Public Heath’s COVID tracking website is less user-friendly than the reopening scorecard, said Laura Colbert of the consumer group Georgians for a Healthy Future. But the state site may be…
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
Yesterday marked the 27th day of the 2015 Legislative Session. Crossover Day, the 30th legislative day and the deadline for a bill to pass its chamber of origin to remain viable for 2015, is set for next Friday, March 13th. Sine Die, the 40th and final legislative day for the year, will be April 2nd.
It has been a big week for health care issues at the State Capitol. GHF brought the consumer perspective to Senate Insurance on Wednesday and shared with the committee through testimony from our Executive Director the challenges that consumers face in obtaining accurate information about provider networks at the time they sign up for health insurance and why setting network adequacy standards is important for consumers. Her testimony was provided as part of the discussion around SB 158. Also this week, legislation was introduced in the Senate that would establish a study committee onpreventing youth substance use disorders, the Senate began its work on the FY 2016 budget, and a range of other health care bills were discussed.
The State Budget: The FY 2016 Budget passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate. The Senate expects to finish their revisions to the budget this week and send it back to the House and then to a conference committee.
Medicaid Parity: Last week, the House of Representatives added $2.96 million in the budget to increase reimbursement for certain OB/GYN services and $1.5 million for reimbursement rate increases for certain primary care services. Because Medicaid parity has been shown to be an effective strategy for improving access to care, GHF supports raising Medicaid reimbursement rates to parity with Medicare rates. We are advocating for a higher appropriation amount for Medicaid reimbursement rate increases as the budget moves through the process.
SBIRT Resolution: Senate HHS Chairwoman Renee Unterman officially introduced a resolution (SR 407) to form a joint House and Senate Study Committee on preventing youth substance use disorders. Through GHF’s work with the Georgia Council on Substance Abuse, we are advocating for a public health approach to substance use disorders that focuses on prevention. This resolution gets the conversation started about how to do that in Georgia. Please take the time to thank Senator Unterman for her support of this effort and to let your elected officials know you support SR 407.
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 where it received a hearing on Wednesday, March 3. GHF Executive Director Cindy Zeldin testified in committee, focusing specifically on the network adequacy component of the bill. GHF also met with committee members individually about the bill after the committee hearing. While the bill is not expected to move in its current form this legislative session, there will likely be a study committee on the network adequacy component. GHF has identified network adequacy as an important consumer issue and plans to remain engaged on this topic as discussions move forward.
Closing the Coverage Gap: No hearings have been scheduled or are pending to address the possibility of expanding Medicaid in Georgia. Closing Georgia’s coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would open a pathway to health insurance for approximately 300,000 uninsured Georgians, an approach which GHF supports. 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 Senator Vincent Fort, for their support and show your support by filling out a postcard that we’ll mail to your legislators!
Tobacco Tax: No additional standalone proposals have been made to increase Georgia’s tobacco tax (other than HB 445 as previously reported). The Senate however, may respond to the House proposal on transportation funding by including a tobacco tax increase to the regional average of around 68 cents. Importantly, Alabama’s Governor is proposing an increase in their state tobacco tax to $1.25 per pack, which would increase the regional average. GHF continues to advocate for an increase to the national average by raising our tobacco tax by $1.23. Such an increase would generate $585 million per year according to the fiscal note generated by the non-partisan fiscal office at GSU.
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 in the House Insurance Committee.
HB 1 (Rep. Peake) would allow for the limited use of medical marijuana as long as long as the provider is the best weed dispensary for conditions including cancer, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, crohn’s disease, mitochondrial disease, fibromyalgia, parkinson’s disease, and sickle cell disease, but it is still important for people to know the the difference between CBD and THC. HB 1 passed the House of Representatives and is now in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Go to Dank City – Cannabis News, Culture, Entertainment and Information to find out more.
HB 195 (Rep. Cooper) and SB 51 (Burke) provide 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 was subject to when they were allowed into Georgia as a destination hospital.
HB 416 (Rep.Rogers), routinely referred to as the badge bill, 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 passed out of committee on Tuesday March 3.
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. The bill passed out of the House HHS committee.
HB 429 (Rep. Stephens) seeks to ban coverage denials for medically necessary treatment based solely on life expectancy or the diagnosis of a terminal condition. The bill is in the House Insurance Committee.
