2014 Legislative Agenda
The Georgia Rural Health Association (GRHA) is the oldest state rural health association in the country. Founded in 1981, this nonprofit network of healthcare providers, educators, and individuals is united in its commitment to improve the health and healthcare services of rural Georgians. Of Georgia’s 159 counties, 109 are considered rural, and with a population of 1.7 million they differ greatly from the urban areas of the state. To help meet their unique healthcare needs, our R.A.I.S.E. 2014 GRHA Legislative Agenda is as follows:
Raise Medicaid Reimbursement Rate – Support adequate funding for the state portion of Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids budgets for physicians and hospitals. The State of Georgia has not increased the Medicaid reimbursement rate to providers in 10 years, and in 2011 the rate was cut by a 1/2 percent. Rural providers treat a large portion of Medicaid patients, but because of low reimbursement it is becoming less financially viable to participate in the program. The state of Georgia already has a Primary Care shortage and cutting the Medicaid reimbursement rate will only exacerbate the provider supply problem and further stifle access to care for Medicaid patients.
Advocate for Rural Health Safety Net Programs -Adequately fund the Georgia Rural Health Safety Net Programs through the Department of Community Health’s State Office of Rural Health, the Department of Public Health, and Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities Services such that those services are sufficiently available to rural Georgians. These programs target Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), rural and Critical Access Hospitals (CAH), rural health networks and other essential components of the health care safety net.
Invest in Primary Care – Support the development of primary care residency positions; creating a sustainable and integrated data collection system for health care providers; developing a tax credit for primary care physicians who serve as community based faculty for Georgia medical student rotations; and funding an incentive program to develop primary care/rural training tracks in Georgia medical schools. Rural Georgia has a shortage of primary care doctors and in the next 10 years 1/3 are expected to retire, which will affect the quality of care in Georgia.
Support an increase of $1.00/pack tax on cigarettes – Estimates show that raising the sales tax on cigarettes to $1.00 per pack would decrease teen smoking rates by 16 percent and increase state revenue by $350 million. The state could allocate the additional funds for upgrading Georgia’s trauma care network or increasing the Medicaid reimbursement rate. Georgia’s current tax is the second lowest in the nation at .37 cents per pack.
Expand Georgia’s Trauma Care Network –Georgia needs a dedicated funding stream for trauma care. Our state faces a crisis in providing trauma care to its citizens, particularly rural Georgians where millions are at least 2 hours away from receiving emergency care. Completely funding an enhanced trauma care network with a stable revenue source would lead to not only improved healthcare, but economic development and jobs, for rural Georgia. Having a dedicated funding source to upgrade and expand Georgia’s Trauma Care Network is a top priority for the Georgia Rural Health Association.