Georgia Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens will host a Catastrophe Claims Village in Albany, on Tuesday, Jan. 31, and Wednesday, Feb. 1, according to a statement from the Georgia Department of Insurance. The purpose of the event will be to assist area residents with their insurance questions and claims resulting from severe weather and tornadoes.
“Thousands of South Georgia residents have suffered tremendous losses from the violent weather this month, and my office is here to help them on the road to recovery,” Hudgens said. “I encourage all residents who have insurance questions or need help filing a claim to visit our Claims Village.”
The Catastrophe Claims Village will operate in the parking lot of the Albany Civic Center, located at 100 W. Oglethorpe Blvd. Hudgens’ Consumer Services staff along with representatives from many of the major insurance companies are scheduled to be in attendance. Insurers interested in participating can contact Glenn Allen at [email protected]
Residents who cannot attend the Catastrophe Claims Village can call the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Hotline at 1-800-656-2298.
Today’s historical moments below combine to show some of the major influences on Georgia politics and governance since her founding, and how the same conflicts have played out across the world, from Northern Ireland to India, to stages of rock and roll shows.
“Georgia’s resident licenses are some of the cheapest in the nation, and certainly in the Southeast, and we have not increased those in 24 years,” said Wes Robinson, director of public and government affairs for the Department of Natural Resources, at a budget hearing earlier this month.
He did not give details about where the department wants to see prices set, but he said the they will propose bringing licenses “in line” with the regional average.
Raising more state money in license fees would draw more federal matching dollars. With the money, Robinson said the department would like to increase the number of game wardens, among other things.
A surprise bill can be the result of “balance billing.” This occurs when the patient is pursued for the balance after his or her health insurer pays its share to the medical provider. The problem is that the balance often turns out to be much more than the patient anticipated.
Two state lawmakers have introduced separate bills in the General Assembly to prevent these surprise bills. Other states, including Florida, recently have passed legislation to address the problem.
Physician groups, insurers and consumer advocates in Georgia all say they want to solve the problem – taking the patient out of the middle of the current tug-of-war. These situations currently confound and upset many consumers receiving medical care, leading to unpaid bills and harsh collection practices.
Physician groups and insurance groups are at the opposite ends of the billing equation, says state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who introduced legislation on surprise billing last year and is updating it this year. “It’s a very, very complicated issue.”
“The main goal is to take the patient out of the conflict between providers and insurance companies,” says Unterman, who chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.
Both her proposal and a House bill on the issue call for greater transparency about which doctors are in an insurer’s network, and an estimated cost of the procedure.
Democratic State Sen. Vincent Fort introduced a bill to allow voters to both register and cast a ballot on Election Day. Last year, the deadline to register to vote was more than a month before the presidential election. The bill would increase voter turnout and widen democracy, Fort said.
Fort also introduced legislation essentially repealing the requirement for voters to show photo ID at a polling place. Georgia was one of the first states to implement a voter ID law in 2008. Proponents of the law say it helps to eliminate widespread fraud, but multiple studies have shown that there is no evidence of such fraud in the U.S. Those groups also contend that the ID requirement disproportionately targets people of color and the elderly.
A proposal from Rep. Roger Bruce would allow voters to cast a ballot at any precinct in their home county. Additionally, a bill sponsored by Rep. David Dreyer would require polling places to be located within 25 miles of every voter in a county.
Sen. Lester Jackson introduced a bill to expand the window for early voting. The bill adds an additional Saturday to the current schedule, which Democrats say would make it easier to vote for people who work or can’t otherwise get to a polling place during weekdays.
DeKalb County is putting $180 million into public infrastructure at the old General Motors plant site in Doraville.
The county’s seven commissioners unanimously approved the investment and created a Tax Allocation District (TAD) that will freeze taxes on the project for 30 years.
The BOC vote means that the $60 million mixed-use development proposed that had been stalled can finally proceed. The project near Spaghetti Junction at the intersection of I-285 and I-85 in Doraville, now called Assembly, is expected to generate 500 jobs in the near future, and possibly 8,000 eventually.
