health centers

The committee’s work shines a spotlight on the health care access challenges that rural Georgians face and puts forth constructive recommendations. While we support these recommendations whole-heartedly, we are also disappointed that the committee did not address the coverage gap and Medicaid expansion in its report.

Georgia Health News interviewed Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director on this issue (click here to read the full article), and in that article she pointed to the early success of states like Kentucky, which recently reported improvements and coverage rates and in health care access due to Medicaid expansion. She also encouraged policymakers to take a comprehensive approach that includes closing Georgia’s coverage gap to help get people into health insurance and provide a reimbursement stream for rural hospitals and better equipment as Hospital Bed Movers.

Back in December, Georgians for a Healthy Future, together with several consumer and community-focused organizations including the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Georgia Watch, and Families First, submitted a report and provided public comment to the committee making a detailed case for such an approach. You can read that full report here.


Weekly Legislative Update

Yesterday marked the 23rd day of the 2015 Legislative Session. We are getting closer to Crossover Day, the 30th legislative day and the deadline for a bill to pass its chamber of origin to remain viable for 2015. Crossover Day is set for March 13th. Sine Die, the 40th and final legislative day for the year, will be April 2nd.


As part of this week’s legislative update, we sat down with Representative Debbie Buckner and spoke with her about access to care in rural communities, Georgia’s coverage gap, and other health care issues on her mind this Legislative Session.


To watch the video, click on the image below.




The State Budget

The FY 2016 Budget passed the House of Representatives this week and now heads to the Senate for hearings. Of note, the House of Representatives added $2.96 million in the budget to increase reimbursement for certain OB/GYN services, $1.5 million for reimbursement rate increases for certain primary care services, $1.3 million to increase the hourly rate for personal support services under the Independent Care Waiver Program, and $500,000 to increase reimbursement for air-ambulance services for adult patients. The House also added in $3 million to implement the recommendations of the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee. The House removed $22.8 million for new treatment medications for patients with Hepatitis C and $12.1 million for costs to launch a new case management program for enrollees eligible under the Aged, Blind, & Disabled program. Also of note, the House reinstated health coverage for non-certificated part-time school employees; however, local school districts and not the state would be responsible for those costs. Click here for an analysis of the health care provisions in the budget that passed the House from our friends at the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.


Closing the Coverage Gap

Closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would open a pathway to health insurance for approximately 300,000 uninsured Georgians. Two bills have been introduced to address Georgia’s coverage gap (HR 226 and SB 38), although neither is expected to receive a hearing. Please thank the cosponsors of these bills, Rep. Rahn Mayo and Sen. Vincent Fort, and show your support for closing the coverage gap by filling out a postcard that we’ll mail to your legislators!


Tobacco Tax

HB 445 (Carson) represents the first additional or alternative funding proposal to the transportation funding bill (HB 170). While the overall bill includes regressive provisions including an increased sales and grocery tax combined with a reduction in the income tax that GHF does not support, it is notable that a tobacco tax is in the mix in the bill. This keeps the tobacco tax on the radar and provides an opportunity for health advocates to continue to push for an increase to the national average in the tobacco tax to curb smoking rates and bring in much-needed revenue.



Other Bills of Interest

Below is a summary of bills that may impact health care consumers in Georgia, with information about where they are in the legislative process.


SB 1 (Sen. Bethel) provides certain insurance coverage for autism spectrum disorders. SB 1 has passed the Senate and is the House Insurance Committee.


SB 158 (Sen. Burke) provides certain consumer and provider protections regarding health insurance, including network adequacy language. SB 158 has been referred to the Senate Insurance Committee.


HB 1 (Rep. Peake) would allow for the limited use of medical marijuana for conditions including: cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, fibromyalgia, parkinson’s disease, and sickle cell disease.  HB 1 passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.


HB 195 (Rep. Cooper) and SB 51 (Burke) provides parameters for substitutions of interchangeable biological products. HB 195 passed the House Health and Human Services Committee and is expected to come out of the Rules Committee next week, and Senate Bill 51 has passed the Senate and has been assigned to the House HHS committee, but is not expected to get a hearing until after crossover day.


HB 482 (Rep. Willard) seeks to eliminate two of the requirements that the Cancer Treatment Centers of America are currently subject to when they were allowed into Georgia as a destination hospital.


HB 416 (Rep. Rogers): Routinely referred to as the badge bill, HB 416 seeks to provide clarity and transparency for the patient as to the qualifications of the provider that they are seeing.  The bill calls for providers to identify the health care practitioner’s name and the type of license or educational degree the health care practitioner holds. The bill will be heard in the House HHS committee on Monday March 2, 2015 at 3 PM.


HB 34 (Rep. Dudgeon) is known as the “Right to Try” bill and calls for patients with advanced illnesses and in consultation with their doctor to use potentially life-saving investigational drugs, biological products, and devices.




