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Health Reform

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

Poll: Georgians like expansion, but not ACA overall

A new poll finds 60 percent of Georgians disagree with the state’s decision not to expand the state’s Medicaid program, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.

The health reform law overall, though, fares less well in popularity. According to the survey, conducted by the Schapiro Group in August and sponsored by Healthcare Georgia Foundation, 42 percent of Georgians approve of the ACA and 46 percent disapprove.

Healthcare CostThe survey also found that the cost of care continues to be an important factor in whether consumers receive health care. Forty-two percent of Georgians said they wanted to seek care at some point, but chose not to do so, up from 33 percent the year before. Cost was the most cited reason for that decision.

And 40 percent of the 400 respondents said they think they have paid more for care over the past year.

“As the troubling trend of increased health care costs continues, Georgians who cannot afford health insurance are simply unable to seek or choosing not to seek the medical care they need,” said Gary Nelson, president of Healthcare Georgia Foundation. full story

Will map of ACA enrollment look different in 2015?

In health insurance, to a great extent, price is king.

The monthly premium that people will have to pay for insurance is a pivotal factor in how they pick a health plan – or whether they choose to buy coverage at all.

The apparent impact of the cost of premiums is noticeable in the enrollment patterns in Georgia’s insurance exchange, as seen in the first year of its existence under the Affordable Care Act.

A map of exchange enrollment in Georgia in 2014 shows generally low participation rates in rural South Georgia, even though these counties have high percentages of uninsured residents.

Map of Georgia exchange enrollment in 2014. Credit: Enroll America

Map of Georgia exchange enrollment in 2014. Credit: Enroll America

For the current plan year, southwest Georgia in particular had high premiums compared with other Georgia regions. In fact, it had among the highest premiums in the nation.

Two southwestern regions had monthly premiums of $345 and $377 for a particular Silver plan for a 21-year-old, Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University, told reporters in Atlanta on Tuesday. full story

Georgia health centers get funding to expand care

A federal agency has awarded $6.9 million in Affordable Care Act funding to 30 community health centers in Georgia that will help expand their primary care services.

Sylvia Burwell

Sylvia Burwell

That funding was part of $295 million awarded nationally to 1,195 health centers by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

“Health centers are a key part of how the Affordable Care Act is working to improve access to care for millions of Americans,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell in announcing the grants Friday. “These funds will enable health centers to provide high-quality primary health care to more people including the newly insured, many of whom may be accessing primary care for the first time in Georgia.”

The money will go to hiring new staff, including new health care providers; staying open for longer hours; and expanding services,  including oral health, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision services.  full story

2 nonprofits share $3.3 million in ‘navigator’ grants

Two nonprofit organizations will divide $3.3 million in federal money to provide “navigators” to help consumers enroll in the Georgia health insurance exchange this fall, the federal government announced Monday.

Sylvia Burwell

Sylvia Burwell

Navigators provide face-to-face, in-person help for consumers seeking information about the exchanges.

SEEDCO (Structured Employment Economic Development Corporation) will receive nearly $2.2 million, roughly the same as it received last year as a navigator grantee.

The second grantee will be an alliance led by Macon-based Community Health Works and consisting of cancer coalitions and other organizations. It will get $1.1 million.

Nationally, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell announced $60 million in navigator grant awards to 90 organizations in states with federally facilitated and state partnership exchanges. Also known as marketplaces, the exchanges were created under the Affordable Care Act, sometimes known as Obamacare. full story

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