It is also expected to attract $1.5 billion in private investment and increase daily MARTA ridership by 30,000.
Lawmakers are talking about the problems that plague some of Georgia’s smaller communities. Main Street businesses that have closed. Financially struggling hospitals. Poor internet connections. Schools that don’t offer all the classes that will help students get into the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech. Young people moving to cities and never coming back.
Now there’s a move afoot in the state House to try and look at all these things comprehensively.
So far it doesn’t have a formal name, but House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, is calling it the rural development initiative. He mentioned it in a speech in front of Georgia mayors on Monday.
The needs of rural Georgia are starting to get more attention. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce recently announced its own rural development plans and said it would open an office in Tifton.
Powell foresees the need for some kind of investment to jump-start a turnaround in rural Georgia. But he does not want a scattershot approach that just works on one problem.
“That’s why it has to be a coordinated plan, because if all you do is attract doctors, then you are going to have to subsidize them from now until kingdom come,” [State Rep. Jay] Powell said. “But if you’re doing jobs and doctors and education and transportation, then at some point in time you develop a self-sustaining community.”
Compare all 56 counties of interior South Georgia to Gwinnett County alone.
Gwinnett County’s 2013 population was estimated at 859,304 – just under three-fourths of the 1.16 million people living in our 56-county South Georgia region.
But despite that population disadvantage, Gwinnett County:
Generates more income and contributes more in taxes than all 56 counties of South Georgia combined. According to IRS data, Gwinnett County’s total income for 2013 was $21.2 billion versus $17.4 billion for South Georgia. Similarly, Gwinnett County taxpayers paid $2.5 billion in federal taxes while South Georgia taxpayers contributed $1.7 billion.
Is substantially healthier than South Georgia. Using premature death rates as a proxy for health status, Gwinnett County is about twice as healthy as South Georgia. The 2015 YPLL 75 rate for the 56-county South Georgia region was 9,823.3; for Gwinnett County, it was 5,163.2 (with YPLL 75 rates, the lower the number, the better). In this category, South Georgia has actually gained a little ground over the past 20 years. It’s improved about 5.4 percent over that period while Gwinnett County has been essentially flat. But South Georgia’s numbers in this category are abysmal while Gwinnett County’s are pretty close to optimal, especially for a county as large and diverse as it is. For 2015, Gwinnett County’s YPLL 75 rate was the fifth best in the state, and it has consistently been in the top tier of counties in this category.
The first part of Duncan’s plan would move Georgia’s State Health Benefit Plan, which manages about $8 billion in state insurance policies, from the Department of Community Health the the Department of Administrative Services – and require the agency to hire a chief data officer skilled in predictive modeling and other tools of the trade to run the program.
The second part seems likely to grab more attention. That department would be authorized to create as many as 100 federally qualified health centers – nonprofit centers that provide healthcare to low-income patients regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay – and then give families covered by the state health insurance plan incentives to use the centers.
Each new center – there are already about 200 in Georgia – would be required to handle mental illnesses and opioid addictions, and the department would be encouraged to create a co-op for all the centers to buy their medical equipment and other supplies in bulk.
Duncan doesn’t have the backing of the governor or other top GOP leaders yet, nor does he have a fiscal note. But he estimates the measure could cost as much as $25 million if all 100 centers are opened. He said cost-savings in the long run from consolidating expenses, cheaper pharmaceutical costs and leveraging federal aid would be worth the short-term funding.
“When it comes to the state of Georgia, there are two states, the urban part of the state and the rural part of the state,” said Charles Ruis, health director in the Southwest Health District. “What we want to do is have equity. To have the kind of healthcare that we all need and all desire. We live differently currently in the rural part of the state than the folks in the urban part of the state. Life is different.”
Ruis displayed a map that illustrated the poverty rate in Georgia, with an almost clear line being drawn from Columbus to Augusta. Almost every county below that line, with the exception of coastal counties, were considered in poverty. Counties around Atlanta had very little poverty.
