Laura Colbert, executive director of the consumer advocacy group Georgians for a Healthy Future, said Monday that health care spending growth has been squeezing patients. “We hear from consumers that…
Sherry is 77 years old and lives independently in Murray County in north Georgia. She gets up five days a week at 5 am and prepares for her day, which begins with a bus ride to the RossWoods Adult Day Center. Medicaid and Medicare make it possible to spend her weekdays at RossWoods where she engages in arts and crafts and social activities designed to keep her brain and body healthy. She also receives information about her medications and doctor’s appointments. Sherry is one of over half a million seniors and people with disabilities in Georgia who depend on Medicaid and Medicare to live and function in their communities.
Sherry has several health conditions including high blood pressure, a blood clot in her heart, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, a pacemaker, and arthritis in one of her legs. On top of all that, she recently fell and broke her wrist, causing nerve damage. Thanks to Medicaid, Sherry is able to afford the medications she needs to live a functional and healthy life. She would not have the financial means to pay the standard $30–$50 copay for each of her seven medications but Medicaid means she pays just $1.20 per medication instead.
To get to the pharmacy for her medications, doctors’ appointments and RossWoods, a type of Medicaid called the Community Care Services Program (CCSP) waiver provides Sherry with transportation. CCSP waivers provide “community-based social, health and support services to eligible consumers as an alternative to placement in a nursing home.” When asked about her Medicaid coverage, Sherry said: “I couldn’t make it if I didn’t have [Medicaid]. There would be no way.”
For 168,000 seniors like Sherry who typically live on low, fixed incomes, Medicaid makes the difference and helps to pay the costs of their Medicare coverage. For some, it provides additional health benefits not covered through Medicare. For others, Medicaid allows them to age with dignity in their communities by covering needed home and living adaptations like chair lifts, wheelchair ramps, or engaging day programs with trained staff.
In our first blog on Project Aware, we provided an overview of the dynamic and innovative youth mental health initiative that is making a difference in the lives of school-aged youth in Georgia. One of the four goals of Georgia’s Project AWARE is to “train educators, first responders, parents and youth group leaders to respond to mental health needs of youth by providing free training in Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA).” In this blog we’ll get to know Youth Mental Health First Aid.
Youth Mental Health First Aid is a public education program which “teaches individuals how to help an adolescent in crisis or experiencing a mental health challenge.” Through an eight-hour course, participants learn the risk factors and warning signs of adolescent mental health issues. Attendees learn how to identify, understand, and provide early intervention for mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and substance use disorders. Those who take the course develop skills to support youth using a five-step action plan:
- Assess for risk of suicide or harm
- Listen nonjudgmentally
- Give reassurance and information
- Encourage appropriate professional help
- Encourage self-help and other support strategies
Youth Mental Health First Aid training was first designed by Mental Health First Aid USA in collaboration with experts at the National Technical Assistance Center for Children’s Mental Health at the Georgetown University Center for Child and Human Development.
Georgia currently has three Project AWARE sites: Griffin-Spalding County School System, Muscogee County School District and Newton County Schools. Through Project AWARE, the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) provides training in Youth Mental Health First Aid to teachers and other school staff and work with schools to develop innovative ways to connect youth and families to community-based mental health services. Georgia State University’s Center for Leadership in Disability and the Center for Research on School Safety, School Climate and Classroom Management provide the training and evaluation for Georgia Project AWARE at these three schools systems.
You can learn more about Project AWARE and the Impact of Youth Mental Health First Aid here:
Georgians for a Healthy Future and Georgia Women (and Those Who Stand With Us) co-hosted Health Care Salon: Georgia’s Patients First Act in Macon on Friday July 23rd. This community event brought together Macon residents to learn about Medicaid and Georgia’s new Patients First Act and develop health advocacy skills that can be used to build a healthier community.
