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BREAKING: Subsidies upheld!

In a 6-3 ruling the Supreme Court upheld tax credits in the Affordable Care Act. This is a big victory for Georgia health care consumers!

SCOTUS

As an organization committed to making sure all Georgians have access to the health care they need, Georgians for a Healthy Future is celebrating today’s Supreme Court decision! This ruling is a big win and a big relief for the more than 400,000 newly enrolled Georgians who can keep their coverage and the access to care and financial peace of mind that comes with it.

“Today we celebrate an important victory for health care consumers, and we are relieved that hundreds of thousands of Georgians can keep their coverage,” said Cindy Zeldin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director. “But there is still work to do. Georgia has the second highest rate of uninsured in the country, and three-hundred thousand Georgians fall into a coverage gap that was created by Georgia’s decision not to expand Medicaid.”

Now that the outcome of King v. Burwell is clear, we must not forget these workers, parents, and veterans in our state who still lack access to quality, affordable health insurance. It’s time to close the coverage gap.

Tell your legislator that it’s time to close the coverage gap!

 


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Ensuring health coverage for all Georgians

GHF surveyed and interviewed enrollment assisters across the state to understand not only the “what,” but also the “why” behind the second open enrollment period.  The results of that research have led us to several policy recommendations to maximize health insurance enrollment and retention and to ensure that coverage translates to meaningful access to timely and appropriate medical services for Georgia health care consumers.

  1. Close the coverage gap in Georgia. Approximately 300,000 Georgians fall into the coverage gap, meaning they do not qualify for Medicaid under existing income eligibility guidelines in Georgia but their income is still too low to qualify for financial assistance (tax credits) to purchase health insurance on the Marketplace. Eligibility for tax credits begins at 100 percent of the Federal Poverty Level, or $11,770 for an individual or $20,090 for a family of three in 2015, while Medicaid eligibility for most adults in Georgia cuts off at income much lower. Thirty states including DC have closed their coverage gaps thus far with promising results. We encourage Georgia policymakers to take this important step as well to ensure all Georgians have a pathway to coverage.
  2. Set and enforce network adequacy and transparency standards. Many of the plans sold through the Health Insurance Marketplace are Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plans that feature narrow provider networks. While these narrow networks can help keep premiums down, a trade-off many consumers may be willing to make, consumers do not currently have sufficient information to make this choice. There is no information available to consumers at the point of sale about whether a provider network is ultra narrow, narrow, or broad, and provider directories are routinely inaccurate. More transparency and oversight are needed to ensure that consumers have accurate and useful information to make these choices. It is also important that all provider networks allow for meaningful access to all covered benefits. To ensure this, we support putting in place and enforcing network adequacy standards.
  3. Encourage public-private partnerships and remove unnecessary restrictions on consumer education and assistance. Many of the enrollment assisters we surveyed indicated that reducing barriers to partnering with state government organizations such as public colleges, universities, and health departments would lead to stronger and more effective partnerships. Specifically, many respondents indicated that improved coordination between enrollment assisters, the Marketplace, and the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to better facilitate PeachCare for Kids and Medicaid enrollment would be helpful. The “Health Care Freedom Act,” passed in 2014 as part of HB 943, prohibits state and local governmental entities from operating a health insurance navigator program and places other limitations on governmental entities. This provision has been counterproductive, creating confusion around what educational and consumer assistance activities local entities can engage in as they work to serve their community members. We recommend lifting these restrictions.

 


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Health insurance literacy

From choosing a plan to using your plan, health insurance can be complicated and many Georgians lack the information they need to make informed decisions.  In GHF’s recent report Getting Georgia Covered: Best Practices Lessons Learned and Policy Recommendations from the Second Enrollment Period, we interviewed enrollment assisters across the state and found that more than two-thirds of our survey respondents identified low health insurance literacy as a barrier to enrollment. Many of the consumers that assisters worked with had never been insured before, so they did not know how to choose a primary care physician or pay their monthly premium. One of the assisters interviewed acknowledged they needed to educate consumers on how to use their health insurance, but that it was a challenge when scheduled with a large number of enrollment appointments, although there are lawyers and Massachusetts firms that are specialized in insurances policies so they can help you understand better how it works. Additionally, some assisters reported that consumers chose the lowest premium plan because they did not understand the concept of a high deductible. Sometimes consumers would return to the assister wanting to change plans once they had tried to use their coverage. As we move forward, Georgians for a Healthy Future will be focusing efforts on improving the health literacy of Georgians and ensuring they have the knowledge, information, and confidence they need to make informed decisions.

 


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OE2 by the numbers

New health insurance opportunities created through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) have let to historic reductions in the nation’s uninsured rate.  The strong enrollment numbers in Georgia mean that more Georgia consumers can access the health care services they need and enjoy enhanced financial security for themselves and their families.

Georgia OE2 by the Numbers


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Getting Georgia covered: lessons learned from Open Enrollment 2

You’re Invited!

May 13, 2015 from 11:30 to 2:00

Georgia Railroad Freight Depot; Blue Room

Sign up here!

More than half a million Georgians signed up for health insurance during the open enrollment period that ended this past February (OE2). These strong enrollment numbers mean that more Georgians have access to the health care services they need and the peace of mind that comes from knowing that they are covered. What drove this success story for health care consumers in Georgia? Please join us for a conversation with representatives of the organizations most active in OE2 to learn lessons about their strategies, successes, and challenges that you can apply to your work. After their presentations, you will have the opportunity to ask your most pressing questions about health coverage in Georgia.  Lunch will be provided.

