Southern Health Perspectives: August 5 Edition

Southern Health Perspectives is the newsletter of Community Catalyst’s Southern Health Partners network. Southern Health Partners (SHP) comprise a large and growing network of organizations in 12 Southern states working to advance health justice in the region and proactive state, regional, and national health care reforms.

Southern Health Perspectives highlights health care-related issues and trends in the South, provides updated information for health advocacy efforts in the region, and shares resources from Southern Health Partners and Community Catalyst.

In This Issue:

Collective Brainpower, Collective Impact

By Amanda Ptashkin

This June, Community Catalyst hosted two convenings in Atlanta, Georgia exemplifying the idea that through collective brainpower and collective action, we can make substantial impacts. The first convening, Transformative Approaches to Substance Use Disorders, focused on supporting policies for prevention, treatment and recovery. Over three days in early June, advocates from around the country came together to discuss ways of ensuring that people have access to the recovery services they need. Workshops covered topics such as: working with private insurers to protect people with substance use disorders; building partnerships by finding common ground; growing work around youth SBIRT (screening, brief intervention, referral to treatment); and expanding services instead of jails – criminal justice advocacy. The mix of attendees in the room—some substance use treatment providers, some working in criminal justice, others working in areas that intersect with this community—brought unique ideas about collaboration and partnering with unlikely allies and cross-sectors, truly embracing the idea of collective action. The participants’ level of engagement and excitement was palpable and we look forward to seeing this work develop. To learn more about the Substance Use Disorder work at Community Catalyst, please contact Project Director, Alice Dembner

The second convening in Atlanta was the 8th annual Southern Health Partners gathering. We welcomed almost 100 advocates and policy experts from 12 Southern states to join in strategic discussions about ensuring access to quality, affordable health care here in the South.

There is no other event focused on sharing best practices and strategies among Southern health advocates in a way that specifically focuses on the unique needs, opportunities and challenges within the region. The convening brought together Southern consumer health advocacy organizations, justice centers, fiscal analysis organizations, national organizations and funders to strategize and think together about the needs of the region. Each year the convening is designed to help build attendees’ advocacy capacity in alignment with Community Catalyst’s system of advocacy.

For several years now, Southern states have been focused on closing the coverage gap. In every SHP state except Arkansas and Kentucky, citizens who make too much for Medicaid but too little to get financial help through the marketplace have no options for affordable insurance. At the convening we were excited to hear from Sarah Howell, executive director of Montana Women Vote, about strategies that advocates in Montana used to close the coverage gap this past legislative session. We also heard from a state legislator and leader on this issue, Senator Chuck Hufstetler (R-52) of Rome, Georgia, on why he believes closing the gap is the right choice for Georgia and his constituents. This year we also were able to include new partners who are working on this issue such as the League of Women Voters, state primary care associations and the National Council of La Raza, to name a few. One thing is clear: this issue is far from resolved and advocates and partners throughout the South need to continue the drumbeat for coverage for the millions left in the gap. 

Another hot topic at this year’s convening focused on ensuring our health care system works for consumers. Workshops touched on topics like network adequacy and tracking and addressing consumer complaints. Advocates from Texas shared their work around surprise medical billing and balance billing, and our Georgia partners spoke about network adequacy and new legislation in the state. Advocates from all of the SHP states recognize a need to ensure the consumer voice is heard and that consumers have a place at the table in any decisions that affect their health care. It is encouraging to see that even in tough political environments, advocates are still making progress. The lessons shared at the convening will help advance our work in the year to come. 

The two June convenings in Atlanta highlighted the power and potential of collective action and Community Catalyst is proud to help that in those efforts.   

Resources and Tools

New resources and tools from Community Catalyst and the Southern Health Partners compiled from various sources. If you have a resource you would like to share in a future edition of Southern Health Perspectives, please email Amanda Ptashkin


  • Health Care Provider Assessments: This policy brief walks through the rules governing the use of provider assessments to fund Medicaid, and gives some examples of states that have used provider assessment proposals to help fund closing the coverage gap. 
  • Enhanced Federal CHIP Funding: These talking points discuss the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) scheduled 23 percentage-point bump to CHIP federal matching funds for states – potentially freeing up state dollars for Medicaid. 
  • Last week marked the 50th Anniversary of Medicaid and Medicare and to celebrate, Community Catalyst ran a blog series featuring entries from state partners on how the Medicaid program has helped cover uninsured populations, boosted state budgets, and the importance of closing the coverage gap. Two blogs highlighted the impact of those programs in South. Here is the guest post from Margaret Nimmo Crowe from Voices for Virginia’s Children, Medicaid: A Win for Families and our Future. Here is the guest post from Jodi M. Sturgeon from PHI and Thomas R. Conrad, North Carolina’s Direct Care Workers in the Coverage Gap.


