Blog (February 2012)
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.
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. 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.
A new survey shows that consumers aren’t satisfied with the level of customer service they receive from their health insurance plans. In fact, the industry ranked the lowest of any industry measured in this survey. Additionally, other studies have found that consumers often find health insurance jargon confusing, which makes it challenging for consumers to select a policy that best meets their needs, to know what is covered and what isn’t, and to understand their rights as consumers if disputes arise. While overshadowed by some of the other major reforms included in the law, the Affordable Care Act contains some exciting reforms for consumers in this area, including making available access to clear, plain language information about their insurance plans. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued final regulations on February 9th requiring an easy-to-understand Summary of Benefits and Coverage and a uniform glossary of terms. These new tools will be available to consumers on September 23, 2012. More information is available here and here.
Georgia lags other states in progress towards establishing a health insurance exchange as authorized by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), despite the fact that Georgia stands to experience one of the largest drops in the uninsured as a result of the ACA reforms, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute. At our Health Care Unscrambled breakfast in January, a panel of Georgia policymakers discussed prospects for a health insurance exchange and indicated that exchange legislation would not move through the General Assembly in 2012. Nevertheless, Representative Pat Gardner has introduced HB 801 to establish a Georgia health insurance marketplace, or exchange. Please thank Representative Gardner for taking a stand on this important issue! For recent news articles on health insurance exchanges and Georgia, click here and here.
Georgians for a Healthy Future is monitoring developments at the federal level that will impact benefits and consumer protections for new individual and small group health plans in Georgia beginning in 2014. In December, the Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO), the division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services charged with implementing the provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) related to private health insurance, released a bulletin on the essential health benefits (EHB) that all new plans will need to include.