The Pulse

Cutting coal power will save many lives, EPA says

While opponents say the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to reduce carbon emissions will cost jobs and bring higher electric bills, supporters of the proposal have a counter-argument: beneficial health effects.

Dr. LeRoy Graham

Dr. LeRoy Graham

The EPA is holding hearings in Atlanta and three other cities this week on its plan for reducing power plants’ carbon emissions.

Those in favor of the changes say that as coal plants shut down or are replaced with cleaner natural gas, there will be fewer conventional pollutants in the air. Specifically, that means fewer lung-damaging particulates and less ground-level ozone, or smog.

The EPA expects that the resulting cleaner air will mean fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations, and 2,700 to 6,600 fewer premature deaths per year by 2030.

Dr. LeRoy Graham, a pediatric pulmonologist who practices in the Atlanta area, said Tuesday in a GHN interview that as the carbon “footprint” in the air increases, “people with lung problems are suffering more. The health threats are increasing.’’ full story

State says it’s hard at work on Medicaid backlog

A state health agency says it’s working though the application backlog for Medicaid that recently provoked federal scrutiny.

clipboardThe Department of Community Health has made decisions on eligibility for up to 70 percent of the 88,854 “account transfers” from Georgia’s insurance exchange, the agency said Friday.

The backlog in Georgia is linked to the thousands of people expected to join Medicaid and PeachCare this year as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

These new enrollees are not coming in because of expansion of Medicaid, as is happening in some states, because Georgia has declined to pursue expansion. But Georgia is reported to have tens of thousands of people who are already eligible for Medicaid or PeachCare but have not been getting it. Their names have emerged through the enrollment process in the ACA’s insurance exchange.

“We have been in the process of comparing the information in the account transfers to our various eligibility databases for several weeks,’’ said Pam Keene, Community Health spokeswoman, in an email to GHN. “Those who were found eligible are already receiving benefits. Those who were deemed ineligible have been notified and referred to the [exchange] where appropriate.”

An estimated 18,000 of the transfer files processed have been enrolled in Medicaid or PeachCare, Community Health said. But because the account transfers represent families with possibly more than one person eligible, the number enrolled would be higher. full story

Insurers to pay $11 million in Georgia rebates

A federal rule on health insurers’ spending will bring $11 million in rebates to Georgia individuals and employers this summer.

Federal figures released Thursday show that 304,000 Georgians will benefit from the refunds, with an average rebate of $53 per family, as a result of the “Medical Loss Ratio” (MLR) rule on 2013 insurance plans.

1088819262-1249Created by the Affordable Care Act, the MLR standard generally requires health insurers to spend at least 80 percent of the premium dollars they collect on medical care or activities to improve the quality of health care.

In Georgia, $5.5 million will go to refunds to 180,000 individual consumers, while $5.4 million will go to employers in the small-group market. In both these sectors, the required threshold is 80 percent.

The large employer market, where the minimum requirement is 85 percent, accounts for just $270,000 in refunds in Georgia for last year’s health plans.

Humana plans in Georgia will have to pay the highest amount in rebates — $4.5 million combined in the small-group and large employer market. full story

Merger shows health IT still blooming in Georgia

Seven years ago, Baha Zeidan and two of his Valdosta colleagues entered a local competition for business plans, looking to build on their idea for a health care software startup.

At the time, the three young men, all graduates of Valdosta State University, were working at a medical lab company in the South Georgia city.

The group saw a need for better software for the health care industry, which still was bogged down with paper medical records.

Baha Zeidan

Baha Zeidan

The Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce awarded Zeidan, Douglas Swords and Daniel Henry the first prize of $15,000 for their business plan. The contest award also came with legal and other services.

“That was the start of the company,’’ Zeidan said Wednesday.

Azalea Health, launched in 2008 in Valdosta, “the Azalea City,” focused on providing electronic health records and billing software for physicians, along with software for laboratories.

On Tuesday, seven years after the contest award, the company announced a merger with Alpharetta-based simplifyMD, another private health IT firm. The merged company will have 70 employees and will have offices in Valdosta, Alpharetta and Macon as well as in Gainesville, Fla. full story

Exchange subsidies draw conflicting court rulings

More than 190,000 Georgians are enrolled in the health insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act.

But if a D.C. federal court ruling announced Tuesday on exchange subsidies is ultimately upheld, that Georgia number could shrink precipitously.

Healthcare Cost

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled Tuesday that the language of the ACA allows subsidies, or discounts, only for people who obtain coverage through exchanges run by the states, and not by the federal government.

Georgia is among 36 states whose insurance exchanges are federally run.

About 95 percent of Georgians enrolled in health plans in the exchange have received subsidies to help them afford their premiums, according to the state insurance department.

The 2-to-1 ruling by a three-judge panel of the court — if not overturned on appeal — would be a tremendous setback for President Obama’s health care law.

Without subsidies, the price of health insurance for millions of people in Georgia and the 35 other states with federally run exchanges would rise sharply, making it generally unaffordable.

The judges suspended their ruling pending an appeal by the administration. The Obama administration said it would appeal to the full circuit court, a process that could take up to six months, and stressed the ruling would have no impact on consumers receiving monthly subsidies now, Reuters reported.

Also Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Virginia ruled unanimously to uphold the subsidies provision, saying the wording of the law was too ambiguous to restrict the availability of the funds. The ruling was announced shortly after the D.C. decision.

 

full story

Consumer Corner

Teens still lag on HPV vaccinations

The number of preteens and teens getting the HPV vaccine is still dismally low.

Around the State

Execs facing federal charges

Two executives are facing federal charges for their alleged involvement in a scheme that involved recruiting pregnant immigrant women to give birth at area hospitals.

Read the full article:
wsbtv.com

‘Clean Power Plan’ hearings

An estimated 400 people will officially weigh in on the EPA’s proposed “Clean Power Plan” in Atlanta over the next two days.

Read the full article:
GPB

Athens: $7 million grant

NIH awards two grants to a UGA team to study the health and well-being of young rural African-Americans in Georgia.

Read the full article:
Atlanta Business Chronicle

Columbus: Child abuse case

The mother of a 1-year-old whose skull was “cracked like an egg” when life-flighted to an Atlanta hospital in 2012 will serve nine years in prison.

Read the full article:
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Read more here: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2014/07/28/3221408/mother-pleads-guilty-in-case-of.html?sp=/99/100/&ihp=1#storylink=cpy

Floyd: Partner benefits

A number of national companies with a presence in Rome and Floyd County offer employee benefits to same-sex partners.

Read the full article:
Rome News-Tribune

Sponsorships



University of Georgia College of Public Health Logo





















(Click on the logo for more information about our sponsors.)





Foundation Support for GHN:

Healthcare Georgia Foundation
Kaiser Permanente
Reynolds Charitable Fund
Georgia Health Foundation