The Pulse

Is Georgia’s medical access law too weak?

The state insurance department is looking at possible ways to strengthen a Georgia law that requires health insurers’ networks to give consumers adequate access to doctors and hospitals.

“Georgia is not alone: The feds and all the states are looking at the issue,’’ Trey Sivley, director of the Division of Insurance and Financial Oversight for the Georgia agency, told GHN recently.

Healthcare CostThe National Association of Insurance Commissioners is working on a redraft of its model for a network adequacy law. Georgia is studying the NAIC proposals, Sivley said. But he added that the state’s interest in the details “doesn’t mean that we’re going to adopt” the national group’s plan.

Such regulatory changes, if enacted, would coincide with an accelerating trend of health insurers offering consumers more limited choices of medical providers. The resulting health plans have become known generally as “narrow networks.” full story

Navigators aided consumers in need, report shows

Consumers in Georgia and three other states who were helped by navigators for the 2014 insurance exchanges tended to be people of color who were not financially secure, a recently released report says.

Navigators, who are specially trained in the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, provide face-to-face, in-person help for consumers seeking information about health insurance policies in the state exchanges, also called marketplaces.

The report by the University of Georgia also said many consumers helped by Seedco navigators in the four states had limited knowledge about health insurance concepts.

Sidney Wood meets with navigator Amanda Ptashkin in March.

A consumer meets with Atlanta-based Seedco navigator Amanda Ptashkin in March.

Seedco, a nonprofit group, was the lead organization in Georgia supplying navigators during the last Open Enrollment period for the ACA insurance exchanges. It also provided these counselors in Tennessee, New York and Maryland, and will do so again in the new enrollment period, which starts next month.

A UGA unit was the second Georgia navigator grantee group last year, but it is barred from participating this time by a newly passed state law. Top Georgia officials have been strongly critical of the ACA and have worked to limit official state involvement in its programs.

The UGA report found that among consumers in the four states helped by Seedco navigators, almost two-thirds (64.5%) were people of color. African-Americans were especially prevalent among these Georgia consumers. About 10 percent of consumers preferred to speak a language other than English. full story

Public health chief to lead state’s Ebola team

The head of Georgia’s public health agency will chair Gov. Nathan Deal’s 13-member Ebola response team. Her appointment and those of the other members were announced Monday.

Joining Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, a physician and commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health, are two health leaders from Emory Healthcare.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Emory University Hospital, in Atlanta, was the first American facility to receive an Ebola patient and has treated four. Three have already recovered and been released. (The third was released Sunday after being determined to be free of the virus, Emory announced Monday.) The fourth patient, a recently infected Texas nurse, arrived at Emory just last week.

The Emory officials on the team are Dr. William Bornstein, chief quality and medical officer at Emory Healthcare, and Susan Grant, chief nurse executive at Emory.

The Deal response team will assess current health and emergency management procedures and formulate recommendations to minimize the potential impact of Ebola in Georgia. full story

Deal forming response team for potential Ebola risk

Gov. Nathan Deal announced Sunday that he is creating a special team to assess Georgia’s preparedness for the Ebola crisis.

The response team will make necessary recommendations to minimize any potential impact of the disease in Georgia.

“Rest assured, Georgia is taking the threat of the Ebola virus seriously,” Deal said in a statement. “By combining the expertise of the health and research communities with our state agencies, Georgia will be uniquely positioned to combat the risks of Ebola should the need arise.”

An electron micrograph of an Ebola virus "virion"

An electron micrograph of an Ebola virus “virion”

 

Members of the group will include representatives of Emory University Hospital, which has treated four people with Ebola, including a Dallas nurse recently infected who arrived at the facility last week.

A GHN article last week reported that the state’s public health agency has boosted its outreach efforts to Georgia health workers and hospitals on dealing with the potential of Ebola infection here. full story

Commentary: A message from Medicare

Marilyn Tavenner

Marilyn Tavenner

This past Wednesday, more than 1.3 million Georgians began the Open Enrollment period for Medicare.

It’s a time for seniors and people with disabilities to look through their choices for the government program’s coverage.

In a new GHN Commentary, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services urges Medicare beneficiaries to take their time in assessing the plans’ costs and benefits.

“This year, people with Medicare who choose to enroll in a Medicare health or prescription drug plan will have access to more high-rated, four- and five-star plans than ever before,’’ writes Marilyn Tavenner.

Here’s a link to Tavenner’s Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at amiller@georgiahealthnews.com

Consumer Corner

Hospitals battling deadly infections

Amid Ebola fears, many hospitals are having trouble stamping out less exotic but sometimes deadly infections.

Around the State

Fort Gordon: W. Africa duty

A group of soldiers from the Augusta area is being sent to West Africa to help officials working to contain the spread of the Ebola virus.

Read the full article:
Associated Press

Cherokee: Ebola precautions

In light of Ebola concerns, the Cherokee County Adult Detention Center is taking precautionary measures as they keep a man locked up days after his return from an African nation.

Read the full article:
ajc.com

Candidates discuss Ebola

Candidates vying for the Peach State’s U.S. Senate seat are making sure voters know they’re ready to do battle with Ebola.

Read the full article:
Gainesville Times

New CDC guidelines released

Federal officials are going on the road with new guidelines to promote head-to-toe protection for health workers treating Ebola patients.

Read the full article:
Associated Press

Mom: Patient doing well

The mother of a nurse infected with the Ebola virus says her daughter is doing well as she is treated at Emory University Hospital.

Read the full article:
Associated Press

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