Laura Colbert of the consumer advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future said Wednesday that “coverage under a waiver must be at least as affordable and comprehensive as under the ACA…
Tag: Medicaid expansion
Georgia’s Medicaid health insurance system covers many different Georgians, including those with disabilities. The coverage provided to people with disabilities offers much-needed support to individuals and families that might otherwise fall short of addressing their health care needs.
While Medicaid has been a lifeline for some, a full expansion of Medicaid would bring additional funding to the state and strengthen existing programs. For every dollar Georgia would spend to close the coverage gap, Georgia would receive up to $9 in federal funding. The recently passed American Rescue Plan added to the financial incentives available under Medicaid expansion; under the new federal law, Georgia could attract $1.3-$2 Billion to cover the costs of expansion and offset state spending on other priorities.
This additional funding could benefit Georgians who need Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) Medicaid waivers. HCBS waivers help people with disabilities get the health and support services they need so they can live independently in their communities, rather than in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. Currently, more than 6000 Georgians sit on a waiting list for one of these waivers. The additional funding that Georgia could earn under Medicaid expansion could reduce or possibly eliminate the HCBS waiver waiting list altogether.
Below is a first-hand account from a Georgia mother, whose 9-year-old daughter is covered by Medicaid. Her daughter was diagnosed with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy at 18 months. Since her diagnosis, the two have navigated challenging care and coverage issues. Their experiences highlight a number of the policy and advocacy issues that consumers contact GHF about regularly: Medicaid, Medicaid expansion, difficulty finding health care providers, Georgia’s public health system.(more…)
We commend the Department of Community Health for taking a population-based approach to improving the health of Georgia’s Medicaid members. We are especially encouraged by the Department’s commitment to engaging with the care management organizations (CMOs) to monitor and improve racial health disparities among Medicaid members. This commitment is a strong first step, and we believe DCH could go even farther to address and improve health disparities in these three ways:
Planning for Healthy Babies
Planning for Healthy Babies (P4HB) is an important program to improve maternal and infant outcomes and address health disparities, but it serves only a small population of women in Georgia. One of the reasons P4HB is so successful is the targeted outreach efforts to women in areas with poor infant health outcomes. DCH should take a similar approach for all Medicaid eligible populations. By focusing CMO and DCH outreach efforts on areas of the state with poor health outcomes and high Medicaid-eligible populations, they may be able to make a similar impact on health disparities for a larger population.
Meaningful engagement with Medicaid members
To successfully reduce health disparities, we advise DCH and the CMOs to work closely and meaningfully with Medicaid members and community members from the populations experiencing the greatest health burdens to craft impactful strategies tailored to a specific group. There are great opportunities to close racial health gaps among Georgia’s Black & Hispanic communities especially. Georgia has the 2nd largest Black/African American population in the U.S.(The Office of Minority Health, 2021), and 15% of Black Georgians are uninsured (KFF, 2020). Georgia also has the 9th largest Hispanic/Latino population in the U.S., and 47% of Georgia Hispanics are uninsured (The Office of Minority Health, 2021). Black and Hispanic Georgians suffer from chronic and infectious diseases, including COVID-19, at rates higher than those of white Georgians CDC, 2021) and have shorter life expectancies ( The Office of Minority Health, 2021).
Unique barriers (including language, systemic inequities to build wealth, available pathways to coverage, immigration status, social discrimination, and more) block these groups from equitable health status and outcomes. These complex and long-standing barriers to health can only be overcome with meaningful, sustained engagement with members of these and similar groups. Based on GHF’s observations, the infrastructure that DCH and CMOs have for engaging members falls short of what is needed. (GHF humbly offers its assistance to all interested parties re-thinking engagement strategies and programs.)
Beyond language and cultural competency
The Quality Strategy points to translation and language services and cultural competency as strategies to reduce health disparities. These are important components, but they are not sufficient on their own. We encourage DCH to explore additional interventions that better address the root causes of disparities. These interventions could include maximizing the roles of the state’s community health workers (CHWs) and peer support coaches; and incentivizing CMOs to operate robust wrap-around service programs to address housing, food, transportation, and economic needs of members. Numerous studies have shown that CHWs and peer support coaches can play meaningful roles in improving health outcomes, lowering health spending, and reducing health disparities (Chan, 2021).
Another solution to reducing health disparities is to ensure every Georgian has a pathway to health coverage. Medicaid expansion would go farther than the proposed Pathways 1115 waiver towards accomplishing this. Several studies have shown that full expansion of
Medicaid (up to 138% FPL) narrowed disparities in health outcomes for Black and Hispanic individuals, particularly related to infant and maternal health (KFF, 2020). While this decision does not lay with the Department of Community Health, your leaders and staff are trusted and important messengers to state lawmakers about how such a move could improve the health of Georgians.