 

Panelists

Enroll America: Danté McKay, Georgia State Director

GHF: Whitney Griggs, Consumer Education Specialist

InsureGA: Sarah Sessoms, Executive Director

SEEDCO:  Lisa Stein, Vice President Work and Family Supports

US Dept. of Health & Human Services: Dr. Pamela Roshell, Region 4 Director

While this is a free event, please RSVP so we can order enough food.


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Tax-time special enrollment period

 

 

taxesDid you go without health insurance in 2014 and are now subject to a tax penalty? Good news! – You may still be able to enroll in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Starting last Saturday, March 15th, some people who are facing a fine on their taxes for not having coverage can now enroll in the Marketplace through a time-limited special enrollment period. To be eligible for this special enrollment period, you must not be currently enrolled in health insurance, attest that you owe the penalty for 2014, and attest that you first became aware of the penalty when you filed your 2014 taxes. This tax-related special enrollment period will run through April 30th, 2015.  Click here to learn more about who can qualify for this special enrollment period.


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More good news on Georgia’s enrollment numbers!

Last month it was announced that over half a million Georgians enrolled in coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Now a new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services contains even more encouraging data about the state of enrollment in Georgia. According to the report, 31% of Georgians that enrolled were between the ages of 18-34, which is a key age group since they tend to be healthier than older adults. Additionally, 90% of Georgians that selected a plan through the Marketplace received financial assistance in the form of Advanced Premium Tax Credits. The average monthly premium for Georgians using a tax credit was $73. Click here to see the full report.  Georgians for a Healthy Future’s ED talked with the Augusta Chronicle about why these numbers are so encouraging for Georgia.

 


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How to find a provider in your network

Recently enroll in health insurance for the first time and ready to see a doctor? When you do so, it is important to select health care providers that are in your insurance plan’s network of providers. You get the best deal when you use in-network providers, and your insurance plan may not pay at all for care from an out-of-network provider. To find the names of providers in your area who are in your insurance plan’s network you can:

  • Contact your insurance company by phone. The number is on the back of your card.
  • Look on your health insurance company’s website.
  • Call your provider’s office and ask them: 1. Do you take my insurance? 2. Are you in my plan’s network?

If you are having trouble finding accurate information about provider networks or are having trouble getting an appointment with an in-network provider, please let Whitney Griggs, our Consumer Education Specialist, know (Whitney can be reached at wgriggs@healthyfuturega.org or 404-567-5016). Whitney can walk you through the process and help you understand your rights and protections as a consumer.


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An advocate’s guide to King v Burwell

suprme court

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments for the much anticipated King v. Burwell case, a case that threatens to eliminate tax credits to buy health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces in approximately three dozen states, including Georgia.

Here at GHF, we are happy that the ACA is working and that more than 536,000 Georgians were able to access affordable health care coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace during the most recent open enrollment period. We look forward to the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell and hope that it will be a positive outcome for the 461,000 Georgians who currently receive tax credits through the ACA. For now, health care coverage and tax subsidies for Georgia’s consumers remain unchanged.

There has been a lot of news coverage of the case this week and there are many resources available to help advocates communicate about the case to their supporters and stakeholders.

  • The Commonwealth Fund has a series of issue briefs about how subsidy shutdowns could affect consumers, health insurers, health care providers, and states. Each comes with a summary infographic.
  • The Commonwealth Fund also has an interactive map of the potential impact of a subsidy shutdown on each state.
  • Community Catalyst mapped the potential impact by congressional district.
  • The Urban Institute has put together a report about the implications of King v. Burwell on uninsured rates, changes in types of coverage, and costs of insurance.

 


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Miss open enrollment? You still may be able to get coverage!

Open Enrollment has officially ended but some Georgians that missed signing up during the three month period may be able to still get coverage. Those “in line” during this last three days of Open Enrollment who were unable to select a plan due to long call center wait times or technical issues have until Sunday, February 22 to enroll. In this circumstance, coverage will begin March 1st.  Otherwise, consumers who have a “qualifying event” may be able to get coverage through a Special Enrollment Period. Special Enrollment Periods can occur at any time during the year and are usually triggered by specific events. These events include life changes such as a marriage, birth, change in eligible immigration status and a permanent move. Another type of event that could qualify consumers is a loss of other health coverage. These types of events could include an involuntary loss of employer coverage, loss of Medicaid coverage, and a death or divorce that results in a loss of coverage. In most cases, the Special Enrollment Period lasts for 60 days after the qualifying event occurs. To learn more about what types of events could trigger a Special Enrollment period, click here. If you think you may qualify, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/get-coverage or https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/ to find in-person assistance in your area.

 

Additionally, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services just announced a Special Enrollment Period for tax season for consumers who were penalized for not having coverage in 2014 and are not currently enrolled in health insurance. To qualify for this Special Enrollment Period consumers must also attest that they were not aware of the penalty for not having health insurance until after the end of Open Enrollment (February 15th , 2015) because they filed their 2014 tax return after that date. This Special Enrollment Period will begin March 15th and end April 30th, 2015. Click here to learn more about the announcement.

 


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