Warnock, Ossoff win: Ga. Democrats flip the U.S. Senate | Rome News-Tribune

Warnock, Ossoff win: Ga. Democrats flip the U.S. Senate | Rome News-Tribune

Warnock, Ossoff win: Ga. Democrats flip the U.S. Senate | Rome News-Tribune

ATLANTA — Democrats have captured both of Georgia’s seats in the U.S. Senate for the first time in nearly 20 years, a momentous feat that gives the party control of Congress and the White House.

Beyond the cash and cameos, Democratic operatives in Georgia also managed to “absolutely perfect get-out-the-vote” with wide canvassing efforts and “a more hopeful, optimistic message” than the fearful tone set by the senators’ campaigns, said Buzz Brockway, a former Republican state lawmaker and former Gwinnett County GOP chairman.

“Fear only goes so far,” Brockway said. “Obviously, there are people who think the world ended last night, but there are a lot who don’t.”

Warnock, Ossoff win: Ga. Democrats flip the U.S. Senate | Rome News-Tribune

Criminal records expungement expansion in Georgia takes effect Jan. 1 | The Moultrie Observer

Criminal records expungement expansion in Georgia takes effect Jan. 1 | The Moultrie Observer

Millions of Georgians will start the new year with a second chance.

A new law that increases the number of criminal records that can be sealed takes effect Friday. The law, the result of Senate Bill 288, allows certain misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies to qualify for expungement.

“It is vital that we continue to reform Georgia’s criminal justice system so that reformation and reintegration is the goal, and not just punishment,” said Corey Burres, GCO’s vice president of communications. “With SB 288, we are making real efforts to help past offenders access opportunities that may not be available to them due to their criminal record.”

“We are encouraged that thousands will no longer be held back by their criminal record and will be able to find the dignity of work,” Burres said. “We must continue down this path and remove the barriers that oftentimes drive returning citizens to a place of hopelessness and lead to re-offending.”

 

Read the full article here

 

Warnock, Ossoff win: Ga. Democrats flip the U.S. Senate | Rome News-Tribune

Criminal records expungement expansion in Georgia takes effect Jan. 1 | The Center Square

Criminal records expungement expansion in Georgia takes effect Jan. 1 | The Center Square

Millions of Georgians will start the new year with a second chance. 

A new law that increases the number of criminal records that can be sealed takes effect Friday. The law, the result of Senate Bill 288, allows certain misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies to qualify for expungement.

“It is vital that we continue to reform Georgia’s criminal justice system so that reformation and reintegration is the goal, and not just punishment,” said Corey Burres, GCO’s vice president of communications. “With SB 288, we are making real efforts to help past offenders access opportunities that may not be available to them due to their criminal record.”

“We are encouraged that thousands will no longer be held back by their criminal record and will be able to find the dignity of work,” Burres said. “We must continue down this path and remove the barriers that oftentimes drive returning citizens to a place of hopelessness and lead to re-offending.”

 

Read the full article here

 

Warnock, Ossoff win: Ga. Democrats flip the U.S. Senate | Rome News-Tribune

Nonprofit organization offering free job training to Columbus residents | WTVM-9

Nonprofit organization offering free job training to Columbus residents | WTVM-9

COLUMBUS, Ga. (WTVM) – As many continue to deal with unemployment, a local nonprofit has created a program to help people wanting to get back to work.

 

Under the Hiring Well, Doing Good program, the Georgia Center for Opportunity is offering something free called ‘Marketing Yourself’ training. The training is offered virtually and in person.

 

The goal is to help people who may have trouble finding good employment. The training includes what employers care about, mastering interviews, showing your strengths, and dressing for success….

Full story and video available at WTVM-9

 

Warnock, Ossoff win: Ga. Democrats flip the U.S. Senate | Rome News-Tribune

Op-Ed: We don’t need to rely on elections to do good in our communities

Op-Ed: We don’t need to rely on elections to do good in our communities

This election season has been the most rancorous of our lifetimes. Is anyone surprised? We’ve come to expect the unexpected in 2020, a year that has seen searing social strife, suffering and pain through the COVID-19 pandemic. Our political and social fabric is badly damaged.

But in the midst of a chaotic political season and the suffering of so many, I’m reminded of this simple truth: the most impactful changes occur in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities. It is a model we live our lives by each and every day at my organization, the Georgia Center for Opportunity. We know the role of government is important, but it is in our communities where lives are formed and, when things go badly, where lives are transformed. And it’s there that neighbors, businesses, communities of faith, schools and nonprofits can come together in local unified action.