We were encouraged to see the Quality Strategy call out behavioral health as an area of focus. Data before and during the pandemic supports that behavioral health needs are growing across the population, and there is no doubt that this holds true for Medicaid members.
However, the measures for Goal 1.5 predominantly address mental health (increase screening for depression among adults and adolescents), while largely ignoring substance use. We know that youth substance use is a risk factor for other issues, including school absenteeism, depression, and committing acts of violence. Data show that Georgia youth are experimenting with drugs and alcohol at younger ages (SAMSA, 2019). Therefore, DCH could significantly impact the behavioral health outcomes of young members by adding measures related to substance use screenings and referral to treatment services. To increase screening for substance-use disorders among youth, DCH could leverage CHIP funds for Health Service Initiatives. Utilizing these funds would provide sustainable funding for school-based or population-based services to address substance use.
Access to care via telemedicine
The increased utilization of telemedicine during COVID-19 has proven it is an important method of care for Georgia consumers, including Medicaid members. For that reason, we are pleased to see it identified in the Quality Strategy. However, telemedicine cannot overcome all access challenges because many Medicaid members live in areas with limited internet connectivity, especially those who live in communities of color and rural communities. We encourage DCH to look for additional methods to increase access to care, including addressing transportation gaps.
Notably, the Quality Strategy does not mention the Non-Emergency Medical Transportation benefit for Medicaid enrollees. In our experience, many enrollees do not know about the NEMT benefit and therefore do not make use of it. Additionally, at times NEMT is unreliable and unprepared to meet members’ transportation needs (i.e., sending a regular van to pick up a member who needs a wheelchair-ready van or sending transportation that cannot accommodate a child’s sibling). DCH could increase access to care by promoting the benefit to more beneficiaries and investing in improvements to the program.
Measurement, evaluation, and enforcement
GHF applauds the strong evaluation and enforcement measures included in the Quality Strategy. The inclusion of the value-based purchasing program in the GF 360º program and the intermediate sanctions policy offer strong accountability measures for Georgia’s CMOs.
We were further pleased to see multiple measures of network adequacy, including appointment availability, incorporated into the Quality Strategy. GHF views appointment availability and travel time/distance as perhaps the most accurate measures of network adequacy in terms of increasing access to care. We encourage DCH to hold these measures above other measures like provider member ratios. To meaningfully ensure network adequacy for Medicaid members, we encourage DCH to adopt more robust enforcement measures for these requirements. Specifically, DCH could leverage intermediate sanctions against CMOs with provider directories that are out-of-date or otherwise inaccurate. Requiring CMOs to maintain up-to-date and accurate provider directories will help ensure Medicaid enrollees can receive timely care and avoid costs associated with unknowingly utilizing out-of-network providers.
Legislative update: Sine Die
Thank you for your continued readership and support during the 2021 legislative session! The GHF team is proud to deliver timely, accurate updates to you on health care happenings at the Capitol. We hope that they have helped you stay informed and connected. If you have enjoyed reading each week’s edition, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you very much!
In this week’s update:
- Our priorities: “Express lane” Medicaid, telehealth, and prior authorization
- Status update: Which bills continue to the Governor’s desk and which ones were left behind
- GHF’s got you covered this session!
Legislative update: Week 9
The GHF team prides itself on delivering timely and accurate updates to you on health care happenings at the Capitol. We hope that you enjoy reading our weekly legislative updates and that they help you stay informed and connected. If you enjoy them, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you for your continued support!
In this week’s update:
- Action alerts: Tell your legislators to support Medicaid expansion & prior authorization!
- Our priorities: Express lane Medicaid & expanding telehealth services
- Crossover day recap
- Advocacy events this week: LGBT advocacy & League of Women Voters virtual legislative day
- President Biden signs COVID-19 relief including extra Medicaid expansion funding for Georgia
- GHF’s got you covered this session!
Legislative Update: Week 7
The GHF team prides itself on being able deliver timely and accurate updates on health care happenings at the Capitol. We hope that you enjoy reading our weekly legislative updates and that they help you stay informed and connected. If you enjoy them, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you for your continued support!
In this week’s update:
- The General Assembly approves the calendar for the rest of session
- Action alerts: prior authorization, Medicaid expansion, & mental health & substance use updates!
- Legislation: telehealth, changes to nursing rules, & protecting the ACA
- Advocacy events this week: transgender rights!
- Federal COVID-19 relief – including extra Medicaid expansion funding – passed by U.S. House
- GHF’s got you covered this session!
