The University of Georgia will host a symposium on Oct. 20 that will bring more than 200 researchers and policymakers together to seek solutions to the nation’s opioid epidemic. The symposium will kick off at 9 a.m. in Room 101 of the Miller Learning Center with a lecture by journalist Beth Macy, author of “Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America,” a New York Times bestseller that the newspaper described as “a harrowing, deeply compassionate dispatch from the heart of a national emergency.” Dr. Rita Noonan, who oversees the majority of opioid addiction prevention efforts that are funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will deliver the lunchtime keynote at 12:15 p.m. in Room 101 of the MLC. The symposium also includes panel discussions that will feature faculty members from the university’s College of Public Health, College of Pharmacy, College of Veterinary Medicine, School of Law, School of Social Work, School of Public and International Affairs and Terry College of Business. Additional panelists include representatives from the CDC, Georgia Department of Public Health and Northeast Georgia Health System. The symposium will conclude with poster presentations during which faculty members and students from UGA, Emory University, Augusta University and other organizations will highlight results of their research and discuss current projects. Fazal Khan, an associate professor in the School of Law who chaired the planning committee for the symposium, said the discussions at the symposium lay the foundation for policy briefs, white papers and scholarly articles that can inform policymakers, health care providers and other key stakeholders. “Last year nearly 50,000 people died from the opioid epidemic in America,” Khan noted. “As shocking and tragic as that figure is, it significantly understates the impact of this crisis. The tentacles of this epidemic affect our society in myriad ways—in our schools, hospitals, prisons, workplaces and our homes. Given the public mission of this university, we felt a civic imperative to convene this interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students who are conducting research on opioids. Our goals for the symposium are to disseminate important research, foster collaboration across disciplines and ultimately to make a real-world difference in addressing this national crisis.” The Interdisciplinary Opioid Epidemic Symposium is sponsored by the School of Law, School of Social Work, College of Public Health and Office of Academic Programs. The symposium is free and open to the public, but space is limited and registration is required.
A 56-54 win against University of Alabama at Birmingham in a Red Cross charity exhibition game started the Tom Crean regime with Georgia men’s basketball on Thursday evening at the Bartow Arena. Trailing 47-51 with a little more than four minutes in regulation, sophomore forward Rayshaun Hammonds scored seven of Georgia’s last nine points, while the defense held the Blazers without a field goal to seal the win. Hammonds finished with 13 points and nine rebounds – both team-highs. Sophomore guard Teshaun Hightower tallied team-best three assists, while senior guard Turtle Jackson, fresh off of representing Georgia at SEC Media Day, grabbed two steals. Freshman forward Jojo Toppin chipped in eight points along with three boards and two assists. In May, the NCAA set guidelines allowing programs to use one of their preseason events as a way to benefit a charitable organization involved in providing relief for those affected by a catastrophic event. This year, natural disasters the Red Cross is providing relief for include wildfires in California and recent Hurricanes Florence and Michael. “This is why we schedule something like this,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “This is going to help both teams. There is no doubt about that. For us to come out of here with a victory is good and we learned a lot about our team. We didn’t play E’Torrion Wilridge at all in the first half, we started him in the second half and he set the tempo for us against #1 (UAB’s Zack Bryant) who I believe will play in the NBA one day. He can play in any league in the country. We just found a way to win. We are so far away from understanding our offense in cutting and moving and we aren’t a great shooting team yet. But the bottom line is that we found a way. That is something we can build on. I’m really proud of how we defended and played with physicality, awareness and intent.” UAB freshman Zack Bryant had 12 points in the first half, but only mustered two points in the second frame. The Bulldogs used 12 players in the first half and 13 total in the game. Wilridge, a senior forward, was the one that saw his first action in the second half and finished with five points. The first points of the game came from forward Derek Ogbeide, the other Bulldog senior who participated at SEC Media Day on Wednesday at Birmingham’s Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook. Assisting on the play was a new face, Ignas Sargiunas, a freshman from Kaunas, Lithuania. A few minutes later, the Lithuanian did the scoring himself, draining a three-pointer. The game remained close throughout the first half with no lead exceeding six points and four ties. Late in the half, junior guard Jordan Harris connected on a three for a 21-all score, but Georgia trailed 27-25 at intermission. To start the second half, Hammonds scored Georgia’s first two baskets before junior guard Tyree Crump sunk a three to tie it at 32-all. Edwards gave the Bulldogs their first lead, 39-38, at the midpoint of the second half and Wilridge extended it to three points with 8:19 to play. The Blazers recaptured the lead up to four points, but a transition layup and free throw by Wilridge put Georgia back on top 47-46 at the 5:42 mark. Blazers went back up and after a UAB timeout; Hammonds began his late surge cutting it to 51-50 on a three-point play with 3:58 left in regulation. The Blazers only managed three points from the line the rest of the way through. Last season, Georgia faced Michigan State in Grand Rapids, Mich., in a contest that raised just shy of $370,000 for the Red Cross' relief efforts following Hurricane Irma. The Bulldogs will return to action on Thursday, Nov. 1, when they host Division II West Georgia at Stegeman Coliseum at 7:00 p.m. Georgia's first regular-season game is set for Friday, Nov. 9, against Savannah State at 8:30 p.m. That evening will feature a Georgia Basketball doubleheader, with the Lady Bulldogs hosting St. Bonaventure and tipping off at 6:00 p.m.