Georgia’s Medicaid program insures half of Georgia’s children, and covers some low-income people with disabilities, seniors, and pregnant women. More than thirty thousand (30,949) Bibb County residents, about 20% of the county’s population, are covered by Medicaid. Participants heard from Alyssa Green, GHF’s Outreach & Education Manager, who shared powerful testimonials from several Medicaid-covered Georgians to demonstrate the real benefits of coverage.
Alyssa also introduced Macon-ites to the Patients First Act, a new state law which could make seismic changes to health coverage in the state using two kinds of health care waivers. Participants received information about 1115 and 1332 waivers, Georgia’s expected timeline for developing the waivers, and why the waivers’ required public comment periods are so important. The four expected public comment periods are the public’s opportunities to help shape and influence the future of health care in Georgia.
At the event, attendees were able to practice ways that they can advocate for the health care issues that matter most to them, like signing up for GHF’s new Georgia Health Action Network (GHAN) program. GHAN is a volunteer-led program that supports grassroots health advocates to work alongside GHF to promote quality, affordable, accessible health care and healthier communities.
If you were unable to attend this event, be on the look-out for similar community events coming soon or contact Alyssa (email@example.com or 404-567-5016, ext. 2) to schedule one in your community. You can also contact Alyssa learn more about the Georgia Health Action Network.
In March 2019, Georgia lawmakers approved SB 106, the Patients First Act. The new law allows Georgia to use two kinds of health care waivers to make changes to health coverage in the state. These waiver plans could affect you, your friends, family, neighbors, and Georgians all across the state and the way you access and pay for health care.
(Waivers allow a state to set aside or “waive” certain requirements imposed by the federal government and try new models of providing health coverage and care.)
The state has hired Deloitte as a consultant to work with state leaders to develop the waiver plans. Georgia’s decision-makers have proposed an aggressive timeline and aim to finalize the waiver plans by the end of 2019.
Two types of waiver plans
Two types of plans are being developed by state leaders: an 1115 waiver and a 1332 waiver. An 1115 waiver allows Georgia to make changes to the state’s Medicaid program. Medicaid is the state’s health insurance program that covers kids, some low-income parents, seniors, and people with disabilities, and pregnant women. SB 106 limits the 1115 waiver to cover people making up to the poverty line (about $12,000 a year for an individual or $26,000 for a family of four). Medicaid expansion, which GHF has advocated for, would extend public coverage to people with incomes just above the poverty line (138% of the federal poverty line.) A successful way to use an 1115 waiver would be to cover everyone under the poverty line and exclude barriers to coverage such as burdensome paperwork requirements, confusing cost-sharing, or counterproductive lock-out periods.
A 1332 waiver allows the state to make changes to private insurance and the health insurance marketplace. About 450,000 Georgians buy their health coverage through the marketplace. Most of these Georgians receive federal tax credits to cover some or all of their premium costs. (Another 827,600 of Georgians are eligible for private coverage and financial help to buy it but have not yet enrolled.) A successful way to use a 1332 waiver is to establish a “reinsurance program” to reduce premium costs. This waiver should also ensure all plans continue to cover the essential health benefits (like prescription drugs) and maintain protections for people with preexisting conditions.
You can weigh in!
Now is the time to ensure that Georgia gets a plan that will provide comprehensive coverage to as many people as possible. Thousands of Georgians across the state could gain health care coverage through the Patients First proposals. While positive intentions have been expressed by Georgia’s elected officials about the forthcoming waivers, none has yet committed to ensuring all Georgians have a pathway to comprehensive, affordable coverage.
For every 1115 and 1332 waiver that the state wants to pursue, Georgia’s policymakers must seek input from the public. Because there are required state and federal public comment periods for each waiver proposal, there will be at least four public comment periods (a state and federal period for an 1115 waiver and a state and federal period for a 1332 waiver). These are your chances to help shape and influence health care in Georgia!
GHF and our Cover Georgia partners will let you know when the public comment periods begin and end and we will provide an easy way for you to have your say. Make a plan to submit comments during every public comment period so that state leaders know how their ideas will impact you and your family! Your story can help make a difference for thousands of Georgians and can support positive changes in health care coverage.
