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For detailed information on these bills, use the Legislation Tracker tool on our website.

HB 47: Allowing out-of-state insurance policies to be sold in Georgia.  Status:  Passed the House and Senate.

SB 17:  Establishing the Special Advisory Commission on Mandated Health Insurance Benefits.  Status:  Passed the Senate and House.

HB 132:  Insurers to provide coverage for physician prescribed medical foods. Status:  Remains in the House Insurance Committee.  This issue will most likely be dealt with by the Commission on Insurance Mandates established by SB 17 (above), should that bill become law.

HB 65: Allowing siblings or children of adopted people to access adoption files for medical treatment.  Status:  Remains in House Judiciary Committee, but the same language was added to SB 172 (below), which passed both chambers and awaits the Governor’s signature.

HB 187:  Department of Community Health to select single administrator for Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids dental.  Status:  Remains in the House Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 229:  Provides that in certain matters related to administrative hearings and appeals under Medicaid, the decision of the administrative law judge shall be the final administrative decision of the commissioner.   Status:  Given a Do Pass recommendation by the House Judiciary Committee, and then withdrawn in the House and recommitted.

HB 214:  Creates a Department of Public Health.  Status: Signed into law by the Governor.

SB 88:  Increasing age requirement from six to eight for use of car child restraint systems.  Status:  SB 88 has passed the Senate and House.

HB 227:  Would allow local board of education policies authorizing school personnel to administer auto-injectable epinephrine to students who are having an anaphylactic adverse reaction.  Status:  Passed the House and Senate.

HB 345:  Children and pregnant women who are legal aliens to be eligible for Medicaid and PeachCare programs.  Status: Currently rests in the House Judiciary Committee.

HB 432:  Employers to allow employees to use sick leave to care for immediate family members.  Status:  Rests in House Industrial Relations.

HB 461:  Creating multi-state health care compact to move authority to regulate health care to the States.  Status:  Signed into law by the Governor.  An interstate compact, however, will require Congressional approval and signature of the President of the United States to become viable.

HB 476:  Creating exchanges to facilitate sale of health plans for individuals and small group employers.  Status:  This bill was actually on the House Debate Calendar on Crossover Day, but was pulled off the calendar at the last minute by the House leadership and at the request of the Governor’s office, who would like to further review the legislation.

SR 55:  Amending Constitution to ensure that people are not forced to join a health care system.  Status:  Failed.  Has not been reconsidered.

SB 63:  Calls for the use of a “smart card” to verify identification of Medicaid recipients and provides that the department may also use biometric technology to verify the identity of Medicaid enrollees.  Status:  Passed the Senate on Crossover Day after much debate on the floor.  Currently rests in the House Health and Human Services Committee.

SB 288 would allow pharmacists and nurses to administer vaccines under the terms of vaccine protocol agreements with physicians.  The previous law provided that pharmacists and nurses were restricted to only administering influenza vaccines under the protocol agreements with physicians. Status:  Has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

HB 633:  Dropped towards the end of the 2011 session, this bill would require Department of Human Services to establish a state-wide system for reporting child abuse and suspected child abuse through the use of a toll-free telephone number and an Internet website, provide that any information reported to the system would remain confidential other than for law enforcement or government statistical purposes and require that any person reporting information on child abuse to the system be given civil immunity from prosecution.  Status: Has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee.

This morning the AJC ran a news article related to Senate Bill 63, which is proposed legislation with the stated aim to cut down on Medicaid fraud occuring here in Georgia. If you’ve been following Voices’ weekly updates, you’ve heard about this bill before as it’s one that we’ve been watching carefully. The bill calls for a mandatory pilot project that will utilize “smart cards” and may also include the use of other biometric identification measures (like electronic fingerprinting) to verify the identity of patients enrolled in Medicaid at every point of service, including doctors visits, when picking up medication at the pharmacy, etc. 

Voices has been concerned with how passage and implementation of this bill could have a negative impact. From the standpoint of the child enrolled in Medicaid, questions remain about how to verify the identity of a child or newborn through a photograph and/or through fingerprinting, if utilized. There’s also a conern as to how implementing these measures may further restrict Medicaid enrollees’ access to providers. Medicaid providers already are feeling strapped, since other legislative efforts this session include budget proposals to cut Medicaid provider reimbursement rates and to implement co-pays to be collected at the point of service by providers from children enrolled in PeachCare. If providers additionally are required to manage and maintain equipment and practices for more more stringent verification purposes of patients walking through their door, how many may decide that it’s not worth the hassle and forgo seeing Medicaid patients altogether?

Another concern is how this will impact the state’s bottom line. A fiscal note prepared in response to the original version of the bill gave an initial price tag of about $600,000 for a pilot program and over $23 million for a statewide rollout.