The causes of death between Decatur County residents and Georgia residents at large are fairly similar. Both have their leading cause of death listed as heart disease and cancer, which are also the second (and third) biggest cause of death in the U.S. Ruis, however, said that doesn’t reveal the whole picture.
The death rate from behavioral health and other mental health problems in Decatur County is almost twice the rate in the state of Georgia. The death rate of diabetes in Decatur County is also twice the rate as that in Georgia.
Sen. Dean Burke, Chief of Staff at Memorial Hospital, argued that the community would need to work together to improve healthcare in the Decatur County.
“Our community needs the hospital. Our region needs our hospital,” Burke said. “We don’t communicate, and certainly not well. For us to improve the healthcare outcomes of our individual citizens, we are going to have to work together. Quit having duplication of services, missing services and gaps because somebody thought somebody else was doing it. This to me is the kickoff of the ability for our county and city to take responsibility.”
Georgia has been at the shelter the longest. She was once on the euthanasia list, but a kind person came to her rescue and offered to pay for her heartworm treatment. She feels like a new girl now! She is almost done with her treatment and so ready to find a forever home. She is currently in a foster home and doing great. She is a very sweet girl.
In 1940, the city of Atlanta and Delta had signed an agreement whereby the city agreed to contribute $50,000 for construction of a new hanger and office building for Delta if it would move its headquarters to Atlanta. In turn, Delta agreed to pay the remaining construction costs and then assume a 20-year lease for the new facilities. On Jan. 16, 1941, Delta had secured a $500,000 loan from Atlanta’s Trust Company of Georgia, thus allowing it to make a public announcement of the move.
The movement to a constitutional board came after the loss of accreditation of all Georgia state higher education institutions for white people. The previous Governor, Eugene Talmadge, had engineered the firing of UGA’s Dean of the College of Education; after the Board of Regents initially refused to fire the Dean, Talmadge dismissed three members, and replaced them with new appointees who voted for the firing. Talmadge lost the 1942 election to Arnall.
On January 28, 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after liftoff as many Americans watched on live television. President Ronald Reagan addressed the loss of seven astronauts.
Reagan had originally been scheduled to give his State of the Union that evening, but cancelled the speech. His address on the Challenger disaster was written by Peggy Noonan. The speech written by Noonan and delivered by Reagan is ranked as one of the top ten political speeches of the 20th Century.
On January 29, 1998, a bomb exploded in a Birmingham, Alabama abortion clinic, killing a police officer. Eric Rudolph would later admit to setting that bomb, along with the Centennial Park bombing in 1996, and the bombing of a Sandy Springs abortion clinic and an Atlanta bar in 1997.
Gov. Deal Nathan Deal today received notice from the White House and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that six counties impacted by the severe weather on January 21 and 22 have been approved for individual assistance. Deal has also requested individual assistance for the remaining 10 counties under the state of emergency.
The six counties include:
“I’m tremendously grateful for the immediate assistance and attention President Trump has given Georgia’s requests for federal aid, as well as his concern for our citizens,” said Deal.
“I’d also like to thank President Trump for sending the acting director of FEMA to view firsthand the horrific effects of this natural disaster. FEMA, along with the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency, is working to expedite financial assessments in the remaining counties impacted by the storms.”
“Following my conversations with President Trump and FEMA, I’m confident that public assistance for all 16 counties will be approved expeditiously. This approval is critical to the state as well as local communities.”
For more information on damage assessments, contact Catherine Howden at [email protected].
John Sammons Bell was born on January 26, 1914 in Macon, Georgia. He would go on to serve as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, as a Judge on the Georgia Court of Appeals, and as chief judge of the appellate court. He is today best known as the designer of the state flag featuring the Confederate battle flag, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1956.
Governor Nathan Deal will visit parts of South Georgia that were recently hit by tornados. Joining him will be local legislators and state emergency response leaders. The trip will include an aerial tour of Albany and driving tour of Cook County.