We learned about key legislative issues facing our state this year. Each group presented its list of priorities. Unfortunately, as with the nation, Georgia is facing significant fiscal challenges. We heard from Alan Essig, Executive Director of the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute. Georgia’s current unemployment rate is 10.2% and the general funds budget is down 14.6 % compared to the pre-recession FY 2009 budget. Healthcare comprises 20% of the general funds budget. Education, the largest sector, comprises 53% of Georgia’s budget. Consequently, we are facing cuts to Community Health (3.8% in 2012) and the State’s Medicaid program (1% in 2011).
The legislative priorities identified by the physician coalition include:
- Protect the Medicaid budget from physician cuts
- Support state funding for Patient Centered Medical Home pilot programs (within Medicaid and/or the State Health Benefit program)
- Support the Prescription Drug Monitoring Act
- Scope of Practice
- Support the Prompt Pay Act
- Support Comprehensive Tort Reform
- Prepare for the Accountable Care Act
At “Day at the Capitol” I sat with another internist, two pediatricians and one family practioner—from Albany, Statesboro, Brunswick and Decatur. The topic of conversation at our table was primarily a sharing of stories related to the adoption of electronic health records and the how to meet requirements for “Meaningful Use” payout. In addition, we spoke of the threat of additional cuts to Georgia Medicaid, particularly in light of the ACA expansion of 2014. This certainly remains at the forefront of concern amongst primary care physicians in our state, who are both concerned about access for their patients, but also concerned about their practices’ ability to thrive if faced with further cuts. As is pointed out in a recent New England Journal of Medicine Perspective piece, Georgia is one of eight states projected to face the biggest challenge with the ACA expansion. As noted, in these states “demand for care by newly insured patients could outstrip the supply of primary care providers.” Overall the day was very well organized. We had a great turnout and I was happy to see my fellow physicians moving beyond partisan politics to advocate for health in Georgia at a grassroots level.