Blog (January 2013)
From our friends at Voices for Georgia’s Children:
As of Jan. 1, 2013, Georgia parents and legal guardians once again have the option to sign their children up for child-only health insurance policies. However, open enrollment ends two days from now on Jan. 31. Thereafter, “Child-Only” policy enrollment will be limited to special qualifying events.
Previously, child health insurance coverage in Georgia was available only through Medicaid, PeachCare for Kids ®, or as a part of parent or guardian coverage. Now, child-only policies –– for children under age 19 –– are available to parents or legal guardians who are not eligible for Medicaid or PeachCare and are uninsured, have a policy that does not offer dependent coverage, or experience an involuntary loss of coverage. Further, legal guardians who are insured by Medicare (e.g., seniors), can also purchase this type of policy. Insurers are required to offer coverage even if a child has a pre-existing condition.
Health insurance coverage has a positive effect on quality of life. The uninsured use fewer preventive and diagnostic services, are sicker when diagnosed and tend to receive less therapeutic care, like surgical interventions and medication, once diagnosed. Further, health insurance reduces mortality rates.
“Children who have health insurance have better health outcomes,” said Danté McKay, Associate Policy Director for child health at Voices for Georgia’s Children. “We are delighted that child only policies are returning to Georgia which currently ranks fourth with more than 236,000 uninsured children. Child-only policies will provide a key coverage option for reducing this number.”
Child-only policies are available from the following Georgia insurers:
- United HealthCare: 1-877-247-0209
- Child Only Services: 1-877-244-6215
Click here to read more about child-only policies
Please join us at the Capitol for “Cover Georgia Day” on Tuesday, February 19th from 9AM to 1PM.
Cover Georgia is a coalition of consumer and patient advocates, providers, and industry stakeholders who have come together around a common goal: covering Georgia’s uninsured by expanding Medicaid.
- We will meet at 9am at Central Presbyterian Church (201 Washington Street, across from the State Capitol) for a training on the importance of health coverage and the opportunity that expanding Medicaid provides for hundreds of thousands of uninsured Georgians.
- Following the training session, we will walk across the street to the State Capitol to meet with our individual State Representatives and State Senators to ask them to support the Medicaid expansion
- At 11:30am, we will reconvene for a press conference and demonstration of support for the Medicaid expansion. We will also hear from individuals whose lives will be affected by this important decision.
- After the press conference, we will walk back over to Central Presbyterian Church to debrief and share information about our individual conversations with legislators.
Don’t miss out on this important event–please join us and make a difference. Help us Cover Georgia. There is no cost to attend but please RSVP so we have the necessary materials on hand.
To learn more about Cover Georgia and to join the coalition efforts, go to www.coverga.org.
Georgians for a Healthy Future is proud to welcome four new board members, all of whom joined the Board of Directors this month after being elected in December. These new board members are:
- Allyson Burroughs, Vice President, Marketing, Xerox State Healthcare LLC
- Iris Feinberg, Doctoral Candidate in Health Literacy, Georgia State University
- Doug Skelton,Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean, Trinity School of Medicine
- Marci Thomas, Principal and Director of Quality Control, Metcalf-Davis
We also recognize the service of Patricia Nobbie, Scott Mathews, and Robert Bush, all of whom left the Board of Directors at the end of 2012 after years of dedication to the mission of Georgians for a Healthy Future. Full bios for all Georgians for a Healthy Future board members can be found here.
Each year, Georgians for a Healthy Future releases A Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide to the Georgia Legislative Session to provide you with the information you need to take action! Our 2013 guide is now available and features an overview of the legislative process in Georgia; contact information for all state legislators; descriptions and listings for each legislative committee with jurisdiction over health care issues; contact information for state agencies and officials; contact information for health care organizations and associations active in Georgia; key media contacts; and tools and strategies for effective consumer health advocacy. You can either download the guide here or request a hard copy of the guide by e-mailing Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach & Advocacy Director here.
Nearly two million Georgians have no health insurance at all, among the highest in the nation. This problem has long been recognized as a tragic reality for the one in five Georgians who struggle to access medical care when they need it, as a strain on our state’s health care delivery system, and as a weight on Georgia’s economy. Georgia has the ability to comprehensively address this problem thanks to approximately $33 billion in new federal funding over 10 years to cover low-income uninsured Georgians through Medicaid. As these dollars filter through Georgia’s economy, they will have an estimated economic impact of $72 billion.
But Governor Deal is still saying no to the Medicaid expansion, even as other states across the country are saying yes and even though Georgia would be responsible for zero cents on the dollar for the first three years and no more than ten cents on the dollar thereafter. Georgia cannot afford to maintain the status quo while other states invest heavily in their health systems with federal tax dollars paid by Georgians.
Last week, Georgians for a Healthy Future and more than forty organizations joined together to launch the Cover Georgia campaign in support of the Medicaid expansion, but policymakers also need to hear from their constituents. Here is what you can do:
- Please call Governor Deal at 404-656-1776 and ask him to support expanding Medicaid in Georgia to people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
- Please visit www.coverga.org to learn more about Medicaid and sign the petition in support of the Medicaid expansion.
- Find out who your legislators are here and ask them to support expanding Medicaid.
- Please share this information with your friends and neighbors and ask them to join you in supporting the Medicaid expansion by contacting their elected officials and signing the petition.
