Blog (February 2013)
On Tuesday, February 19th, 2013, over 100 advocates, health care consumers, providers and others gathered at the State Capitol to deliver an important message to our elected officials: coverage matters. Georgia has an unprecedented opportunity to drastically reduce the number of uninsured in our state by accepting the federal dollars and expanding coverage through Medicaid. With nearly 2 million uninsured Georgians (that’s 1 in 5), it is likely you already know those people who would benefit from expanded coverage–they are your neighbors, your co-workers, and sometimes they are you.
There is still time to do your part: join the Cover Georgia coalition by helping us make the case for expanding coverage. Pick up the phone and call your legislator and tell them why the decision to expand coverage through Medicaid is so important to Georgians like you.
Here are some key talking points:
- Expanding Medicaid in Georgia would create 70,343 new jobs and would infuse an additional $8.2 billion per year in economic activity into our state’s economy each year.
- This economic activity will result in an additional $276 million a year in state and local tax revenue.
- Money has already been set aside at the federal level to cover 100% of the costs of Georgia’s expansion for the first three years and at least 90% in future years. Should the federal reimbursement levels drop below this level, Georgia can pull out of the expansion at any time.
- Expanding Medicaid will bring an estimated $40.5 billion in federal funds into Georgia over a decade.
- Medicaid expansion will free up state dollars that are currently covering programs such as mental health, the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program, the State Hemophilia Program, and indigent care.
- Hospitals lost $1.5 billion in uncompensated care in 2010. Increasing the number of insured patients by expanding Medicaid will help prevent struggling hospitals from closing and save Georgia taxpayers dollars that currently go toward covering uncompensated care.
- Medicaid improves access to care, health status, and financial security of enrollees who would likely otherwise be without coverage.
- Medicaid expansion in other states have reduced mortality, and based on an estimated 650,000 new enrollees, an approximate 3,693 lives could be saved each year in Georgia by expanding coverage through Medicaid.
- More than 38,000 new health care sector jobs will be created. Other industries such as real estate, restaurants, transportation, and other businesses will also benefit from more than 30,000 new jobs.
- Under the current Medicaid program, low-income childless adults and most low-income parents do not qualify for coverage, leaving many working Georgians without access to adequate health care.
- Georgia has one of the nation’s highest uninsured rates; expanding Medicaid will help cover more than 650,000 people.
To find your legislator’s contact information, click here. Help us multiply our voice and our presence at the Capitol. Call your legislators now!
An analysis conducted by Dr. Bill Custer of Georgia State University and released today by the Healthcare Georgia Foundation finds that, if Georgia policymakers choose to accept the $40.5 billion in federal funds available to the state between 2014 and 2023 to expand Medicaid, this infusion of resources would create more than 70,000 jobs statewide, adding an annual $8.2 billion to statewide economic output and generating $276 million in state and local tax revenue annually.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, states can create a new eligibility category for Medicaid for people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or approximately $15,850 for an individual or $26,950 for a family of three. In Georgia, according to the report, about 694,000 people would gain health coverage under this expansion, mostly childless adults and some parents.
To date, Governor Deal has rejected the offer to expand coverage citing concerns about the cost to the state. As this new report details, however, expanding Medicaid would be an economic engine for Georgia. Of the more than 70,000 jobs that would be created, just over half would be in the health care sector; however, other industries such as real estate, food services, and wholesale trade businesses would also gain jobs. The report also shows the geographic distribution of jobs created throughout Georgia by state service delivery region. To read the full report, click here.
The 2013 Legislative Session continues at a swift pace, with legislators in session today for day 17 of the 40-day session (the legislative calendar is available here). Here are some key health care updates:
- Yesterday, the Health Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee heard from the Commissioners of the state’s health-related agencies, including the Department of Community Health and the Department of Public Health, about their proposed FY 2014 budgets. Today, the subcommittee will meet again from 2 – 4pm in Room 506 CLOB to take public comment on the proposed budgets. If you would like to comment, you must sign up in advance in Room 245 of the State Capitol. The Georgia Budget & Policy Institute has released an analysis of the 2014 proposed budget for the Department of Community Health, available here.
- SB 24, which would authorize the Department of Community Health to levy a fee on hospitals to continue drawing down federal funds to support Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, was passed by both the House and Senate and is expected to be signed into law by the Governor this morning. The current hospital fee is set to expire on June 30, 2013. The renewal of the fee is essential to ensuring Medicaid and PeachCare’s solvency and preserving access to hospital care in Georgia.
- HB 198 would require navigators to be licensed, place certain restrictions on their functions, and would give the Georgia Insurance Commissioner regulatory authority over them. Navigators are organizations or entities that apply for and receive federal grants authorized by the Affordable Care Act to provide individuals and small businesses with impartial information and assistance with enrollment in health coverage in the new health insurance marketplaces, or exchanges. While it is important that navigators are qualified to perform these functions and that there is adequate oversight to protect consumers, consumer advocates are also concerned that overly restricting navigators could have a chilling effect on the community-focused organizations whose participation in the navigator program will be critical in connecting hard-to-reach and vulnerable populations to coverage. Advocates worked with legislators to improve the bill, which passed the House Insurance Committee last week and was passed by the Rules Committee yesterday.
Last week, state agency heads presented Governor Deal’s proposed budgets for their respective agencies to the House and Senate Appropriations committees.
Access to care: the good news
Primary care providers will receive an increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates to parity with Medicare rates, funded entirely with federal dollars made available to Georgia through the Affordable Care Act. This can help preserve and strengthen access to care for Medicaid patients seeking primary care and prevention services.
Access to care: the bad news
The Department of Community Health’s proposed budget would reduce provider reimbursement rates within Medicaid by .74 percent for providers other than hospitals, primary care, FQHC, RHC, and hospice providers. This proposed rate cut, if implemented, could jeopardize access to care for Medicaid patients who require services such as dental care, obstetrics and gynecology, and oncology, among other non-primary care services.
Hospital fee renewal moves through the Legislature
SB 24, which would authorize the Department of Community Health to levy a fee on hospitals to continue drawing down federal funds to support Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, has passed the State Senate and will be before the House of Representatives for a vote today. The current hospital fee is set to expire on June 30, 2013. The renewal of the fee is essential to ensuring Medicaid and PeachCare’s solvency and preserving access to hospital care in Georgia.
On Thursday, January 31st, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Outreach and Advocacy Director Amanda Ptashkin presented at the Families USA Health Action 2013 Conference–an annual gathering of state advocates, national advocacy organizations, and health care and policy professionals that takes place in Washington DC every January. Speaking on a panel entitled “Getting to Yes on the Medicaid Expansion,” Amanda shared her thoughts on our state’s approach to health reform implementation as well as the work of the Cover Georgia coalition, aimed at getting our state to accept the federal dollars to expand coverage for thousands of Georgians. To view her presentation, click here. The conference goes on until Saturday, February 2nd, and includes advocates from around the country sharing their health care obstacles and successes. Follow the conversation on twitter, #ha2013, and learn about the great work taking place across the country.