The Pulse

Commentary: A life-or-death issue for children

On the last day of the 2014 General Assembly session, political differences blocked legislation on medical marijuana for children with seizure disorders.

Abe Hopkins

Abe Hopkins

The bill was introduced by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), who was inspired by the plight of children with intractable seizures whose condition has been helped significantly by marijuana derivatives such as cannabidiol oil.

In a new Commentary, Peake writes of the fate of Abe Hopkins, 6, who had a seizure disorder. “The Hopkins family worked to help pass the bill, and when it failed, they prayed that Abe would not have that final, fatal seizure before the next session in January 2015.’’ Peake says.

“Tragically, he did.”

Peake emphasizes the need for another legislative effort next year – and points out that a study committee on medical cannabis will be holding meetings in various locales over the next few weeks.

Here’s a link to his 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

 

 

 

Key activist group sees flaws in state health plan

Last week, when upcoming changes in the state employee and teacher health plan were announced, they drew a generally positive response.

Healthcare CostMembers learned that the 2015 plan would include an increased choice of insurers, which was welcome, and officials presented information showing that many members would see no premium increase.

But after studying the proposed rates in greater detail, a group representing teachers, employees and retirees is voicing concern. It says many of the new options will be unaffordable for members looking to switch from their current plans. full story

Weight wars: Bake sale showdown set for Thursday

The battle over snack foods sold at Georgia school fundraisers will come down to a vote Thursday.

That’s when the state Board of Education will decide whether to give schools a series of exemptions from a federal requirement that prohibits the sale of high-calorie sweets and high-fat and high-sodium foods during fundraisers held during school hours.

glazed

The fundraiser rule is among federal standards required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which sought to make school foods healthier by reducing sodium and increasing whole grains and servings of fresh fruits and vegetables.

The American Heart Association is urging the state Board of Education to reject the proposed fundraiser exemptions. According to the School Nutrition Association, 30 states have opted not to allow the sale of unhealthy foods, such as cookies, candy and doughnuts, at on-campus fundraisers. They include several Southeastern states such as Alabama, Mississippi and North Carolina.

The 30 exemptions that Georgia is proposing — worth up to three days each, or a total of 90 days — would allow the state to have “the worst, weakest policy in the nation,’’ says Marsi Thrash, government relations director for the Heart Association in Georgia.

“At AHA, we believe that prevention of cardiovascular disease can never start too early. And selling unhealthy food to kids to raise money is just wrong.”

State Superintendent John Barge, though, has a starkly different view. He has called the federal requirements on fundraisers “asinine.” full story

State health plan choices for 2015 draw praise

Many state employees and teachers will see no increase in their health insurance premiums next year under rates approved by a state agency’s board Thursday.

The State Health Benefit Plan members will have choices among plans offered by three health insurers, rather than a single insurance company this year.

The SHBP covers 650,000 state employees, teachers, other school personnel, retirees and dependents. With those numbers, the members of the health plan have proved to be a potent political force in this election year.

Sarah Lesley and her daughters joined a Capitol rally in February against the design of the state health plan.

Changes in the health plan that started Jan. 1 triggered fierce criticism from members, who complained about a lack of choice of insurance plans and higher health care costs. A Facebook group (Teachers Rally to Advocate for Georgia Insurance Choices, or TRAGIC) attracted thousands of members. Teachers and state employees rallied at the state Capitol, protesting the new health plan design.

TRAGIC members Thursday praised the wider health plan options.

“I’m glad to see we have a choice,” said a member of the group and a retired Marietta teacher, Julie Jarrett, after the Department of Community Health board vote Thursday. (Community Health oversees the state health plan.)

Many SHBP members had trouble understanding the 2014 Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA) and how it worked, Jarrett added.

“I’m happy they’re going to educate all the members what the HRA really is,’’ Jarrett said Thursday. “They didn’t do that last year.” full story

Medicaid increase, uninsured data show Ga. impact

Federal figures show Georgia’s Medicaid and PeachCare enrollment jumped 16 percent since October – the highest percentage increase among states that have rejected the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

clipboardThe Georgia jump greatly exceeds that of the second-highest increase among non-expansion states: 9.5 percent in Montana.

Expanding Medicaid involves extending enrollment in the government program to many low-income people who had not previously been eligible.

As a group, the states not pursuing expansion saw enrollment in Medicaid and their Children’s Health Insurance Program rise by 4 percent. (The children’s program is called PeachCare in Georgia.) States embracing Medicaid expansion saw an average increase in enrollment of 18.5 percent since October, when open enrollment on the health insurance exchanges began.

The enrollment data from the Department of Health and Human Services, released Friday, are part of various studies underscoring the insurance changes created through the ACA. full story

Around the State

Emory to release Ebola patient

Dr. Kent Brantly, one of two Americans undergoing treatment in Atlanta for the Ebola virus, will be released today.

Read the full article:
WABE

Cobb: Northside gets OK

The Cobb Board of Commissioners has approved the rezoning necessary to allow Northside Hospital to build a 80,000-square-foot medical office building in east Cobb.

Read the full article:
Atlanta Business Chronicle/Marietta Daily Journal

Columbus: Whistleblower suit

Richard Barker alleges in a federal whistleblower suit that a Columbus cancer center and its physicians repeatedly and knowingly overbilled government insurers.

Read the full article:
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Read more here: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2014/08/20/3257614_attorneys-in-john-b-amos-cancer.html?sp=/99/100/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

Macon: Heat advisory

Heat indices are expected to reach 105 degrees Thursday afternoon in Macon, Warner Robins and points southward.

Read the full article:
Macon Telegraph

Read more here: http://www.macon.com/2014/08/21/3260434_heat-advisory-for-macon-middle.html?sp=/99/148/198/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

Coweta: Mental health need

Coweta County is behind the state average for mental health resources, according to a recent community health needs assessment by Piedmont Healthcare.

Read the full article:
Newnan Times-Herald

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