Sean “Saifa” Wall is an Atlanta-based intersex justice activist. He is currently enrolled in a health plan with Ambetter through the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace (also called healthcare.gov).
As an activist, Saifa’s income is generated exclusively through contractual work, which means that his employers do not provide health benefits. He talks to people about issues that affect the intersex community. He also serves as a public health researcher that consults with racial justice and domestic violence organizations.
Saifa enrolled in coverage in 2016 with the help of a GHF health insurance navigator after being uninsured for over two years. (He was also able to purchase dental coverage.) Saifa pays a premium of $63 per month after a $500 tax credit helped to lower his costs. His coverage allows him access to hormone therapy and behavioral health services, among other essential health benefits. He loves his medical provider and receives high quality treatment as an intersex person who is hormone dependent.
Saifa was recently diagnosed with osteopenia, which means his bones aren’t as dense as they need to be to prevent breaks and other injuries. Saifa will need comprehensive medical care as he works to build bone mass; much or all of that care will be covered by the comprehensive insurance plan he purchased through the ACA.
Like Saifa, 450,000 Georgians rely on the ACA marketplace to access comprehensive, affordable health coverage. Many more Georgians are eligible for marketplace coverage but remain uninsured for a variety of reasons.
Georgia’s new law, called the Patients First Act or SB 106, may bring changes to private health insurance in the state but Georgia leaders have not yet spelled out what changes they plan to seek. An effective way to use their new flexibility would be to maintain the protections and financial help that Georgia consumers enjoy while building a “reinsurance program” to bring down premiums for everyone. (This approach has been successfully tried in seven other states.) If premiums fall or remain steady, this could attract more Georgians to the marketplace and get more people covered.
When Saifa was asked what he would tell legislators about having health coverage, he replied: “As an intersex activist, I believe health care is a human right.” While this belief isn’t yet reflected in Georgia’s state health laws, the ACA allows consumers like Saifa to take advantage of comprehensive, affordable coverage options and protections from discrimination in the health system, among many other advances.
Georgians for a Healthy Future regularly hosts graduate students who work with GHF staff to support the organization’s current projects and issue advocacy campaigns. The students learn about critical consumer health issues and develop skills that they can use to become effective health advocates throughout their careers.
Tyla Adams joins Georgians for a Healthy Future this summer as the Health Education & Advocacy Intern. In this role, she is responsible for supporting the Georgia Voices for Medicaid project by assessing the learning needs of community members, health advocates, people living with disabilities and those existing at the intersections of these identities, updating the curriculum accordingly, and creating any needed learning aids. She will also assist with community outreach efforts that aim to help consumers access health services, inform them on the current state of Medicaid expansion and any other relevant health policy issues.
While attending East Carolina University, Tyla studied abroad in New Zealand and Australia where she realized her passion for health education and access to quality health care. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree in public health studies and a minor in human development and family science. She is currently in her second year studying behavioral sciences and health education in the Master of Public Health program at Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.
After graduation, Tyla hopes to work to decrease generational disparities due to controllable risk factors (like nutrition and access to quality health care) and to foster health equity in black communities. Her public health interests include maternal and child health, adolescent health, the social determinants of health and minority women’s health.
In late 2018, Georgians for a Healthy Future was awarded a General Operating Support grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. The Foundation works to connect the passions of philanthropists with the purposes of nonprofits. Awards were given through a highly competitive process and we are excited about this partnership as we continue to work to ensure quality, affordable health care for all Georgians.
GHF was one of twenty-nine nonprofits to have received this highly competitive General Operating support grant from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. Seven nonprofits, including GHF, were awarded grants to support well-being and “ensure a healthy region where all residents have access to quality health care and nutritious food.”
With the support of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, GHF continues to offer Georgians the tools and information they need to become effective health advocates for themselves and their communities, inject the consumer perspective into health care stories in the media, and convene partner groups in coalition to strengthen our collective ability to advocate for the needs of Georgians across the state. We are ecstatic to have been among the select organizations who share our vision and drive to improve the lives of the people of Georgia. We look forward to continuing our work as the voice for Georgia health care consumers with the support of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.