No system operates without fault and this is not to say that Medicaid fraud does not happen. There is a concern, however, that the measures proposed in Senate Bill 63 are not the best way to target fraudulent activity. And now with issues raised in the AJC article, questions are posed regarding how and why this proposed legislation came to be, providing even greater cause for concern.

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

Earlier this week, State House Representative Mickey Channell introduced House Bill 214, legislation that would create a new and separate Department of Public Health. Currently, Public Health resides as a Division within the Department of Community Health. Two years ago, it was a Division within the Department of Human Services (then called the Department of Human Resources).

In response to the dropping of this bill, in an interview with Georgia Public Broadcast, Governor Deal stated that he’s fine with the recommended change and referenced that services provided by the Division of Public Health are different from those of the Department of Community Health, whose main function involves running the Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids Programs.

Within the past year, the Georgia Public Health Commission was created and charged with addressing the question of how and where Public Health should be structured. The work of the Commission culminated in December of last year with a recommendation that Public Health should operate as a separate state agency.

Any thoughts in response to the recommended change?  After years of transition, will Public Health finally have a home of its own?

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health
Voices for Georgia’s Children

To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Let’s Move Campaign, First Lady Michelle Obama traveled to Atlanta to visit elementary schools and to address a large and enthusiastic crowd (which included Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed) gathered at North Point Community Church. The mission of the Let’s Move Campaign is simple: raise a healthier generation of kids. The campaign focuses on increasing physical activity and on improving the nutritional quality of food that kids eat.

The First Lady mentioned how national, state, and local policies can encourage healthier living among kids. She specifically referred to the provision in the Affordable Care Act that now allows kids to access free preventive care screenings under their insurance plans. She likewise talked about initiatives to bring salad bars into school cafeterias.

But what really seemed to resonate with those in the crowd was when she acknowledged how hard it is as a mother to make sure that her kids eat healthy and lead active lives. She commented on how sometimes it’s easier to allow kids to sit in front of the tv for a couple of hours to keep them preoccupied, or how tiresome it gets to negotiate with her kids day after day to try to get them to eat healthy come-cooked food instead of the fast food that they really want to eat. She recognized that it’s easy to say that we want our kids to be healthy, but it takes a high level of commitment to see that they are.

One charge that she made to all adults in attendance was that we need to set the example for the kids in our lives.  We need to eat healthier.  We need to be active.   For tips on how, visit the Let’s Move website.  After all, kids aren’t the only ones who should get to run around and play!

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

So now, we keep moving forward to fully implement all provisions of the health law, the Affordable Care Act, here in Georgia. We continue working toward establishing an insurance exchange for the state and streamlining enrollment processes for health coverage within Medicaid, PeachCare for Kids, and within the Exchange.

For those who want to keep score, with this most recent decision, our “court count” stands at: 

  • 2 courts who ruled to uphold the law;
  • 12 courts who outright dismissed the constitutional challenges;
  • 1 court who ruled the individual mandate provision unconstitutional; and
  • 1 court who ruled the entire law unconstitutional.

Many believe that this case eventually will be heard by the Supreme Court, but there’s no clear idea of when that will happen. What we do know is that the Affordable Care Act remains the law of the land, and Georgia must fully comply with all requirements under the law. 

Looking forward it’s difficult to predict how long the legal fight will continue.   But looking back, we can witness how our state already has benefitted since the law was passed. Insurance companies can no longer drop coverage when children get sick. Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children based on a pre-existing condition.  And Georgia already has received $34.9 million of federal dollars newly available to states under the Affordable Care Act. 

With these and other benefits children in Georgia already have received under the health law, we must consider whether we can afford to have them all stripped away?

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

Good afternoon on this lovely Saturday in January! I’m Jessica, Voices’ new communications manager. I just wanted to introduce myself and share a childhood memory that complements Polly’s latest post. From time to time, the Voices staff and our supporters will share memories and lessons from childhood on the Voices Today blog. These posts may stir up childhood memories of your own (please share!) and give us all the opportunity to reflect on how these experiences have influenced our lives.

Whenever I eat fresh parsley I’m immediately transported back in time to my nanny and grandpa’s mint green kitchen. They were old-fashioned folks who grew much of their own produce in their suburban backyard. They spent hours in the garden and hours in the kitchen. They rarely cooked anything from a box.

I remember picking parsley with my grandpa and can still taste the delicious cauliflower cakes, cucumber salad and lima beans my grandma served on their formica table. Because of these positive food experiences, I have an appreciation for fresh food. I also recognize the challenge of eating healthy in our modern society. If I wrestle with purchasing a three-dollar red pepper, it’s completely understandable why someone at or below the poverty level would pass.