With open enrollment for Obamacare weeks away, Blue Cross customers across several Georgia counties have received letters from the insurance giant saying their health plan will no longer exist there next year. Bob Roberts, a radio announcer in Vidalia, thought it was just a renewal letter, he said. “But it wasn’t.” “I mean what am I going to do?” he asked. “We’re kind of out here in the cold.” What no one told Roberts is that Georgia still expects every county to be covered by at least one insurance option under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The letter suggested the client call or go to the Obamacare website healthcare.gov to see his or her options; those are not yet posted. Pre-shopping plan information for 2019 coverage is expected to be posted on healthcare.gov shortly, and it will go live for real shopping Nov. 1. The letters from Blue Cross apply to customers on the individual market, including the ACA exchange. The last-minute news shook agents and customers in the individual market, raising the specter of uncertainty that has jostled the individual market over the past couple of years. At that time, as the Trump administration focused on its campaign promises to undo pieces of Obamacare with help from the GOP-led Congress, insurance companies said they had to raise prices and pull back coverage to compensate for the market uncertainty. This year, in contrast, announcements for 2019 coverage had been largely sanguine. Rates are expected to stay stable, companies are expanding coverage and Blue Cross is returning to metro Atlanta. Although struggles continue over the ACA, including a lawsuit filed by states including Georgia, companies appear to have baked that uncertainty into their prices now. The company told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a statement that it revised its 2019 Georgia coverage proposals after a thoughtful review. “This was a difficult decision,” Blue Cross told its clients in the letter, “because we’re committed to offering you and your family affordable health benefits.” The move came after companies filed their initial plans and could see what their competitors offered. Health insurance companies make their first proposals to the Georgia Department of Insurance for rates and coverage in early or midsummer; then they negotiate with the state for a final proposal by August. Those proposals rarely change afterward, but they can and have. Blue Cross now expects to serve only 75 of the state’s 159 counties in 2019, fewer than it originally proposed. State officials point out that it will still serve more people than in 2018 because it’s adding back populous counties that it had left. “Overall, there’s slightly more competition,” especially from the Atlanta area northward, said Tom Carswell, the director of the product review division of the state Insurance Department. “There’s more coverage in more counties than there was last year.” And, he added, all counties will have coverage. Companies such as Ambetter expanded into other counties, allowing Blue Cross to draw back without leaving a county dry. The reason for the withdrawal likely comes down to money. One of the major factors for insurance companies isn’t just how much money it can make from the customer base in a given county, but how good the contracts are that it’s able to strike with hospitals and doctors in a given geography. In areas with fewer health care providers, the providers might have more bargaining power, and that can make the contracts less lucrative. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia expects to serve fewer counties than it originally proposed on the Obamacare market next year, but the company will reach more people. According to Blue Cross, these are the counties it will serve in 2019. COUNTIES BLUE CROSS IS EXPANDING INTO IN 2019: Bartow Cherokee Cobb Coweta DeKalb Douglas Fayette Forsyth Fulton Gwinnett Henry Lamar Pike Fannin Banks Dawson Franklin Habersham Hall Hart Lumpkin Rabun Stephens Towns Union White Chattooga Floyd Gilmer Pickens Polk COUNTIES BLUE CROSS WILL CONTINUE SERVING IN 2019: Morgan Oglethorpe Jasper Carroll Haralson Heard Burke Columbia Emanuel Glascock Jefferson Jenkins Lincoln McDuffie Richmond Taliaferro Warren Wilkes Charlton Ware Upson Atkinson Johnson Laurens Crawford Berrien Brooks Clinch Colquitt Cook Decatur Early Echols Grady Lanier Lowndes Seminole Thomas Tift Turner Baldwin Hancock Washington Wilkinson Source: Anthem Inc.