Politics and policy do matter, but ultimately they are not the main driving force that moves the needle when it comes to people’s lives. That must come from you and me, rolling up sleeves and working alongside others who may or may not have voted like we did, but who share a belief that everyone deserves the opportunity to achieve a better life, regardless of their race, the circumstances of birth, or past mistakes.

I’m thinking of women like Latesha Jackson, a Columbus native and single mother of four. She struggled for years in poverty, cycling between periods of unemployment and low-paying jobs in the service sector before a local cooperative of nonprofits, businesses, and schools known as Hiring Well, Doing Good helped put her on the path to a four-year degree.

My mind also goes to men like Kevin Johnson, a convicted felon who was looking for a second chance after paying his debt to society and spending years behind bars. He found it with Columbus Water Works, a company that has as a core value the need to give second chances. Kevin is now employed there and has hope for a better future.

My challenge to my fellow Georgians is this: what steps can we take today to begin impacting our neighbors for good and healing our national wounds? Don’t think about what government should or shouldn’t do. Think about what you can do. Because in the end, no one needs to wait for election results or government action in order to serve their communities. And no one needs to let election results keep them from doing good on behalf of others.

The road won’t be easy. It will take hard work. It’s far easier to stay in our silos and echo chambers, harshly judging our political enemies. But the far better path is one of service, care and compassion that restores human dignity and empowers everyone to live up to their potential.

As we live through the coming days, weeks, and months, let’s let our lives match the high standard set by Georgia’s earliest founders, who took on these timeless words as their motto: not for self, but for others.

Full Article First Appeared in The Center Square

Health Care Waiver Approvals Are Good News

Health Care Waiver Approvals Are Good News

Health Care Waiver Approvals Are Good News

By Erik Randolph

Amidst the noise of the presidential election, the mainstream news media missed a major announcement the prior Sunday that promises to positively impact the lives of many Georgians.

 

The announcement could signal a turning point in the near future, giving hope to many Georgians suffering from the unintended consequences of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) since its implementation seven years ago.

 

Georgia has taken advantage of Section 1332, which is possibly the best provision in the ACA. It allows states to better design a system of providing health insurance coverage by applying to the federal government to waive burdensome requirements of the law itself and some other federal regulations.

 

Last year, the state legislature gave Governor Brian Kemp the authority to seek waivers from the federal government, and the governor has done just that. Without much fanfare, Georgia’s Section 1332 waiver request, as amended, was finally approved on Sunday. This approval complements Georgia’s other approved waiver request on Medicaid that received widespread press coverage and was announced during a joint press conference on October 15th with the governor and Seema Verma, administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

 

First, let’s review just some of the mess the federal law created.

 

The Price Sticker Shockwave

 

The Affordable Care Act has not lived up to its name, as demonstrated by spiking health insurance costs, especially in the individual markets.

 

Once the law went into effect and the new premiums took hold in the individual markets, there was a price sticker shockwave that rolled across the country. The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research calculated price increases varying from 64.5% for a 40-year-old female to a 178.8% increase for a 27-year-old male. 

 

Our own analysis estimated premiums increased 17 times faster than the general inflation rate from 2014 to 2019. On average, Georgians suffered average price increases of 70.7% for Bronze plans, 77.3% for Silver plans, and 70.4% for Gold plans.

 

The chart below shows one result of our research. We estimated that the median annual price for a pre-ACA insurance plan for a family of four in Georgia was $5,386 in January 2013. For 2019, the median prices for a family of four rose to $17,550 for a bronze plan, $18,644 for a silver plan, $23,065 for a gold plan, and $26,081 for a platinum plan.

 

 

 

ACAHIX

Moreover, because of the unaffordability of the premiums, many who had insurance coverage prior to the ACA found themselves uninsured. As pointed out in the governor’s Section 1332 waiver application, 129,000 Georgians dropped out of the marketplace from 2016 to 2019, a staggering decline of 22%.

A major culprit for the price spikes and loss of coverage is the ACA itself. Many insurance policies in effect prior to the law became immediately ACA noncompliant because the law redefined what constituted a policy and mandated changes to how insurers calculate premiums. This was exacerbated by how the federal bureaucracy initially implemented the law. The political promise of “if you like your plan, you can keep your plan” turned out to be untrue. 

