2016 Legislative Agenda
The Georgia Rural Health Association (GRHA) advocates for the preservation and enhancement of efforts to improve health and health care delivery in rural Georgia. GRHA is the oldest state rural health association in the country. Founded in 1981, Georgia led the nation in the development of a rural advocacy network representative of the entire continuum of care. GRHA is a nonprofit network of healthcare providers, educators, and individuals united in its commitment to improve health and healthcare services for 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 2016 GRHA Legislative Agenda is as follows:
Raise Medicaid Reimbursement Rate to adequately fund the state portion of Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids budgets for providers. 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, however as a result of low reimbursement rates, providers find it increasingly difficult to participate due to the financial impact on their practices. 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.
Adequately funding 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 support 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 continued creation of new GME slots in Georgia as well as providing funding to sustain these slots after creation; Create tax credits for community based physicians, APRNs, and PAs who provide necessary community based clinical training for Georgia medical, osteopathic, APRN, and physician assistant students;
Support initiatives to retain GME graduates within the state upon completion of training; and Support incentives to Georgia medical or osteopathic school graduates who select Georgia Family Medicine or General Internal Residency Programs.
Support continuation and expansion of Governor Deal’s Rural Hospital Stabilization Pilot Program – The Rural Hospital Stabilization is the sole effort focused on stabilizing the rural health care delivery system. The Pilots serve as incubators for efforts to strengthen rural health care delivery to insure that rural Georgians receive the “Right Care, at the Right Time and in the Right Setting” across the health care continuum. The Pilot effort supports the “Hub & Spoke” model where the patient migrates from the Hub to various Spokes for health care. Supporting this model strengthens rural hospitals, Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics, private providers, public health, nursing homes and others serving this highly vulnerable population.
Expand access to oral health care through Dental Hygienists – Encourage the ability for Dental Hygienists to work without direct supervision of a Dentist when performing dental hygienist duties within their scope of practice in public health, Federally Qualified Health Care Centers (FQHCs) and other safety net settings. There is a staggering shortage of dentists in rural and smaller communities, where dental practices are often unsustainable, this creates a massive void of dental services across Georgia. Vulnerable rural Georgians would be well served by allowing Dental Hygienists to fill this huge gap in our health care system.