  • Hospital Financial Assistance Policies: This checklist helps you assess the development and implementation of your local hospital's policies around financial assistance and can help you engage hospitals to ensure these policies meet your community's needs.


  • Arkansas Advocates for Families and Children created their top ten health reform principles to inform discussions in the 2015 Health Care Reform Legislative Task Force.
  • Tennessee Justice Center just released a new two minute video explaining the coverage gap and how Insure Tennessee would work to close that gap.  

State Updates: King v. Burwell, The South Reacts

On June 25, 2015, with a 6-3 decision delivered by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, once again. This decisive victory ensures that consumers can access the financial assistance that helps make insurance affordable, regardless of the Marketplace they use. With this challenge put to rest, our Southern Health Partners were eager to speak out about the decision and move the conversation to the work that remains. Below is compilation of statements from Community Catalyst staff and health care leaders in our Southern Health Partner states:

  • Community Catalyst’s statement: Today’s Supreme Court decision on King v. Burwell upholding the tax credits in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is a monumental victory for consumers and a strong endorsement of the law. It means that more than eight million people will not lose their health insurance.
  • BBC World Service: Newshour (story begins at 30 minute mark) “I think everyone is just really excited to be able to take this victory and really figure out what it means for consumers ─ how we keep them engaged, help them get the subsidies they need to make insurance affordable and continue to raise the issue of the millions of people who are left in the coverage gap that don’t have access to insurance.” Amanda Ptashkin, Project Manager, Southern Health Partners, Community Catalyst
  • "It's a great day for healthcare in Alabama," said Jim Carnes, policy director of Arise Citizens' Policy Project. 
  • Arkansas News: “The Supreme Court found what most experts believed from the beginning: the ACA is clear that credits are available in both federal and state exchanges. This is good news for Arkansas families who need that financial help to afford coverage,” said Rich Huddleston, executive director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. 
  • Health News Florida: “The Affordable Care Act is working as intended, and today’s decision should finally put an end to efforts to hijack or derail this historic and law that is saving lives,” said Leah Barber-Heinz, CEO of Florida CHAIN, a statewide advocacy group for the uninsured and underinsured.
  • The Atlanta Journal Constitution (Georgia): “Today’s ruling is a big win and a big relief for health care consumers in Georgia. There is still work to do, however, to ensure that all Georgians have a pathway to coverage.” Cindy Zeldin, executive director of Georgians for a Healthy Future
  • The Times Picayune (Louisiana): "I think it's very, very, very good news in general, and it's especially good news for people in Louisiana," said Moriba Karamoko, director of the Louisiana Consumer Healthcare Coalition. “These individuals no longer have to live with the insecurity that the steps they took to safeguard their health will unravel."
  • Mississippi Health Advocacy Program’s statement: “Our State policy makers should recognize that health reform is working, abandon efforts to undermine it, and instead take advantage of the opportunities that health reform offers to improve lives. The next step should be the expansion of Medicaid.” Mississippi Health Advocacy Program
  • North Carolina Justice Center’s statement: “State leaders should now present a plan to extend the benefit of affordable health insurance to the 500,000 individuals and families left in the Medicaid gap.” Adam Linker, Co-Director, Health Access Coalition
  • WLTX 19 (South Carolina CBS affiliate): "If this case had been decided the other way, all of those people would not have been able to keep their insurance," says Berkowitz. "Now all of those people can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they will have health care tomorrow morning." Sue Berkowitz, Director, S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center
  • The Tennessean (Tennessee): "Today's ruling is good news for millions of ordinary Tennesseans. It reaffirms the reality that the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, and it clears the way for our legislative leaders to approve Governor Bill Haslam's Insure Tennessee proposal. They now have the decision, and it is a clear and urgent signal to approve the governor's plan." Michele Johnson, Executive Director, Tennessee Justice Center
  • The Statesman (Texas):  “This ruling means that the 832,000 Texans whose subsidies pay 75 percent of the cost of their premiums on average will continue to have access to affordable health insurance.” Stacey Pogue, Senior Policy Analyst, Center for Public Policy Priorities 
  • Virginia Consumer Voices for Health Care’s statement: “The Court affirmed 6-3 that these subsidies are lawful. Because Virginia participates in the federal marketplace, 286,000 Virginians who depend on those subsidies in order to pay their premiums every month can continue to receive the care that they need to stay healthy.” Virginia Consumer Voices for Healthcare

About Southern Health Partners

Community Catalyst supports Southern advocates’ use of a regional framework to improve health care access, affordability and quality, expand access to Medicaid, strengthen charity care and community benefit, and address substance use disorders and other local and state health policy issues. Partner states include: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

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