Read the Foundation’s December 2018 press release.
Yesterday was Sine Die at the Georgia General Assembly – the last day of the 2019 legislative session. This year’s session saw the approval of several bills that will surely impact consumers’ health and finances in positive ways if approved by the Governor. Efforts to address step therapy so patients have access to needed therapies and housing so that families can be assured of safe, healthy places to live have been multi-year efforts by consumer and family advocates. These bills now move to the Governor’s desk for his consideration and signature.
The impact of other bills is less certain. SB 106 may bring sweeping changes to Georgia’s health care landscape but the details have yet to be laid out. The passage of legislation is only the first step in a health reform process in which your voice and advocacy will be needed. (Learn more about the next steps and what to expect in our latest blog post and in the section below.)
Check out our summary of the more notable health bills of the 2019 session below and a full list of health care-related legislation at GHF’s legislative tracker.
SB 106, the Patients First Act, moved quickly through the Georgia General Assembly this session and was signed into law by Governor Kemp last week. As we have reported, the bill allows the state to pursue an 1115 waiver to make changes to Georgia’s Medicaid program that may include expanding coverage to more poor adults and a 1332 state innovation waiver to make changes to private insurance in the state.
Now that the bill is signed, what’s next? You are critical to ensuring that the waivers created from SB 106 lead Georgia to the healthy future that we all want. Your advocacy, stories, and input are necessary. Read our new blog so you know what to expect and how you can help ensure all Georgians have meaningful, affordable health coverage.
Step therapy legislation approved
HB 63, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, will require health insurance plans to establish step therapy protocols and outline a process for health care providers to request exceptions. Step therapy is a requirement by some insurers that patients try a series of lower-cost treatments before the insurer will cover the higher-cost treatment prescribed by a patient’s physician. The bill received final approval by the House on Tuesday
Call Governor Kemp at 404-656-1776 and ask that he sign HB 63.
Surprise billing legislation faced familiar roadblocks this year when provider groups and insurers could not come to agreement about payments for out-of-network care. There were late efforts to revive some or all of HB 84 and SB 56 but neither succeeded. (Both bills are covered in detail in our Februrary 11th legislative update.) We are grateful to Chairman Richard Smith and Chairman Hufstetler for their work on this important issue and hope to find a resolution for consumers in the next legislative session.
GHF, as part of the Healthy Housing Georgia coalition, supported HB 346. This bill will prohibit retaliation by a landlord against a tenant for complaining to Code Enforcement about unsafe or unhealthy housing conditions like the presence of mold, radon, rodents, insect infestations, or lead. If the Governor signs the bill into law, Georgia will join the ranks of forty-one other states that have already implemented similar legislation to protect tenants against retaliatory evictions. (For more details on the legislation, see our March 5th legislative update.)
Call Governor Kemp at 404-656-1776 and ask that he sign HB 346.
Sine Die Recap
HB 30: Amended FY 2019 Budget | SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
HB 30 makes adjustments to the state budget for the current fiscal year which runs through June 30, 2019. The “little budget” has passed both chambers of the General Assembly and been signed by the Governor. The amended budget went into effect on Tuesday, March 12th.
HB 31: FY 2020 Budget | PASSED
HB 31 is the budget document for the coming state fiscal year which will run from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. The budget includes several new investments in behavioral health and mostly maintains funding for other health care programs and priorities. For more information on the health care highlights in the proposed FY 2020 budget, read the Community Health and Behavioral Health budget overviews from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.
HB 37: Expand Medicaid Now Act | DID NOT PASS
HB 37, sponsored by Rep. Bob Trammell, expands Medicaid in Georgia as envisioned by the Affordable Care Act by increasing Medicaid eligibility for adults up to 138% of the federal poverty guidelines (FPL). This is equivalent to $17,236 annually for an individual and $29,435 for a family of three.
