Blog (November 2014)
Rural hospitals provide the foundation for the economic vitality and population health of small communities throughout Georgia. Despite this essential role, the future of our rural hospitals-and the access to care they provide for rural Georgians-is in jeopardy. Eight rural hospitals have closed since 2001, four of them since the start of 2013.
While a comprehensive strategy is needed to address this problem, closing the coverage gap in Georgia would be an important first step to stabilizing our state’s rural hospitals and maintaining access to care for Georgians living in rural communities.
In a report we are submitting to the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee this week, Georgians for a Healthy Future, Georgia Budget & Policy Institute, Georgia Watch, Families First, and twelve additional consumer and community-focused nonprofits recommend that the committee seriously weigh the option to tap the federal dollars on the table for Georgia to close its coverage gap. Closing the coverage gap by expanding Medicaid would not only mean access to health insurance for low-income Georgians living in rural communities but would also trigger an infusion of federal dollars into rural hospitals to help them keep their doors open and serve their communities.
The Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, created by Governor Deal earlier this year to identify the needs of the rural hospital community and provide potential solutions; to increase the flow of communication between hospitals and the state; and improve access to care, is holding its third meeting tomorrow in Lavonia. If someone from your part of the state is serving on the committee, please consider asking them to support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.
Please also ask your State Representative and State Senator to support closing the coverage gap in Georgia. Click here to send your state legislators a postcard that lets them know that you support closing Georgia’s coverage gap.
The full report to the committee is available here. Key facts from the report include:
- In 2012, Georgia hospitals provided more than $1.6 billion in unpaid care, an increase of about $60 million from 2011. Most of this unpaid care goes to provide services to uninsured Georgians, many of whom fall in the coverage gap
- Hospitals in states that have closed the coverage gap are projected to save up to $4.2 billion.Hospitals in states that have opted not to address their coverage gaps are projected to save a comparatively small $1.5 billion this year
- Georgia’s hospitals could receive $1 billion more in Medicaid spending every year on behalf of newly-eligible Medicaid enrollees (those currently in the coverage gap)
- If Georgia contributes the estimated $2.1 billion to implement Medicaid expansion, the State stands to gain a Federal infusion of $31 billion over the next ten years. This new federal money would help create more than 56,000 jobs statewide and generate more than $6.5 billion in new economic activity every year.
Georgians for a Healthy Future (GHF) is excited to announce that we have been awarded a Consumer Voices for Coverage grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the nation’s largest health philanthropy. Georgians for a Healthy Future will work in conjunction with Community Catalyst, who serves as the national program office for the Consumer Voices for Coverage program. As one of 18 state-based consumer health advocacy organizations around the country to receive a grant under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Consumer Voices for Coverage initiative, Georgians for a Healthy Future will develop and carry out collaborative and best-practice based strategies to maximize health insurance enrollment and retention, increase health insurance literacy, and create a more favorable policy environment for Georgia health care consumers. This project will have a particular emphasis on vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations in Georgia.
“We are honored to be part of the Consumer Voices for Coverage community and excited to deepen our work on behalf of Georgia health care consumers through this grant,” said Cindy Zeldin, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Executive Director. “The health care policy landscape in Georgia and across the nation is rapidly changing, and it is critically important that there be a strong voice for consumers as these changes are determined and implemented.”
Georgians for a Healthy Future will draw upon our extensive experience and expertise in building and mobilizing coalitions as well as strong relationships with dozens of community organizations with deep reach across the state. These partnerships will be essential for outreach, dissemination of culturally and linguistically appropriate educational materials, and for soliciting feedback from diverse communities about the specific challenges faced regarding health insurance so that themes can be identified and shared with state policymakers and other key stakeholders and decision-makers.