Blog (December 2014)
January is an exciting month for GHF and Georgia! With the start of the legislative session, advocates across the state will be hard at work educating our legislators and working for the changes we need to improve the health of all Georgians. GHF is no exception!
Our 5th Annual Health Care Unscrambled event is January 15th. For more information on the event, sponsorship opportunities, and ticket prices, click here.
Coverage Day at the Capitol. Please join us on the morning of January 27th to talk with your legislators about why closing the coverage gap is important to you. If you haven’t spoken with your legislators before, we will provide training and talking points to help guide you through the process. If you would like to participate, RSVP to Laura Colbert at email@example.com.
Webinar: Health Care Policy and Advocacy for the 2015 Legislative Session, 2015. For those of you who can’t make it to Health Care Unscrambled for the unveiling of GHF’s 2015 policy priorities or want to know how to better advocate for health in Georgia, join us for our first-ever advocacy webinar! To register for the free webinar, click here.
If you’ve been following the Peach Pulse you know that network adequacy is a hot topic in health care right now. (And if you missed it, check here and here to get caught up!) Decision-makers are weighing policy choices that will have implications for health care consumers in Georgia and across the nation. We know that they are hearing from health industry stakeholders; now they need to hear from you!
1) The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Proposed Rule on the 2016 Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters is open for comment until December 22, 2014. To submit a comment, click here.
2) The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is currently updating its model act on network adequacy. This model provides an example that states can use to enact their own legal protections to guarantee private insurance consumers an adequate provider network once they are enrolled in coverage. Advocates can email firstname.lastname@example.org until January 12, 2015 with input.
Consumer advocates are asking these two entities to put in place 1) specific network adequacy standards such as time and distance standards and appointment wait time standards and 2) rules that provide consumers the right to go out-of-network at no extra cost if their plan cannot provide them timely, geographically accessible, and appropriate in-network care. Please take a few moments to submit your comments to HHS and to the NAIC with this important request. If your organization is interested in engaging more deeply on this issue, please contact Laura Colbert at email@example.com to let us know you’re interested in collaborating.
With the holiday season upon us and the 2015 Legislative Session just around the corner, 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.
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.
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
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!
Every Saturday morning, many Bhutanese immigrants gather at their temple in Clarkston for SAT prep, U.S. citizenship, and English classes. Recently, Laura Colbert, Georgians for a Healthy Future’s Community Outreach Manager, joined them to provide information about health care coverage and the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period. With the help of a translator, Laura spoke with approximately twenty community members about the benefits of health care coverage, how to get covered, and where to find affordable medical care if they were not eligible for coverage. She also answered their questions about health care coverage for their children and Medicaid. (In return, Laura learned quite a bit about Bhutanese culture.)
This educational event was the product of a partnership with the Bhutanese Association of Georgia (BAG), which works to integrate Bhutanese refugees into life in Georgia. GHF and BAG have been working together over the past year to educate the Atlanta-based Bhutanese community about health care coverage and to increase health coverage enrollment. In addition to educational events, several fact sheets have been created by GHF and translated into Nepalese to be distributed in the community.
Georgians for a Healthy Future continues to work to increase enrollment among all Georgians, especially in communities that may need extra education or encouragement to enroll.
With open enrollment in full swing, Georgia consumers are once again exploring their health insurance options and signing up for coverage. When consumers enroll in a health insurance plan, they gain access to a network of medical providers with whom their insurer has contracted. For health insurance to facilitate meaningful access to care, this network of providers must be adequate to ensure that consumers enrolled in the plan have reasonable access to all covered benefits and services. In a recent issue of the Peach Pulse, we provided a primer on network adequacy, a hot topic in health policy (click here to get caught up on what network adequacy means and why it matters for consumers, advocates, and policymakers). In that overview, we promised to keep you updated on policy developments around network adequacy, in particular the ongoing process at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) to update its model law. This model law can provide a framework for states to establish and enforce standards to ensure that provider networks are adequate. At its fall meeting in November, the subgroup at the NAIC working on network adequacy announced it would take comments on an initial draft of proposed revisions for the model act until January 12, 2015. To learn more about this process and to see the draft, click here.
To ensure the needs of consumers are considered in this process, the NAIC consumer representatives released a report featuring the results of a survey of state Departments of Insurance and recommendations for state policymakers, regulators, and the NAIC to consider as they work on updating network adequacy standards. These recommendations include:
- Establish quantitative standards for meaningful, reasonable access to care, such as minimum provider-to-enrollee ratios, reasonable wait times for appointments based on urgency of the condition, and distance standards that require access to network providers within a reasonable distance from the enrollee’s residence.
- Ensure consumers are provided sufficient information to identify and select between broad, narrow or ultra-narrow networks. In areas without sufficient choice, require health plans to offer at least one plan with a broad network or an out-of-network benefit, with limited exceptions to be determined by the Commissioner.
- Require health plan provider directories to be updated regularly, publicly available for both enrolled members and individuals shopping for coverage, and include standards for information that must be included to provide consumers with information on network differences and the potential financial impact on consumers depending on which plan they choose.
There are 17 recommendations in all. For advocates interested in learning more about this issue and in speaking up for consumers in this process, see the full report here.
If you would like to weigh in at the state level, please contact Georgia’s Department of Insurance and ask the Commissioner to support the NAIC’s process to revise the model act and specifically to support the consumer recommendations described above.
If you are an individual consumer enrolled in a commercial health plan and the provider directory you were given was incorrect or if you have concerns about your ability to access covered services under your plan, please contact the Georgia Office of Insurance & Fire Safety, Consumer Services Division by calling (800) 656-2298 or use the Consumer Complaint Portal at www.oci.ga.gov/ConsumerService. Please also consider sharing your story with Georgians for a Healthy Future so we can get a better picture of what is happening in our state.