With just three weeks to go in open enrollment, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius came to Atlanta on Monday with a simple message about the health insurance exchange: “It’s not too late to enroll.’’
Her visit was part of a broad White House effort to encourage enrollment in the health exchanges prior to the March 31 deadline. Americans generally must have signed up by then or face a financial penalty under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
Sebelius also made a pitch for Georgia and other states to expand their Medicaid programs. Under the ACA, the federal government is picking up 100 percent of the costs of expansion for the first three years for states that opt to expand coverage. Georgia is one of many states that have decided not to do so.
“Georgia is losing $9.2 million a day in federal funding’’ by not expanding the program, Sebelius said. The uninsured “are still coming through the doors of the emergency room,’’ she said. “In the meantime, taxpayers are picking up that cost.’’
But expansion in Georgia appears to be a political long shot, at least for now. Gov. Nathan Deal says expansion would ultimately cost the state too much. full story
Rural hospitals aren’t the only Georgia medical facilities bleeding red ink.
Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale, near the world’s busiest airport, has been losing money since 2007. And in its last fiscal year, the loss was $20.6 million.
To help the nonprofit hospital stay afloat, Clayton County commissioners this week approved a package of special tax-funded projects that would bring in $50 million to help the 331-bed facility. The SPLOST has to be approved by voters.
“The hospital is in an untenable position if we do not receive community support,’’ Claudia Hall, director of marketing for Southern Regional, told GHN.
She and others say that a Medicaid expansion in Georgia would help the hospital as well.
Southern Regional Medical Center
Four rural hospitals in Georgia have closed in the past two years, citing financial struggles.
A closure of the much larger Southern Regional, just a short drive from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, would be a devastating financial blow to Clayton County. The hospital has 1,850 employees and more than 500 physicians and specialists on the medical staff. full story
Willie Johnson of Doraville didn’t know what to expect when he went to a recent health care information event in Stone Mountain.
Johnson, a part-time restaurant worker, had no health insurance. So when he heard a spot on radio station V-103 about the event at Berean Christian Church, he decided to find out for himself.
At the church, he met officials with Enroll America, a nonprofit organization seeking to help people gain coverage under the Affordable Care Act. They gave him information about the health insurance exchange that the federal government operates in Georgia.
Soon afterward, Johnson, 47, enrolled in an exchange policy that he says will cost him just $30 a month.
State Rep. Karen Bennett speaks at an education event at Fairfield Baptist Church as Enroll America’s Whitney Horton looks on
The involvement of a church in an ACA enrollment event is not incidental.
Enroll America, federal officials and others working to help uninsured Americans sign up for the new health coverage have frequently tapped churches and other places of worship to host educational events on the ACA, which is often called Obamacare.
Johnson says African-Americans feel at home at such events because “we trust the church.’’ full story
The physician pay hike for Medicaid services is finally beginning to reach Georgia doctors, more than a year after it was intended to take effect.
The three managed care organizations serving the majority of Medicaid beneficiaries are sending the extra payments to physicians starting this month, according to a schedule released by the Department of Community Health.
The pay hike was required under the Affordable Care Act, with the goal of paying family physicians, pediatricians and internists the same for Medicaid services as they get under Medicare. 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