With 57 percent of Georgia’s children eligible for free and reduced school lunches, it’s important that we advocate for fresh foods in schools that will help them develop positive food habits to reflect on and carry into adulthood. To some children, the school cafeteria is their grandparents’ garden…

The Affordable Care Act presents the opportunity for Georgia to move forward in covering uninsured children in our state and working toward improved health outcomes as well.  Notable provisions already have gone into effect, but other major components of the law will be implemented in phases for the next few years.  The federal law provides an overarching frame for how the new system will work, but it is legislation and policy decisions at the state level that will make this law work well for kids and families in Georgia.  Given that it’s the start of a new calendar year and also of a new state legislative session, many leaders in Georgia are sharing their optimistic visions for our state.  We all want to see a healthier economy for our state.  But in order to achieve that goal, it stands to reason that we need a healthier Georgia. 

We stand to gain a lot for our state if we are wise in how we implement the Affordable Care Act.  But if we are at all passive in how we implement the law, we stand to lose a lot.  We lose millions of federal grant dollars for planning and implementation that will go to other states instead.  We lose the ability to structure a health care system for Georgia that works best for Georgians. 

And, while highly unlikely, if Congress repeals the entire law, we lose even more.  No longer will parents be able to cover their children on their insurance plans up to age 26.  No longer will insurance companies be required to provide coverage for children with pre-existing conditions.  In last week’s posting, I had mentioned a national call-in day would be scheduled for this week.  Given the tragedy in Tucson, however, the majority of Congressional action on the Hill has been halted.  We will continue to keep you posted as to when the call-in day will be rescheduled.  In the meantime, please take the time to sign onto an online petition, organized in part by MomsRising, which urges Congress to move forward with the new health law.

People throughout the U.S. are still reeling from the tragic shooting this past weekend.  Our thoughts go out to Congresswoman Giffords in her recovery, as well as to all other victims and families who have suffered a loss.  We collectively mourn as a nation for the senseless suffering.  Let us also collectively show gratitude and appreciation to all Members of Congress for all that they do for us.  As you continue to advocate on behalf of kids and on other issues which matter to you, please also take the time to thank them for their public service.

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

At noon today, members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives went to work, which marks the beginning of the 112th U.S. Congress. And while there likely has not been enough time for our elected officials to get heavily involved in the process of “making laws and taking names,” they already are off and running and are expected to tackle some big issues early on.

One topic of discussion on the agenda will be the new health law, the Affordable Care Act. There’s been much discussion about efforts of House Members to repeal the law, though most of us in the field of health wonkery don’t think that will happen for several reasons. First, it would be very costly to repeal the law. Second, the Senate is unlikely to vote to repeal the law. And third, the White House likely would oppose any such legislation.

But moving beyond mere politics, Americans who are starting to benefit from provisions under the law will not want to see the law repealed. Seniors are starting to see fixes to the dreaded “donut hole” problems in prescription coverage. Parents are able to continue coverage for their children up to age 26. And insurance companies no longer are able to deny coverage to children on the basis of pre-existing conditions. 

As Congress begins renewed discussions on the health law, make sure that you speak up on how this law benefits children and families in Georgia. Next week, Voices will be one of several organizations across the country who will be convening a national call-in day to show support for the new health law. Stay tuned to this blog and to our website for details on how you can participate.

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health
Voices for Georgia’s Children

As referenced in the previous post, members of the U.S. House of Representatives returned to the Hill yesterday for a Lame Duck session which will last for the next few weeks before Congress recesses for the holiday break. Among the legislative issues we expect to see addressed is Child Nutrition Reauthorization, which has been featured in this blog for the past few months.

Back in August, the Senate passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (S. 3307), and we now hope for the House to do the same.  Passage of the bill would address issues of child hunger and childhood obesity by continuing to fund the all-important school meal programs and also by improving nutritional standards for foods sold on school campuses and strengthening Local School Wellness Policies.  For more information, please read Voices’ policy brief.

The Lame Duck session is short, and the timing of bills moving through likely will be fast.  For these reasons, yesterday and today are designated national call-in days to members of the U.S. House to urge passage of the Senate Bill. 

Join advocates around the country and call 1-866-277-7617, ask to speak with your House member, and then urge him to pass the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Joann Yoon, Assoc. Policy Director for Child Health

Voices for Georgia’s Children

A new Congress comes in January but the current Congress has work to do.  Our children are waiting for us to meet our commitments to them.  All they are asking for is a healthy meal, a nurturing environment, and a solid education.  Surely we can deliver!

Let’s start with a healthy meal.  Our current Congressmen have returned to Washington this week with lots on their plate (pun intended!).  Beyond the important economic issues that dominate the airwaves is the equally important issue of reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act.  Almost 1.3 million Georgia Children depend on this for school lunches and other meals.  Your Congressman in the U.S. House needs to hear from you about getting this done by December 31.

Kids also need quality care while Mom and Dad work and early education programs to help them get ready to read.  The federal appropriations bill can ensure that 300,000 little ones get the continuing benefit of Head Start, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and Early Learning Challenge Grants.  Add this to your talking points with your Congressmen.

Pat Willis, Executive Director

Voices for Georgia’s Children

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