HB 158: Improve Medicaid patient access to effective HIV treatment | DID NOT PASS*
HB 158, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Silcox, requires that Medicaid recipients have the same access to antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV and AIDS as to those included in the formulary established for the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program. This change would allow for increased continuity of care for people living with HIV/AIDS in Georgia. *Although HB 158 did not get a Senate vote, it received favorable comments in the Senate Health Committee, after passing the House unanimously. In recognition of the broad support of this effort, Georgia’s Medicaid agency has committed to the bill sponsor to implement the intent of the legislation.
HB 217: Needle exchange | PASSED
HB 217, sponsored by Rep. Houston Gaines, decriminalizes the act of working or volunteering for a syringe services program, a step towards legalizing the programs. Distributing clean hypodermic syringes and needles to people who use injection drugs (e.g. heroin) helps to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C, and does not increase the likelihood that people will newly take up injections drug use.
HB 290: PrEP pilot program | PASSED
HB 290, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would establish a pilot program to provide preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drug assistance or services to persons at risk of being infected with HIV. PrEP is a medication taken by people who are HIV-negative to reduce their risk for infection. The pilot program would provide PrEP to people in counties identified by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention as at risk of HIV outbreaks due to a high rate of opioid use and participants would receive regular HIV testing and related support services.
HB 83: Recess legislation | PASSED
HB 83, sponsored by Representative Demetrius Douglas, would require a daily 30-minute recess for all students in grades K-5 unless they have already had a physical education class or structured activity time in the day. This bill now sits in the Senate Rules committee and awaits a vote on the Senate floor. To learn more about the impact of recess on children’s physical and mental health, read this fact sheet from Voices for Georgia’s Children.
HB 321: Medicaid financing program | PASSED
HB 321, sponsored by Rep. Jodi Lott, would extend the sunset provision of the hospital provider fee for five years. The hospital payment program, which draws down additional federal funding, provides almost $1 billion annually to the state’s Medicaid budget. More information about HB 321 is available here.
HB 514: Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission | PASSED
HB 514, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Tanner, would create the Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission which would work to analyze and offer improvements to the state’s mental health system and run through at least June 30, 2020. Within the Commission, several subcommittees would be established to include Children and Adolescent Mental Health; Involuntary Commitment; Hospital and Short-Term Care Facilities; Mental Health Courts and Corrections; and Workforce and System Development.
SB 16: Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act | PASSED
SB 16, sponsored by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, would allow Georgia to enter the “Interstate Medical Licensure Compact” which allows health care providers to more easily obtain licenses to practice in multiple states. It also provides Georgia’s Medical Board with easier access to investigative and disciplinary information about providers from other states, an important protective measure for Georgia patients.
HB 233: Pharmacy Anti-Steering and Transparency Act | PASSED
HB 233, sponsored by Rep. David Knight, would prohibit pharmacies from sharing patient data for commercial purposes and prohibit pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) from steering patients to PBM-owned pharmacies. It also requires such pharmacies to file an annual disclosure statement of its affiliates. Pharmacy benefit managers are companies that manage the prescription drug benefit of your health plan.
SB 195: Prescription Drug Benefits Freedom of Information and Consumer Protection Act | DID NOT PASS
SB 195, sponsored by Senator Chuck Hufstetler, this bill would make it easier for consumers to know what prescription medications are covered by their health insurance plan and better understand the likely costs by requiring health insurers to conspicuously post on their website information about their drug formulary in a current and searchable format. A drug formulary is the list of prescription medicines that your health insurer agrees to pay for or partially pay for. SB 195 would also standardize and speed up the process for consumers and providers to request prior authorization for necessary prescription drugs.
HB 186: Certificate of Need Reform | PASSED
HB 186, sponsored by Rep. Ron Stephens, will create a new category for general cancer hospitals as part of an agreement with Cancer Treatment Centers of America that would allow more Georgia patients to be seen. This bill will also limit who can object to a provider’s Certificate of Need application for expanding hospital services. The change would limit objections to only come from health care facilities that provide similar services and are located within a thirty-five mile radius.