Legislative Update: Week 5
The GHF team enjoys keeping you in the loop with these weekly updates and you enjoy reading them! It takes time and effort to deliver this service to you in a complete and accurate way every week of Georgia’s legislative session. If these updates help keep you connected to the health happenings under the Gold Dome, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you very much!
In this week’s update:
- Vote expected tomorrow on bill to reduce the number of uninsured children in Georgia
- Legislation on telehealth, prescription drug savings, tobacco and vaping education, and more!
- Governor’s partial Medicaid expansion plan hits roadblock
- Advocacy events for your calendar
- GHF’s got you covered this session!
Both of Governor Kemp’s health care proposals were approved by federal health officials in the last two weeks. Unfortunately, both proposals fall short of the bold, evidence-based action that Georgians need their state leaders to take. These plans may impact you or people you know. While some details of the plans are still being sorted out, we have tried to answer some of your early questions here. As we learn more and these plans roll out, GHF will keep you updated with the information you need to get covered, stay covered, and help your loved ones do the same.(more…)
This year, no Georgian has been left untouched by the health or economic impacts of COVID-19. America’s failure to control the pandemic has spotlighted the importance of public policy decisions that prioritize health and wellness. The consequences of underfunding essential public health infrastructure and Medicaid, and the disparate impact that public policies have no Black Americans and other people of color is clear. National, state, and local leaders, many elected by the public, are responsible for the policy decisions made ahead of and in response to COVID-19, its economic fallout, and the movement for racial justice.
This election season (October 12 to November 3, 2020), Georgians have the opportunity to learn more about these elected positions, the decision-making power each has, and how those positions impact their health and the well-being of Georgians. This year, Georgians will cast their votes for the U.S. President, members of U.S. Congress, state legislators, state supreme court judges, and other positions.
In this blog, we cover the U.S. President’s impact on the health and well-being of Georgians and their families.(more…)
Today Governor Kemp and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced the approval of Georgia’s 1115 Medicaid waiver & pending approval of 1332 private insurance waiver. Laura Colbert, Executive Director of Georgians for a Healthy Future has issued the following statement:
“In the midst of a once-in-a-century health crisis, Georgians need & deserve bold action from their leaders. Unfortunately, the Governor’s health proposals miss that mark. The plans approved today are insufficient and ill-advised. Georgians deserve better.(more…)
Legislative Update: Week 11
Final days of 2020 legislative session set as General Assembly debates budget cuts
Last week legislators returned to the Capitol to complete their work on the FY 2021 state budget and address key legislative priorities. On Friday, the Georgia Senate passed a state budget that cuts $2.6 billion in spending during the upcoming year. This budget includes deep cuts to K-12 education and to critical health care programs, which we have detailed below along with next steps in the budget process.
On Saturday, the General Assembly set the calendar for the remainder of the legislative session. Both chambers will convene every day this week and plan to conclude their 2020 business this Friday, June 26th, likely late in the evening.
Don’t miss the bevy of action alerts in this week’s email. Scroll down for actions you can take to make improve Medicaid coverage for new mothers, increase Georgia’s tobacco tax, and protect Georgia’s budget from drastic cuts.
Surprise Billing Legislation Unanimously Approved By Senate
Surprise billing legislation heads to Governor’s desk
Last week, the Georgia Senate unanimously approved the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act (House Bill 888), bringing Georgia one step away from ending onerous surprise medical bills. HB 888 now heads to Governor Kemp’s desk for his signature. The Governor is expected to sign the bill as he pointed to this issue as a high priority during his January State of the State address.
This bill will mark a huge win for Georgians as it will ban surprise billing in emergency and non-emergency situations beginning January 1, 2021. This success comes after years-long debate among Georgia legislators. Georgians for a Healthy Future and Georgia Watch are pleased to work closely with the Governor and Lieutenant Governor’s offices, Chairman Richard Smith, Senator Hufstetler, and Representative Lee Hawkins to finally bring a resolution to Georgia consumers. Please call these leaders and thank them for their support and dedication to this issue:
- Gov. Brian Kemp: 404-656-1776
- Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan: 404-656-5030
- Senator Chuck Hufstetler: 404-656-0034
- Chairman Richard Smith: 404-656-5141
- Representative Lee Hawkins: 404-656-7855
Legislation to Extend Postpartum Medicaid Coverage Moves Ahead
Postpartum Medicaid coverage bill heads to Senate floor today
HB 1114, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would allow new mothers to receive Medicaid coverage for six months after giving birth. After unanimous approval in the Senate Health and Human Services committee last week, this legislation heads to the Senate floor for a vote today.
