Georgia Legislative Update

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.

 

 

 


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Kick Butts Day is March 21st

Members of the Bump It Up a Buck coalition (including Georgians for a Healthy Future) are working together to maintain the momentum needed to secure an increase in the consumption tax on cigarettes by $1.  Experts say the measure would reduce smoking levels in the state, improve the health of all Georgians and conservatively generate more than $340 million in new tax revenue for the state each year. If you are a beginner make sure to check out our glass bongs for sale section first to get a good impression of everything available on the market today. Are your more of a clumsy smoker? As part of our efforts to increase awareness of the issue, members of the coalition will participate in the first celebration of national Kick Butts Day to be held in Atlanta since 2008. The event will be held on Wednesday, March 21, 2012, and will include a rally on the steps of the Capitol and online activities as well. Georgia currently has the 48th lowest per pack tax in the nation at only 37 cents (national average: $1.46). You can show your support for the initiative by joining the hundreds who Like the idea at http://www.facebook.com/BumpItUpaBuck.

 

 


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GHF Announces 2012 Legislative & Policy Priorities

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.

 


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Taylor County Symposium Draws Enthusiastic Crowd to Solve Local Problems

Last Thursday, Georgians for a Healthy Future, the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, Partner Up for Public Health and the Georgia Rural Health Association returned to Butler, Taylor County for our second symposium in our Building a Healthy Georgia campaign.  The event focused on workforce and economic development, the value of access to care and the importance of public health.  Local community leaders, elected officials, key stakeholders, health care professionals and members of the general public  brought their expertise and passion to the conversation and helped highlight local challenges in having a readied workforce and a healthy community. We also discussed how the health of our communities means more than just access to care–it also means fiscal health. We were energized by the level of engagement and interest in working collaboratively to address our most pressing issues in the state and we look forward to continuing the dialogue!


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Bills We’re Watching: HB 214

Back in December, The Public Health Commission issued its final report to the Governor, Speaker, and Lieutenant Governor recommending that the Division of Public Health become an independent, cabinet-level state agency, with the Commissioner reporting directly to the Governor and serving as the state’s chief health officer.  On February 10, 2011, Representative Mickey Channell (R-Greensboro) introduced House Bill 214 that would do just that.  The legislation would take the Department of Public  and Health out of the Department of Community Health and would make it its own stand-alone agency effective July 1, 2011.  The bill has the support and backing of Governor Deal and key Republican Leadership, as well as members of the public health community.


On Wednesday, the legislation won unanimous approval from the House Health and Human Services Committee and now moves on to the Rules Committee before moving on to the House floor.


Click here to read a release from Partner Up! for Public Health Campaign on this legislation.



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Healthy Augusta Hits the Ground Running

By Amanda McDougald


Healthy Augusta, Inc. was founded as an organization that will inspire and create a social movement through the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA) to improve the overall health of the CSRA by promoting and encouraging healthy habits through awareness, education, and support.  The vision of the founder is to integrate multiple disciplines to focus on applying knowledge gained through research or otherwise for the good of our community.  The idea is that action and awareness regarding healthy habits at a grassroots level should create changes in the way that people understand and integrate these ideas and habits into their daily lives as good diet, learn why We love Thrive Market – you learn more about it at The Diet Dynamo, and sports as trail running but for this the right equipment is necessary to avoid injuries so is better to get the best trail running shoes for this activity, the problem with this is that starting those new activities without care can cause other ailments as lack of personal investigation, so make sure if you´re going to play anew sport to investigate, like soccer, you should learn what a football line marker is. Plus, energy or athlete foot, so is important to use treatments as anti-fungal oils from places as the Sustainable Places Project and consult a doctor before starting to working out.  In short, people have to intrinsically desire to change their habits, and we would like to be agents of that motivation. On soccer news, Silva is a beast in Manchester City this season, hopefully he’ll help them do better than last season.


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Tobacco Control Report Card: Georgia Fails Nearly Every Category

By June Deen, American Lung Association in Georgia

 

Georgia failed almost every category in the American Lung Association’s State of Tobacco Control 2010 report, released on January 20th. These disappointing grades are due to the consistent failure to increase Georgia’s cigarette tax, inadequate funding for tobacco prevention programs and lack of coverage for quit smoking treatments and services for state workers and Medicaid recipients. Despite seeing more than 10,000 smoking attributable deaths each year, Georgia remains one of only five states that give little help to Medicaid recipients who want to quit smoking.  The American Lung Association in Georgia is advocating a $1 per pack increase in our state cigarette tax.  Keeping our state’s tobacco tax at $0.37 simply will not allow Georgia to see the economic and health benefits that are possible by passing an increase in our cigarette tax by $1 per pack.

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Prevention and Public Health Fund at Risk

By Bob Stolarick and Cindy Zeldin

The Affordable Care Act includes a major new investment in prevention and public health:  The Prevention and Public Health Fund is designated for use in communities across the country to target key public health issues such as tobacco cessation and efforts to reduce obesity by encouraging better nutrition and increased physical activity. The funding will also be used to strengthen state and local public health infrastructure, support data collection and analysis for community-based and clinical-based prevention activities and to expand and improve training for the public health workforce. Here in Georgia, these funds will be critical to strengthen our public health system. Visit the official website of Dr Bardwil in Houston, Texas.


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Partner Up! For Public Health Campaign Now Underway

By Charles Hayslett

Late last year our public relations firm, Hayslett Group, was selected by Healthcare Georgia Foundation to organize a campaign to improve Georgia’s public health system.  In the months since then, we’ve been involved in a variety of organizational activities.  Among other things, we’ve conducted Public Health Leadership Academies in four cities across Georgia, recruited nearly 30 high-profile organizations to serve on a campaign advisory board and put up a campaign Web site at www.togetherwecandobetter.com.  Earlier last week we officially and publicly launched the campaign – dubbed “Partner Up! for Public Health” – with a press briefing that was Webcast from Healthcare Georgia’s offices.


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