Thanks to the enactment of HB 1166, child only policies are once again available in the individual health insurance marketplace in Georgia. However, there is a short open enrollment period to sign up (January 1 – 31st of this year). To learn more, click here or contact the Georgia Department of Insurance at 800-656-2298.
It was a busy first week at the State Capitol, as the Senate passed legislation (SB 24) authorizing the Department of Community Health to assess a fee on hospitals to secure federal matching funds for the state’s Medicaid program. Without the assessment, the Medicaid program faces a budget shortfall. SB 24 now moves to the House.
The Legislature will not officially be in Session next week but the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will hear from state agencies about their budget proposals. The health-related agencies will make presentations on Thursday morning in Room 341 of the State Capitol. These presentations are open to the public. The Department of Community Health’s presentation is scheduled for 10:15am and the Department of Public Health is at 11:15am on January 24th.
Georgians for a Healthy Future and more than 40 organizations launched an education and advocacy campaign this week is support of expanding Medicaid in Georgia. Below is our announcement about Cover Georgia’s launch. Please contact us if you’d like to join the coalition.
COVER GEORGIA COALITION LAUNCHES EFFORT TO ENSURE THAT THE STATE MOVES FORWARD WITH THE MEDICAID EXPANSION
ATLANTA, Ga., January 10, 2013 – More than 40 organizations – including healthcare providers, hospitals and healthcare advocates – announced today the creation of a coalition in support of expanding Medicaid to Georgians with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty level as authorized by the federal health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Called Cover Georgia, the coalition is spearheaded by Georgians for a Healthy Future and is comprised of a wide range of healthcare stakeholders, including the Georgia Rural Health Association, the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians, AARP Georgia, the American Cancer Society, among many others.
Enacted by Congress in 2010, the Affordable Care Act included the Medicaid Expansion provision, which would provide the states with billions of dollars in new federal funds to enroll currently uninsured citizens in their Medicaid programs. In Georgia, expanding the program is projected to cover approximately 650,000 Georgians and to bring approximately $33 billion in federal funds into the state over ten years. For the first three years of the expansion, the federal government will fund 100 percent of the new cost; after that, the states would be required to cover no more than 10 percent of the total cost from 2020 onward.
Cover Georgia will make the case that expanding Georgia’s Medicaid program and leveraging the billions of dollars in federal resources will improve access to care, strengthen the state’s health care delivery system, and bolster Georgia’s economy. “This is an unprecedented opportunity to impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of Georgians and we simply cannot pass up this opportunity,” said Amanda Ptashkin, outreach and advocacy director for Georgians for a Healthy Future, the organization spearheading the coalition work.
When the U.S. Supreme Court decided the constitutionality of the ACA in 2012, it ruled that states could not be compelled to participate in the Medicaid Expansion. So far, Governor Deal has said he does not plan to move forward with the expansion in Georgia, expressing concerns about the state budget and the long-term fiscal outlook at the federal level.
“Cover Georgia is a statewide education and advocacy campaign focused on spotlighting both the critical role that Medicaid plays within Georgia today and the opportunity that implementing an expansion of the program presents for consumers, the health care system, and our state’s economy,” said Cindy Zeldin, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future. “Covering the lowest-income uninsured through Medicaid will provide access to the basic prevention and treatment services that uninsured Georgians lack today and will pump an infusion of federal dollars into our state’s health care economy.”
“Other states across the country are saying yes to the Medicaid expansion and are investing in their state’s health care delivery systems with federal taxpayer dollars paid by Georgians. Georgia cannot afford to maintain the status quo while other states invest heavily in their health systems. Doing so will further compound regional health disparities and limit Georgia’s ability to compete in the long-run.”
Matt Caseman, of the Georgia Rural Health Association, agrees that in addition to the overall economy, the expansion will help rural Georgia. “Expanding Medicaid will provide thousands of rural Georgians, who don’t have health insurance, access to a primary care doctor and preventative medicine. It will help reduce the burden of uncompensated care and keep the doors open for our safety net providers. This initiative is critical to not only the health of Georgia’s rural communities, but our state’s overall economic success as well.”
Tim Sweeney, of the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, believes that access to affordable health coverage is one of the most pressing health care issues facing the state. “Expanding Medicaid to cover hundreds of thousands of low-income Georgians is one of the most cost-effective ways to address the issue. Implementing the expansion will enable more Georgians to access needed health care, while boosting Georgia’s economy by bringing billions in new federal funding for doctors, hospitals, pharmacies and other health care providers throughout the state.”
The consequences of this decision will affect hundreds of thousands of Georgians. AARP Georgia State Director, Greg Tanner, points out that, “there are 127,000 Georgians in their 50s or early 60s who make less than $15,000 a year and have no health insurance. Expanding Medicaid to cover them would make them more productive and in the first three years pump $8 billion into Georgia. That money will go directly to doctors, hospitals, clinics and other health care providers. We can’t afford not to expand coverage.”
If the state decides to forgo expanding the Medicaid Expansion, those individuals who earn more than our current eligibility levels but less than 100% FPL (Federal Poverty Level) will have no options for coverage and would not qualify for subsidized coverage in the state’s health insurance exchanges. Those individuals will fall into a coverage gap.
The Cover Georgia coalition will continue to work on educating the public, key decision-makers and others on the importance of the expansion and what it means for our citizens. Individual consumers, health care professionals, policy-makers and others can learn more about Georgia’s Medicaid program and what the expansion would mean for thousands of Georgians by visiting Cover Georgia’s website at www.coverga.org.
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.