From the Inbox:
Update on the 2011 Legislative Session
With thirteen Legislative days complete, several bills have been introduced that could impact health care consumers in Georgia.
House Bill 47would allow Georgia insurers to sell individual health insurance products with benefits equivalent to those sold in other states. This could circumvent current Georgia standards for basic consumer protections and essential medical services that all insurers must cover today under Georgia law. The Health and Life Subcommittee of the House Insurance Committee heard testimony on this legislation on Wednesday. Georgians for a Healthy Future expressed our concerns to the subcommittee. The subcommittee plans to vote on the legislation next week.
House Bill 214would create a separate public health agency, the Department of Public Health. On December 1, 2010, The Public Health Commission issued its final report to the Governor, Speaker, and Lieutenant Governor recommending that the Division of Public Health become an independent, cabinet-level state agency, with the Commissioner reporting directly to the Governor and serving as the state’s chief health officer.
This legislation implements the recommendation of the Public Health Commission. The bill is assigned to the House Health and Human Services Committee. To read a recent Georgia Health News Article on HB 214, click here.
Senate Bill 17would create a special advisory commission on mandated health insurance benefits in Georgia. The purpose of the commission would be to assess the impact of mandated health benefits and providers and advise the Department of Insurance on these issues, among other responsibilities. The bill was unanimously passed out of the Insurance and Labor Committee on Thursday.
Senate Resolution 140seeks to dedicate funds for trauma care from existing vehicle registration fees that are already being paid to the state. Trauma care is a significant problem in Georgia since there are only 16 trauma centers for the state’s 159 counties and particular lack of access in rural areas. To read recent articles on trauma funding, click here and here.
We will continue to monitor these and other health-related bills throughout the Legislative Session.Progress Continues on Health Insurance Exchange Feasibility Study
Over the past few months, with a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Governor’s Office of Planning Budget has been convening stakeholders and advocates to gather input on the feasibility of establishing a health insurance exchange in Georgia. As policymakers consider options for how to structure an insurance exchange, Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to weigh in on behalf of Georgia consumers. To learn more, click here.
Georgia Alliance for Tobacco Prevention Works for $1 Increase
Georgians for a Healthy Future has joined with a range of health care focused organizations to support a $1 increase in Georgia’s tobacco tax. Our current tobacco tax is only 37 cents per pack, well below the national average of $1.45. To learn more, click here.
The Affordable Care Act and You
Small Businesses and the Economy
A recent survey of 619 small business owners revealed that 1/3 of employers who do not offer health insurance said they would be more likely to do so because of the small business tax credits—credits which are available to 84% of small businesses here in Georgia because of the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, the report explained that there is still a gap in education about the new law to small businesses—only 43% are familiar with the new tax credits available to them. To learn more, click here. To read the full report, click here. To learn more, click here. New Proposed Rules Benefit Students
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services released proposed rules that would apply the Affordable Care Act’s consumer protections to college health plans starting in 2012, meaning college students will be guaranteed the same consumer protections and benefits as all Americans under the new law. To read the proposed rules, click here.
Medicaid Stability Protections May be at Risk
Stability protections, also known as “maintenance of effort” requirements, ensure that states do not adopt more restrictive eligibility levels or enrollment procedures in their Medicaid and CHIP programs so that children and families can maintain stable health coverage. Several states have asked Congress to eliminate these federal stability protections so that they have flexibility to roll back eligibility for populations they cover at state option. While we recognize that states, including Georgia, are facing difficult budgetary climates, cutting health care coverage would make it harder for consumers to access primary care and manage conditions, resulting in poorer health outcomes and higher costs down the line. Cutting Medicaid would also have a negative impact on the doctors, pharmacies, and hospitals in Georgia who rely on Medicaid reimbursement funds. Please urge your Member of Congress in Washington to preserve stability protections in Medicaid and CHIP. For more information, click here.
The Florida Ruling and Its Implications
On January 31st, U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson of Florida was the first in the nation to strike down the entire health care reform law—a suit to which Georgia was a party. To date, 25 challenges to the law have been filed and 4 have been decided: 2 upholding the law and 2 finding all or part of the law unconstitutional. Twelve cases were dismissed outright. This ruling will have little impact on what is happening on the ground where many states are already moving ahead with implementation of the ACA. To learn more, click here.