The 2019 Session started slowly since it was interrupted by snow warnings and the Super Bowl. The pace has picked up and there are rigorous discussions about how to fix our healthcare system to make affordable care available to more Georgians. Possible reforms or repeal of the 1970s Certificate of Need Law (CON) has engaged most of the hospital lobbyists. My priority is to focus on how to get the uninsured covered by expanding Medicaid to ensure accessible and affordable healthcare to all Georgians. Here are some basic facts.
Georgia is only one of 14 states that has not expanded Medicaid
· Georgia has missed out on up to $3 billion for 9 years in federal funding that could cover Georgians and stabilize our rural hospitals
· Medicaid Expansion could create 56,000 new jobs in the healthcare sector
· Medicaid Expansion could cover 32,000 veterans and their spouses not able to get healthcare through the VA
· Even after nine years Medicaid Expansion is still the fastest way to provide relief for people who do not have health insurance.
There is a Democratic proposal HB 37 implementing full Medicaid Expansion and the Republican proposal SB 106 creating a Georgia specific waiver permission for families up to 100% rather that 138% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) and other limitations. The differences are outlined in this document created by the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. GBPI.
We did pass the ’19 Amended Budget with some improvements for school based behavioral interventions and more relief for the farmers still struggling after the Michael Hurricane devastation. Here is a summary of that budget.
One aspect of the ’19 Budget highlights the most stunning example of why we need to take advantage of the federal dollars available to Medicaid services. Comparison of the Medicaid Budget in DCH and the State Mental Health Budget in DBHDD shows why our funding for behavioral health is among the lowest in the nation. These are my unaudited gross estimates.
Medicaid Behavioral Health
Federal $’s $7.8 Billion $ 149 Million
State $’s $7.8 Billion $1.2 Billion
Total $’s $15.6 Billion $1.4 Billion
Georgia has rejected the billions of dollars available from the Feds for behavioral health services and opted to use almost all state dollars to try to provide these services. The good news is that both sides are looking for was way to improve this picture. The bad news is that co-pays, work requirements, and how to protect the commercial insurers dominate the discussion rather than trying to improve and augment services. The hospital lobbyists are forced to focus on plans to repeal or revise the existing CON Law that regulates hospital expansions.
Today, we honored Ricci deForest with this resolution:
Recognizing and commending Ricci deForest; and for other purposes.
WHEREAS, Ricci deForest is the founder, curator, and artistic director of Atlanta's esteemed
Madame C.J. Walker Beauty Shoppe Museum, a museum dedicated to the preservation of
Madame C.J. Walker's renowned beauty product development legacy; and
WHEREAS, the Madame Museum is located immediately below the headquarters of the
historic WERD radio station, which at the time of its founding stood as the first African
American owned and operated radio station in North America, and Ricci dedicates
significant energy and resources to the promotion of its sounds and history; and
WHEREAS, Ricci has diligently and conscientiously devoted innumerable hours of his time,
talents, and energy toward the betterment of his community and state as evidenced
dramatically by his superlative efforts to educate the public about Atlanta's rich and dynamic
WHEREAS, his significant organizational and leadership talents, remarkable patience and
diplomacy, keen sense of vision, and sensitivity have earned him the respect and admiration
of his colleagues and associates; and
WHEREAS, it is abundantly fitting and proper that the outstanding contributions of this
extraordinary artistic director and his phenomenal museum be appropriately recognized.
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES that
the members of this body recognize and commend Ricci deForest and the superb Madame
C.J. Walker Beauty Shoppe Museum and extend the most sincere best wishes for continued
growth and success.
Thank you Ricci for your hard work toward saving such an iconic and historic location. If you would like to visit the museum, it is located at: 54 Hilliard St NE, Atlanta GA 30312.
Recently, I was honored by Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies. I am truly honored to have received such an award. While, I wish I could say our work is finished, there are several more things we can do better. This year I have been tracking issues like maternal mortality and more specifically mental health of women during and after pregnancy. Many organizations and medical schools like Healthy Mother, Healthy Babies and Morehouse School of Medicine have been lobbying for telepsychiatry, which is psychiatric screenings via technology such as video conferencing. These issues are at the top of my list.
January 14, 2019 was swearing in day for all of Georgia’s Legislative and Executive branches.
Our granddaughter Isabella held the Bible for my swearing in.
Governor Kemp, like any new governor, is still consolidating his team. His 2019 Budget recommendations reflected many of his campaign promises including salary increases for teachers, rural economic development, strong support for early intervention for school children., and continuation of judicial reform. Anti-immigrant, anti-gay, and gun rights promises are on the back burner so far.
The 14 brand new Representatives in the Democratic Caucus brought a high level of experience and determination swelling our ranks to 75 (out of 180) and bringing new ideas and energy. Most of the new Reps come from the Metro Atlanta area and they shifted control of Fulton, Gwinnett, and Cobb local delegations to a Democratic majority. Dekalb has no Republicans in its local delegation.
Focus on bringing rural Georgia into Georgia’s thriving economy produced two bills. If passed, these initiatives will allow Electrical Membership Corporations (EMCs) and telephone cooperatives to apply for federal grants and loans for broadband expansion through the USDA’s Rural eConnectivity Pilot Program passed Congress in 2018. Here are the current versions: http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20192020/179472.pdf
and http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20192020/179963.pdf. To read more on this issue please go to : https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_bpq6UdEJhSJW5Sp-O34_NJaGwt1OABSEumhDAOZ5tI/edit?usp=sharing
Here are my current leadership positions: City of Atlanta Delegation, Chair and House Democratic Caucus, Secretary
Committees and Caucus: Appropriations (Health Subcommittee), Transportation, Natural Resources and the Environment, Higher Education, Ethics, the Fulton County Delegation, and the Working Families Caucus.
Please contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative!