More than 38,000 Georgians signed up for coverage in the health insurance exchange in February, according to a federal report released Tuesday.
That is slightly down from the number that enrolled the previous month. But the February enrollees represent a 37 percent increase from the total Georgia enrollment of 101,276 through January.
The Georgia enrollment dip last month was part of a national decline from the previous month, the report showed. Federal officials made the point Tuesday that February is significantly shorter than January, and they said January had some spillover from December.
March 31 is the deadline for people to sign up for health coverage in the exchange. A person who remains uninsured past that date is subject to a financial penalty under the Affordable Care Act.
The Georgia enrollment of 139,371 through February was behind that of two other states using the federal exchange that have similar-sized populations – North Carolina’s 200,546 and Michigan’s 144,587. Georgia has trailed both in recent months. full story
For the fifth straight year, Kaiser Permanente ranked No. 1 in customer satisfaction among health plans in a three-state region that includes Georgia, according to a 2014 study by J.D. Power and Associates released Monday.
Kaiser Permanente’s facility in Kennesaw
Ranking second and third in the South Atlantic region were UnitedHealthcare of Georgia and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.
The region consists of Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Kaiser does not operate in either of the Carolinas but has more than 250,000 members in Georgia.
The study by J.D. Power – famous for its automobile reviews – surveyed 34,000 health plan members of 136 health plans across 18 U.S. regions. The survey targets six factors: coverage and benefits; provider choice; information and communication; claims processing; cost; and customer service. full story
Some Georgia applicants for food stamps and welfare benefits would have to pass a drug test under a House bill that cleared a committee Monday on a 7-6 vote.
People applying for this government assistance would require testing if they raised “reasonable suspicion” of illegal drug use, under House Bill 772.
The House Judiciary Committee also passed two highly visible bills related to the Affordable Care Act. One would require legislative approval of any expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
The second would prohibit employees of any state unit from spending state funds to advocate for Medicaid expansion. It would also bar the University of Georgia from operating its current navigator program that assists people trying to get coverage under the ACA. full story
A House committee Monday narrowly approved a bill that targets potential conflicts of interest involving Department of Community Health Board members.
Governmental Affairs Committee Chairwoman Amy Carter (R-Valdosta) voted in favor of it, breaking a 4-to-4 tie vote among the other panel members and sending the bill to the House Rules Committee for consideration before it reaches the House floor.
Rep. Amy Carter
HB 913 would prohibit board membership for anyone having an “ownership interest in an entity or program” licensed or regulated by DCH. The legislation, however, exempts medical professionals such as physicians and dentists.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), said it would still allow medical professionals to serve on the board even if they had an ownership interest in an entity regulated by DCH.
Among people who would be barred from the DCH board under the legislation are people who have an ownership interest in a company that “provides medical staffing services to an entity that is licensed or regulated” by DCH. full story
Jennifer Ludlum, a Gwinnett County educator, wore a sign around her neck Tuesday with a number on it: $3,455.09.
That amount, she said, represents her out-of-pocket medical costs so far in 2014, for a visit to her neurologist, an MRI –- she has multiple sclerosis –- and surgery for her daughter.
“That’s more than I make in a month,’’ said Ludlum, who pointed out that she has the Gold option, with the highest premiums, as a member of the state health plan for state employees and educators.
Sarah Lesley and her daughters joined the Capitol rally.
Ludlum was among the roughly 100 people who rallied on the steps of the state Capitol on Tuesday to protest the changes implemented this year to the State Health Benefit Plan. Those changes have sparked a groundswell of criticism from thousands of Georgians about a lack of choice of insurance plans and higher health care costs.
The rally was organized by a Facebook group of teachers, state employees and retirees that has grown to 14,000 members. Ashley Cline, founder of the group, called Teachers Rally to Advocate for Georgia Insurance Choices (TRAGIC), told the crowd that state officials chose budget savings over the welfare of state employees with the health plan changes. full story