HB 76 The House appropriations bill, provides $200,000 to continue the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program in the state, which would otherwise run out of funds and expire on June 30, 2015. The appropriations bill is currently in the Senate.
HB 504 (Rep. Cooper) would extend the flu vaccine protocol that is in place between physicians and pharmacists and nurses for adults to pneumococcal, shingles, and meningitis.
HB 436 (Rep. V. Clark) would require physicians and health care providers to offer to test pregnant women who are in their third trimester for HIV and syphilis.
HB 463 (Rep. Harbin) would permanently extend a $1,000 tax credit for “medical core clerkship” preceptors for “community based” nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
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!
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.
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.
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!
Each year, Georgians for a Healthy Future develops policy priorities that guide our advocacy work on behalf of health care consumers. Below are the legislative and policy priorities we are supporting in 2013.
Extend health insurance coverage to a substantial portion of Georgia’s uninsured by expanding Medicaid. Approximately 1.9 million Georgians are uninsured, many of whom are low-income working adults without access to an employer-sponsored health plan. An estimated 650,000 of these Georgians could gain health insurance coverage in 2014 at minimal state cost by extending Medicaid to those newly eligible through the Affordable Care Act. The infusion of federal Medicaid dollars into Georgia will both support our state’s health care delivery system and foster economic growth. Georgians for a Healthy Future supports expanding coverage through Medicaid to individuals and families with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
Preserve and strengthen consumer protections for Georgians in private health insurance plans through both federal and state advocacy. The private health insurance marketplace is rapidly evolving, largely as a result of changes spurred by the Affordable Care Act. As these reforms are implemented, it is critical that the consumer perspective is represented in the policy-making process and that rules and regulations incorporate consumer needs. Many of the decisions that would impact health care consumers are currently being made by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. To that end, Georgians for a Healthy Future will monitor and advocate on behalf of Georgia consumers on issues including the development of a federal health insurance exchange, essential health benefits, and other private market reforms. At the same time, Georgia policymakers retain authority over many aspects of our state’s health insurance marketplace. Georgians for a Healthy future will continue to support efforts that preserve and strengthen patient and consumer protections and oppose state legislation that places these protections at risk.
Ensure access to quality health care for Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries. The Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids programs provide health insurance for our state’s most vulnerable citizens. Georgians for a Healthy Future will monitor legislative and agency level activity and support proposals that facilitate continuous coverage and enrollment, preserve and expand access to care, and improve health outcomes. Because ensuring access to quality care for Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries also requires a Medicaid system that is financially sound, Georgians for a Healthy Future will support proposals that ensure the program is adequately funded and will oppose cuts to the program, including cuts to provider reimbursement rates, which jeopardize access to care. We will also continue to monitor the Georgia Department of Community Health’s Medicaid redesign process.
Strengthen Georgia’s public health system. Our state’s 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 these services and a growing awareness of the importance of social determinants to community health outcomes, Georgia’s per capita public health spending is among the lowest in the nation. Georgians for a Healthy Future supports a robust, adequately funded public health system to meet the 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 of at least a dollar per pack. Tobacco taxes are a proven strategy with the dual benefit of bringing in additional state revenue and improving the health of Georgians by reducing adult and youth smoking.
Support policies and practices that advance health equity. In addition to overall health outcomes and indicators that consistently place Georgia in the bottom tier nationally, our state has considerable health disparities between communities. Racial and ethnic minority communities, rural and low-income urban communities, and those with disabilities and chronic mental illness, all experience worse health and worse opportunities for health than their peers. Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to support policies and practices that advance the opportunities for optimal health for all Georgians.
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.
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.
By Dr. Harry J. Heiman
So what’s new?” the reporter asked. “Haven’t we heard this all before?” His inquiry was striking in its simplicity, yet it was a harsh wake-up call to reality.
His question came at the end of a recent press conference at the state Capitol where physicians, public health professionals and advocates from a spectrum of consumer health groups had just finished describing the compelling human and financial burden of tobacco-associated disease on our country and Georgia. That journalist, in spite of the plethora of facts and the credentials and credibility of the presenters, remained unmoved. (more…)
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.