HB 197: Establishment of Strategic Integrated Data System | PASSED
HB 197, sponsored by Rep. Katie Dempsey, will establish the Strategic Integrated Data System through the Office of Planning and Budget. The data system would capture de-identified information about the physical and mental health and social services beign provided to Georgians across the state. The goal of the system is to provide a central source of date about state services that can be used by state agencies, lawmakers, and researchers to make programs more effective and cost-efficient.
HB 323: Regulation and licensure of pharmacy benefits managers | PASSED
HB 323, sponsored by Rep. David Knight, will provide a good first step in drug transparency from pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs.) PBMs will have to report how much they receive in rebates from pharmaceutical manufacturers to the Department of Insurance and how much of those savings are being passed on to customers, although the information are not required to be reported to the legislature or the public.
GHF has you covered
GHF has been monitoring legislative activity on a number of critical consumer health care topics. Along with our weekly legislative updates and timely analysis of bills, we have the tools you need to stay in touch with health policy under the Gold Dome.
- Sign up for the Georgia Health Action Network (GHAN) to receive action alerts that let you know when there are opportunities for advocacy and action
- Track health-related legislation
- Updated for 2019: GHF’s annual Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide. (Contact Michelle Conde at firstname.lastname@example.org for a printed copy.)
Last week Georgia’s Governor signed SB 106, legislation that allows the state to pursue an 1115 waiver to make changes to Georgia’s Medicaid program that could include expanding coverage up to more poor adults and a 1332 state innovation waiver to make changes to private insurance in the state. (We have covered the bill extensively in our weekly legislative emails and blog, and at CoverGA.org.) The Governor’s signature is only the beginning of a process that could bring sizable changes to Georgia’s health care landscape.
Now that the bill has been signed, what are the next steps?
The waivers that will result from SB 106 are only the vehicles to a possible future where all Georgians have access to affordable, quality health care, but they don’t provide a road map or the gas to get us there.
Your advocacy and input are necessary to provide the power and directions to that future.
For every 1115 and 1332 waiver that the state wants to pursue, Georgia’s policymakers must seek input from the public. There are required state and federal public comment periods for each waiver proposal and those are your opportunities to directly weigh in! Because waivers allow states to “waive” some consumer protections and provisions of federal law, it is essential that you speak up to let Georgia know how its ideas may impact you and your family.
Georgia’s timeline for crafting its waivers is still unclear (and likely still developing) but there is a specific process the state must follow. Here is what to expect from the 1115 waiver process and how you can help to shape what it looks like along the way.
While GHF will engage with Georgia’s decision makers to advocate for consumer-centered, evidence-based waiver proposals, there is a limit to what we can do without you. It is your stories, advocacy, and comments that will guide Georgia to the healthy future we all want.
In the above graphic there are ways that you can help us at every turn. In the time periods represented by white circles, you can share your health care and coverage stories with us and our Cover Georgia partners. We want to hear from you if you are uninsured and in the coverage gap, if you have an individual or family health plan through the ACA Marketplace, if you are covered by Medicaid, and any other story you think will help us understand how to best represent your interests.
The public comment periods (yellow circles) are your time to take direct action. You can directly impact Georgia’s health care reform proposals by telling the state how their ideas may impact you and your family. (Don’t worry! We’ll make it easy for you to understand the proposed waivers and will provide clear instructions so that submitting comments is easy!)
In states like Kentucky and Arkansas, thousands of comments from people just like you have fended off onerous waiver ideas that would have kept people from enrolling or staying covered. In Tennessee and Alabama, almost 14,000 individuals across both states said that their states’ proposed ideas would damage their ability to live physically, mentally, and financially healthy lives. You can do the same.
Expect at least four public comment periods (two for an 1115 waiver and two for a 1332 waiver) and plan to submit comments every time. As we head into the next phase of our work to ensure all Georgians have access to meaningful, affordable health insurance, we are counting on you!
Stay tuned and stay active!
Share your health insurance story with us now. Your experience will inform our advocacy ahead of the public comment periods.