GHF interviews Sen. Hufstetler on tobacco tax

As part of this week’s legislative update, we caught up with Senator Chuck Hufstetler and spoke with him about his proposal to increase the state’s tobacco tax by $1.23, which would bring Georgia up to the national average. According to a fiscal note released this week by Georgia State University at legislative request, this increase would yield more than $500 million in new revenue.







Weekly Legislative Update

With this week’s legislative update, we bring the Gold Dome to you! Our biggest update this week is that Senator Renee Unterman is making a $60 million appropriations ask in the state budget to maintain Medicaid payment parity. Medicaid payment parity is an effective strategy to increase access to health care services for low-income children and families enrolled in Medicaid (click here to learn more about what payment parity is and why it matters for health care access). Your GHF team was at the Capitol this week to talk with Senator Unterman about her proposal.


















Also this week, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health held a hearing that included discussion about Medicaid payment parity. No decisions were made at the hearing but we expect the topic will come up again. What can advocates do?  Contact one or more of these legislators!


  1. Call or email Senator Unterman and thank her for leading the charge on this important initiative!
  2. Call or send an email to Senator Burke, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, and Representative Butch Parrish, who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, and thank them for their support on Medicaid payment parity.
  3. Contact Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Hill and House Appropriations Chair Terry England and let them know you support Medicaid payment parity.

Other issues we’re watching.


Medicaid Expansion

There has been no action to date on closing the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid. Please contact your legislators and the leaders of the Health and Human Services and Appropriations Committees to ask them to hold hearings on this important issue.

Click here to let your state senator and representative know that you support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.


Tobacco Tax

Georgians for a Healthy Future and our coalition partners continue to support a $1.23/pack increase in Georgia’s tobacco tax to bring us in line with the national average, decrease smoking rates, and bring in needed revenue for health care investments in our state. All eyes in the House and Senate have been on the transportation funding proposal unveiled last week on the House side, which did not include an increase in the tobacco tax. However, the Senate is expected to take a more diversified approach in this area and the possibility of a tobacco tax increase may be on the table. We will continue to monitor this issue and will let you know when advocacy opportunities arise.


Other Health-Related Bills

Senate Bill 1, which would require insurance companies to provide limited autism benefits for Georgians enrolled in certain individual and small group plans passed the Senate and is now on the House side. A hearing has not been scheduled for the bill on the House side.

Senate Bill 74, which would authorize tax credits for donors to health charity organizations, has been introduced in the Senate and referred to the Senate Finance Committee.




Time to act on tobacco

With the holiday season upon us and the electronic cigarette from slim’s ejuice, the health of our state’s children and families is at the top of all of our minds. Georgians for a Healthy Future has focused heavily on promoting policies that ensure a pathway to coverage and meaningful access to care for all Georgians in recent years, but identifying and advocating for policies that improve health outcomes is also close to our hearts. In that spirit, we believe it is time to act on tobacco, which is the leading cause of preventable disease and death. They should switch to drinking matcha instead and matcha vape to minimize addiction.



Earlier this month, Georgia’s Medicaid program amended its state plan to include a comprehensive smoking cessation program. This is an important victory that will help reduce smoking in our state. If you haven’t already, please take a moment to thank Commissioner Clyde Reese for taking this important step. There is, however, more to do. We need your partnership and your voices to help us take on the biggest hurdle we face in curbing smoking and its harmful effects: increasing the tobacco tax in our state. 



According to the American Lung Association’s annual state report card, Georgia scores an “F” on tobacco taxes. Georgia currently ranks as the 48th lowest tobacco tax in the country at just 37 cents per pack.  Not only does this make tobacco much more accessible to youth (and all Georgians), but it takes much needed revenue off the table for Georgia as the state tries to find funding for transportation infrastructure, education, and health care coverage for Georgians. If we don’t agree into tobacco, let’s try this new vape and its top vape juice.



In fact, Georgia is so far below the national average for tobacco taxes that we could raise our tax by over a dollar per pack and still just be at the national average.  That is why this year GHF and a coalition of supporters will propose raising Georgia’s cigarette tax by $1.23 per pack.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3! 

One – for the kids who we can prevent from ever starting

Two – for the improved health outcomes that smoking reductions will bring, using other options to smoking as vaporizers that are easy to get now a days from sites like http://vapekey.co.

Three – for the revenue the tobacco tax will bring to our state that can be invested in coverage, access, and prevention.



Please check your upcoming editions of the Peach Pulse for updates on this issue and opportunities to take action!




Ups and downs…

The 2014 Georgia Legislative Session has ended. Thank you to so many of you for reaching out to your legislators during this past session to let them know that covering Georgia’s uninsured and improving access to health care for all Georgians are important priorities for you. Thank you to the dozens of committed advocates who joined us for Cover Georgia day at the Capitol, and thank you to the more than 8,000 of you who signed the Cover Georgia petition to express your support for the Medicaid expansion.