Currently, pregnant women covered by Medicaid are covered only up to 60 days after their birth or miscarriage. Due to restrictive Medicaid eligibility requirements for Georgia parents and because Georgia has not expanded Medicaid to all low-income adults, many mothers who try to apply for Medicaid after the 60 days are ineligible and become uninsured.
Action alert: Contact your state senator now and encourage their support for the passage and funding of this important piece of legislation! The Senate will convene at noon and a vote on HB 1114 is expected soon after.
Progress on Tobacco Tax Increase
Resolution to increase tobacco tax moves ahead in Senate
On Friday, the Senate Finance Committee approved SR 435, sponsored by Senator Randy Robertson, aimed at increasing the tobacco tax rate from 37 cents to $1.35 per pack. We thank the members of the Senate Finance Committee for their quick action to find and approve new revenue to improve health in Georgia. Raising Georgia’s tobacco tax could bring in as much as $600 million annually and help to lower smoking rates among youth and adults.
- Please contact members of the Senate Rules Committee and ask them to approve the bill for a vote on the Senate floor.
- Call or email your state senator today and encourage their support for this important piece of legislation!
Georgia Senate Passes State Budger that Includes Deep Cuts
Key health programs see cuts of $250 million
Last Thursday, the Senate passed its version of the FY2021 budget, which will begin July 1, 2020. The budget includes deep cuts to many state agencies, including 12 furlough days for staff and hiring freezes. The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute provides a fuller picture of the budget cuts here. State agencies and programs that directly impact the health of Georgians were not spared in the budget cuts:
- Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities would see a cut of $122 million total, with the biggest cuts focused on services for adults with developmental disabilities, child and adolescent mental health services, (including prevention programs and supported education services), housing vouchers for people with mental illnesses and other adult mental health services, and adult substance use recovery services.
- Department of Public Health would see a cut of $27.4 million total. More than half of that cut ($13.9 million) would come from a reduction in grants to local health departments and another $4.9 million would be cut from health promotion funds.
- Department of Human Services (which includes the Dept. of Family & Children Services, Division of Aging Services, and other agencies serving vulnerable populations) would see a cut of $100 million. The funding cut would require 50 Dept. of Family & Children Services office to close and consolidate, exacerbating the limited access of families to food assistance, cash assistance for families with children, and other social services.
- Georgia’s Medicaid agency, the Department of Community Health, was able to offset $205 million in cuts because the federal government has increased its support of the Medicaid and PeachCare programs as part of the federal coronavirus relief packages, although some cuts were still made in the DCH budget.
The budget is now being considered by a conference committee made up of members from both the House and Senate. Please contact these conference committee members to let them know that they can avert these steep budget cuts by considering new revenue options. Several common sense proposals (Increasing Georgia’s tobacco tax, expanding Medicaid, reclaiming the health insurance assessment, among other options) could increase revenue without impacting the amount of taxes paid by the vast majority of Georgia families. Contact the budget conference committee members today!
- Senator Mike Dugan: 404-656-7872
- Senator Blake Tillery: 404-656-0089
- Senate Butch Miller: 404-656-6578
- Representative Terry England: 404-463-2247
- Representative Jon Burns: 404-656-5052
- Representative Jan Jones: 404-656-5072
Pharmacy Benefit Manager Legislation Keeps Moving
Two bills to reform PBM practices in Georgia move forward
Georgia’s House and Senate continued their efforts last week to better regulate how pharmacy benefit managers operate in Georgia. Pharmacy benefit managers (commonly called PBMs) are companies that manage prescription drug benefits for health insurance companies. After presenting a revised version of SB 313, Senator Dean Burke’s bill was approved by the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care. The revised version requires that PBMs count third-party financial assistance or coupons towards a consumer’s out-of-pocket costs when the medicine is a brand-name that 1) does not have a generic or 2) a patient obtained the prescription through step-therapy, prior authorization, or their health insurance plan’s appeals process. This protection will benefit many Georgians with expensive prescriptions. GHF will detail the other revisions included in SB 313 in future email updates.
Additionally, Rep. Knight’s HB 946 was approved by the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee on Friday and was passed by the full Senate today. The bill will return to the House for an “agree” to the bill’s amendments before it heads to the Governor’s desk.
(For an overview of both bills in their original forms, please read our March 2nd legislative update.)
GHF has you covered
Stay up-to-date with the legislative session and COVID-19
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
GHF is dedicated to helping you understand and navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. We have the information you need to stay up-to-date with the latest developments.
- COVID-19 Policy priorities for a healthy Georgia — updated weekly
- Your health coverage, care, and well-being — updated weekly
- Mental health & addiction recovery in the time of COVID-19 — updated as new information becomes available
- NEW! Health insurance options for Georgians during COVID-19