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Sine Die!

That’s a wrap for the 2017 Georgia legislative session!

The Georgia General Assembly completed the 2017 legislative session late in the early morning hours on Friday. A flurry of significant bills, some health care related, passed in the action-packed final days of the session. We are disappointed that agreement could not be reached to protect consumers from surprise out of network medical bills, but are heartened that other legislation passed to improve access to health care for consumers across the state. Check out our summary of the more notable bills below and a full list of health care related legislation at GHF’s legislative tracker.


Everything you need to know about the 2017 legislative session

Join GHF for our annual legislative session webinar! We will review the health care bills that passed (and some that didn’t) this session, discuss this year’s relevant study committees, and examine the state budget, including important items for health advocates and consumers. We will also provide an update on what’s happening with federal health care reform efforts. The webinar is scheduled for Thursday, April 13th at noon. Register here.

 


WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK
SB 8: Surprise billing legislation | DID NOT PASS

In the final days of session, legislators failed to reach an agreement about how to best resolve the problem of surprise out of network billing for Georgia consumers. However, legislators committed to continuing their work on this issue by passing HR 745 which creates a study committee that will examine “surprise insurance gaps” and balance billing. We are hopeful that the study committee will result in legislation that addresses the related issues of surprise billing and network adequacy.


This legislation allows for the “general supervision” of dental hygienists, which means hygienists can practice in safety net settings, school clinics, nursing homes, and private practices without a dentist being present. 


Sponsored by House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, this bill was not expected to gain much traction because of the uncertain environment created by federal health care reform efforts. However, it calls attention to the need to provide health care coverage to the 300,000 Georgians who are stuck in our state’s coverage gap because they do not currently qualify for Medicaid and cannot access health insurance through the Affordable Care Act’s Marketplace. 


HB 249: Opioid crisis bill | PASSED

HB 249 moves the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to the Department of Public Health from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency. HB 249 requires that all physicians register and consult the PDMP under certain prescribing conditions and that providers report certain benzodiazepine  and opioid-based prescriptions to the database. The bill also requires the tracking and reporting of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and codifies the Governor’s emergency order on an overdose reversal drug (naloxone), making it available without a physician prescription.


HB 276/SB 103: Pharmacy Patients Fair Practices Act | PASSED

HB 276 and SB 103 both regulate pharmacy benefit managers, which are third party companies that manage the prescription drug programs of many insurance plans. Both bills would prohibit PBMs from certain practices that limit consumer access and choice to preferred pharmacies and to lower cost drugs. Both bills passed both chambers.


SB 4: Mental Health Treatment Task Force | DID NOT PASS

SB 4 would have established a task force charged with examining the current mental health landscape in Georgia, how Medicaid and other health care services provide the appropriate care for people with mental illness or substance use disorders, and determine what changes may need to be made in and outside of Medicaid to better address the mental health needs of Georgians. The task force had the option to propose an 1115 waiver that addresses these changes for consideration by the General Assembly during a future session.


SB 16: Medical marijuana access | PASSED

This legislation expands the list of conditions for which Georgians who have registered with the Department of Public Health may possess low THC oil. The newly added diagnoses include Alzheimer’s disease, AIDS, autism, epidermolysis bullosa, peripheral neuropathy and Tourette’s syndrome. Patients in hospice care may also possess the oil.


SB 121: Access to opioid antagonists | PASSED

SB 121 codifies Governor Deal’s executive order to allow consumers to access opioid antagonist drugs (e.g. Naloxone) over-the-counter without a prescription.


SB 180: Expansion of rural hospital tax credits | PASSED

After HB 54 failed to pass the House before Crossover Day, its language was amended to SB 180. The legislation expands the new rural hospital tax credit program from a 70% credit to a 90% credit, among other minor changes. The proposal to increase the tax credit came after legislators received feedback that the 70% credit was too low to entice potential donors.


HR 182 & SR 349: Resolutions supporting Medicaid block grants | DID NOT PASS 

Both of these resolutions encouraged the restructuring of Georgia’s Medicaid program from its current federal-state partnership structure to a block grant program. SR 349 urged the U.S. Congress to block grant funding for Georgia’s Medicaid program and indigent care needs, while HR 182 provided legislative permission to the Governor and the Department of Community Health to seek per capita block grant funding for Medicaid.  Shifting Medicaid to either a traditional or per capita block grant structure would result in cuts to services and beneficiaries, putting Georgia’s most vulnerable children, parents, elderly, and people with disabilities at risk. Check out GHF’s block grant fact sheet for more information about the dangers of restructuring the Medicaid program. While resolutions are non-binding and do not impact state law, they are viewed as the official position of the General Assembly.