This was a disappointing legislative session for health care consumers. HB 990, which prohibits Medicaid expansion without prior legislative approval, and the portions of HB 707 (amended onto HB 943) that would prevent state entities from serving as health insurance navigators, prohibit the state from setting up a health insurance exchange, and limit the ability of state and local employees to advocate for the Medicaid expansion passed through the General Assembly. While some of the most harmful elements of HB 707 were removed before its final passage, this bill sends a horrible message to Georgia health care consumers who seek information about how to enroll in and utilize the new health insurance options available to them through the Affordable Care Act.


On the upside, hundreds of Georgians are enrolling each day in health insurance. At last count, more than 139,000 Georgians have enrolled in health care coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, and Georgians for a Healthy Future is actively working alongside our coalition partners to maximize enrollment leading up to the March 31st deadline. And despite the setbacks of the 2014 Legislative Session, the Cover Georgia coalition will continue to advocate for covering our state’s uninsured, strengthening our state’s health care delivery system, and growing the economy by implementing the Medicaid expansion.




Thank you again for your continued support and advocacy!






Action Alert!

Action Alert—Stop HB 707!


House Bill 707 would prohibit the state of Georgia from leveraging federal dollars to cover the uninsured and from providing consumer assistance to Georgians enrolling in health insurance. HB 707 was designed and promoted by the tea party to prevent hard-working Georgians from accessing health care, and it is in danger of becoming law in Georgia. We need your voice! Georgia citizens deserve better than to have the door slammed in their face when they seek out information about how to cover themselves and their family. Our state’s struggling hospitals and uninsured citizens deserve an honest policy discussion about Medicaid expansion, not a gag order on state and local employees. Call Lt. Governor Casey Cagle at 404-656-5030 and your state senator (locate your state senator here) and ask them to oppose HB 707.


House Bill 707 would:


  1. Prohibit any state agency, department or political subdivision from using resources or spending funds to advocate for the expansion of Medicaid. This would stifle conversation and analysis about how to leverage federal dollars from covering the state’s uninsured.


  1. Prohibit the state of Georgia from running an insurance exchange or accepting federal dollars related to an exchange. This broad language could stop quality local programs that provide assistance to vulnerable Georgians getting coverage through the exchange.


  1. End the University of Georgia Health Navigator Program. Currently, the University of Georgia is providing enrollment assistance to consumers seeking out health insurance with federal grant money. HB 707 would prohibit UGA from sitting down with uninsured consumers and helping them enroll in a private health insurance plan.


  1. Prohibit the Commissioner of Insurance from investigating or enforcing any alleged violation of federal health insurance requirements mandated by the Affordable Care Act. Under HB 707, if a consumer has been treated unfairly by their health insurance company, they may have no state recourse.



HB 707 has already passed the state House of Representatives and may be up for a vote in the State Senate early next week. We need your voice to prevent this harmful bill from becoming law!



2014 Legislative Guides now available!

Ready to speak out for the health care issues you care about but not sure how to navigate the Georgia Legislature? Our Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the 2014 Georgia Legislative Session  is hot off the press and can be a resource for you! The guide includes contact information for legislators, state officials, health care organizations and associations, and the media. You may also request hard copies of the guide for yourself or your volunteers by contacting Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach and Advocacy Director at aptashkin@healthyfuturega.org.
Ready to speak out for the health care issues you care about but not sure how to navigate the Georgia Legislature? Below, please find an overview of the legislative process in Georgia to help you become an effective advocate for your cause. You can also download our Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the 2014 Georgia Legislative Session, which contains all of this information and more, including contact information for legislators, state officials, health care organizations and associations, and the media. You may also request a hard copy of the guide by contacting Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach and Advocacy Director. – See more at: https://healthyfutprod.wpengine.com/advocacy/navigating-the-georgia-legislature#sthash.11OVuUdq.dpuf


Legislative panel announced for HCU 2014!

This year’s Health Care Unscrambled will feature a lively discussion with five Georgia policymakers: State Representatives Pat Gardner (D-District 57), Buzz Brockway (R-District 102), and Karen Bennett (D-District 94); State Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-District 52), and Trey Sivley of the Georgia Department of Insurance. Please bring your health policy questions and don’t forget to register for what has become an annual legislative tradition for Georgia’s health advocacy community!


First meeting of the Medicaid joint study committee announced

During the 2013 Legislative Session, our state policymakers passed HR 107, which created a joint study committee on Medicaid reform. The purpose of the committee is to evaluate the state’s Medicaid program, examine best practices in other states, and plan for the future of the program. Many health care advocates monitored the legislation closely during the past Legislative Session because of the important role that Medicaid plays in providing health care services to our state’s most vulnerable citizens. The first meeting date for the study commission has been announced and will be held on August 28th from 10am – 12pm. The location for the meeting has not yet been announced, but more information about the committee is available here.


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GHF In The News

May 31, 2024
Experts urge Georgia to reform health insurance system
Wilborn P. Nobles III

Health care researchers and advocates want Georgia to implement new policies across its health insurance system as the state concludes its yearlong process of redetermining eligibility for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.