The impact was not just on the individual markets. Employer-based plans also experienced major price increases, but this and other unintended consequences are a topic for another day.

Hope with Reinsurance and Better Access

The first part of the approved Georgia plan will begin in 2022, which naturally brings up the question: why must we wait so long? The short answer is because we’re dealing with government bureaucracies.

Despite the slowness, the Reinsurance Program will pass through federal funding from anticipated savings from the Premium Tax Credit, expected to be $285 million in Plan Year 2022, matched with state funds from either general revenue or a state user fee to reinsure insurers to bring down the cost of premiums. The reinsurance kicks in only for insurance claims above preset thresholds up to predetermined caps. It also varies based on three regions in the state intended to bring down more quickly the cost of premiums in those regions hurt worse from the premium increases since implementation of the ACA. The reinsurance only pays for a portion of the cost above those thresholds, up to the caps, to make sure insurers have a stake in the game to keep costs down.

Governor Kemp’s approved application estimates the Reinsurance Program will, on average, increase individual market enrollment by 0.4% and lower premiums by 10.2% in the first year, which are hopefully just conservative estimates considering the damage done to the market by the ACA. The Reinsurance Program targets individuals and families between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty level (FPL), who account for 57% of Georgia’s uninsured population.

 

pie chart GA's uninsured

The second part of the plan—that will begin with a delayed implementation in 2023 over concerns of the impact of COVID-19 and to ensure a smooth transition—is the Georgia Access Model addressing a major complaint about the ACA. The law makes Georgians go through the Federal Facilitated Exchange (FFE) to buy insurance on the individual markets. Government’s overreach includes requiring individuals to prove to bureaucrats that they endured a qualifying life event before they are allowed to buy health insurance during any time outside the government’s mandated enrollment period. 

To be run by the state instead of the federal government, the Georgia Access Model will still allow an online exchange as before, but, importantly, it frees individuals from the mandate of going through the exchange, allowing them to shop through multiple channels, including private distribution channels, brokers, and agents. It promises to return health insurance shopping to the way functioning markets work. 

Georgia is expected to run the new exchange more efficiently. Today, FFE is separate from the Georgia Gateway that handles Medicaid. Georgia will link the two together, which brings up the approved Medicaid waiver.

Helping the Poor with Pathways to Coverage

In addition to the Section 1332 waiver, the federal government also approved a Section 1115 waiver, allowing modifications to the Medicaid program. This waiver addresses adults under 100% FPL, which is 28% of the uninsured. The remaining uninsured are children under 100% FPL who already qualify for Medicaid, and families over 400% who will benefit from the lower premiums. 

Here the Georgia state legislature and Governor Kemp need to be commended for not falling into the Medicaid expansion trap. What they succeeded in doing is getting the federal government to allow Georgia to transform the program into one that makes more sense.

One big problem with Medicaid is that it traps people in poverty. There are welfare cliffs and marriage penalties associated with it. Another big problem is that the health outcomes are among the worst of any health care system in the nation. The states that expanded Medicaid have subjugated more individuals to these negatives.

Instead, Pathways to Coverage establishes a demonstration project to help adults up to 100% of the federal poverty level. Private market practices will be introduced, including incentivizing healthy behavior and creating member reward accounts. The goal is to create a pathway to help persons transition to higher quality private coverage, consistent with other welfare policy goals of not having adults languish below the poverty line by helping them move out of poverty.

The Long Run

Ultimately, implementation of these approved plans will determine their success. Therefore, the state administration needs to be vigilant and continue working on improving.

Considering constraints placed on the states by the federal government, it is probably the best deal Georgia could have received. But, as officials in the Kemp administration recognize, these waivers are not the complete solution. More needs to be done.

What we would like to see is a more aggressive agenda to adopt our vision of establishing a true risk equalization system that can deliver universal coverage with the highest quality of care only possible through leveraging the free-enterprise system. Switzerland has already shown the way, and you can read more about our vision and the Swiss system here.

If you had personal experience with the FFE, escalating health insurance costs, lost your coverage, or other thoughts on the best solutions, we are interested in your story and thoughts. Be sure to post your experience in the comments below.

*Erik Randolph is Director of Research at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. This blog reflects his opinion and not necessarily that of the Georgia Center for Opportunity.