Stay in touch! Sign up to receive email updates and look for your opportunities to act!
Read up on health care waivers with these resources:
Legislative Update: Week 10
Last Wednesday, the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care held a hearing on SB 106, the Patients First Act. GHF’s Executive Director, Laura Colbert and several Cover Georgia coalition members testified and emphasized the need for changes in the bill. Read Laura’s full testimony here.
As we have previously reported, the legislation allows for an 1115 waiver to extend Medicaid coverage to some adults making up to 100% of the federal poverty level ($12,100 annually for an individual). GHF and its partners requested that the income cap be lifted to 138% FPL so that it would cover more Georgians at a lower cost to the state. As currently written, the bill would leave out thousands of Georgians who earn just above the poverty line and who would be covered under a traditional Medicaid expansion or a broader 1115 waiver. SB 106 also allows the state to make potentially dramatic changes to private health insurance in Georgia through 1332 waivers with little accountability. The bill now sits in the House Rules committee and is expected to receive a vote on the House floor sometime next week.
There is still time for the House to make changes to SB 106 so that it covers more people and costs less. Read more about SB 106 CoverGA.org and then contact your state representative to let them know that we need to amend this bill to cover every eligible Georgian!
Behavioral health commission passes in both chambers
The Senate passed an amended version of HB 514 on Thursday. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Tanner, would create the Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission which would work to analyze and offer improvements to the state’s mental health system. Changes to the bill in the Senate included additions to the make-up of the Commission so that it includes a professional who specializes in substance abuse and addiction, and a representative of a community service board to serve as a nonvoting member of the 23-member panel. The bill will now return to the House to receive an “Agree” on the changes made in the Senate and will then go to the Governor’s desk to be signed.
HIV prevention & treatment bills move forward in the Senate
Two significant pieces of HIV-related legislation passed the Senate Health and Human Services committee last week. HB 217, which would decriminalize the act of working or volunteering for a syringe services program and HB 290, which would would establish a pilot program to provide preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drug assistance or services to persons at risk of being infected with HIV will now go to the Senate Rules Committee to await a vote by the full Senate. A third bill, HB 158 would improve Medicaid coverage but has not yet been taken up by the Senate HHS committee. Georgia currently leads the U.S. in the rate of new HIV cases diagnosed each year and all three bills would contribute to the slowing of the epidemic by preventing new infections and improving care for people currently living with the condition. (For more details on all three pieces of legislation, see our February 26th legislative update).
What happened last week
The Senate Education and Youth committee voted to pass HB 83 last Thursday. This bill would require a daily 30-minute recess for all students in grades K-5 unless they have already had a physical education class or structured activity time in the day. This bill now sits in the Senate Rules committee and awaits a vote on the Senate floor. To learn more about the impact of recess on children’s physical and mental health, read this fact sheet from Voices for Georgia’s Children.
Georgians for a Healthy Future is a member of the Healthy Housing Georgia coalition because evidence shows the strong and direct influence housing has on a person’s health. The coalition supports HB 346 which passed with amendments by the Senate Judiciary committee last week. This bill would prohibit retaliation by a landlord against a tenant for complaining to Code Enforcement about unsafe or unhealthy housing conditions like the presence of mold, radon, rodents, insect infestations, or lead. Georgia is the only state in the country that does not protect tenants against unsafe and uninhabitable housing conditions with a “warranty of habitability.” The Senate Rules committee will now decide when the legislation may receive a vote on the Senate floor. (For more details on the legislation, see our March 5th legislative update.)
GHF has you covered
GHF will be monitoring legislative activity on a number of critical consumer health care topics. Along with our weekly legislative updates and timely analysis of bills, we have the tools you need to stay in touch with health policy under the Gold Dome.
- Sign up for the Georgia Health Action Network (GHAN) to receive action alerts that let you know when there are opportunities for advocacy and action
- Track health-related legislation
- Updated for 2019: GHF’s annual Consumer Health Advocate’s Guide. (Contact Michelle Conde at email@example.com for a printed copy.)