For 10 years, Georgia state leaders have blocked access to affordable health coverage via Medicaid to almost 600,000 Georgians, Knetta Adkins with Georgians for a Healthy Future said last month.
Friday was Crossover Day at the Capitol, meaning a bill must cross from its chamber of origin to the opposite chamber to remain viable for this legislative session. This week’s legislative update provides a rundown of consumer health legislation: which bills made it through and which did not. You can see a list of all the bills we’re tracking here, along with more information about the bills included here.
One of two surprise billing bills moves forward
As previously reported, SB 8 passed the Senate almost two weeks ago, but HB 71 did not receive a vote from the full House before the Crossover Day deadline. While HB 71 will no longer be considered on its own, lawmakers could include some of the bill’s language in SB 8 as it moves through the House Insurance committee. We anticipate that consumer protections and transparency requirements will be maintained as the bill progresses through the House.
State budget includes important health items
The FY 2018 budget passed the House in mid-February and is now being considered by the Senate. As passed by the House, the budget includes increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for certain primary care codes and pediatric dental codes at any dental office, which help to increase access to care for people with Medicaid coverage. The budget also includes funding for two new federally qualified health centers in Cook and Lincoln counties. Additionally, the budget includes enhanced funding for supportive housing, an important determinant of health for people with behavioral health issues.
Crossover Day Recap
HB 54: Changes to rural hospital tax credit | DID NOT CROSSOVER
HB 54, introduced by Rep. Duncan, would expand the new rural hospital tax credit program from a 70% credit to a 90% credit, among other minor changes. The tax credit program went into effect this year, after enabling legislation was passed in 2016. The proposal to increase the tax credit to 90% came after legislators received feedback that the 70% credit was too low to entice potential donors.
HB 188: Expand Medicaid NOW Act | DID NOT CROSSOVER
Sponsored by House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, this bill was not expected to gain much traction because of the evolving health reform efforts at the federal level. 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 276 & SB 103: The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act | CROSSED OVER
HB 276 and SB 103 both seek to 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 their respective chambers.
HB 300: Planning for new FQHCs in Georgia | DID NOT CROSSOVER
This bill moves the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) from the Department of Community Health (DCH) to the Department of Administrative Services, and would require that in future plan years the SHBP include incentives for beneficiaries to utilize federally qualified health centers (FQHCs) for their primary care needs. The bill also establishes a task force that is charged with identifying 100 potential sites for new FQHCs across the state, and advising the DCH about how opioid addiction can be addressed through FQHCs and how to encourage the use of FQHCs by veterans for their primary care needs. There is no funding attached to this bill for the purposes of establishing the new health care centers.
SB 12 & HB 154: Oral health legislation | CROSSED OVER
Both bills allow 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.
SB 70: Renewal of the provider fee | SIGNED INTO LAW
This legislation reauthorized the provider fee (aka “bed tax”) for an additional three years. The provider fee helps to fund Georgia’s Medicaid program by allowing the Department of Community Health to collect a tax on hospital revenues which is used to draw down additional federal dollars. The additional funds are disproportionately used to support rural and safety net hospitals that serve high numbers of indigent patients. The bill has already passed both chambers and been signed by Governor Deal.
SB 81: Opioid abuse prevention legislation | CROSSED OVER
SB 81 requires that all physicians register and consult the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) under certain prescribing conditions. It also requires that providers report certain opioid-based Schedule II, III, IV, and V prescriptions to the PDMP. The bill allows the Composite Medical Board to set the penalty for willfully non-compliant providers. The bill also requires the tracking and reporting of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) and codifies the Governor’s emergency order on an overdose reversal drug (naloxone), making it available without a physician prescription.
SB 121: Opioid abuse antagonist bill | CROSSED OVER
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. The legislation also requires that every pharmacy keep a record of every opioid antagonist dispensed as a result of the standing order and maintain the record for two years. Unlike SB 81, a bill with similar language, this bill would not require that pharmacists submit this information to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.
Other updates from the Capitol
Senate “Repeal and Replace” Task Force
Early in the legislative session, the Senate established a task force to address impacts to Georgia from any federal changes to the Affordable Care Act. This committee has convened twice, but has not yet scheduled a public meeting. It is unlikely to be a very active committee until there is clarity at the federal level about the direction of health care policy changes, and which provisions or concepts of the ACA will be kept or repealed.
HR 182: Resolution to restructure Georgia’s Medicaid program
HR 182 was introduced with the purpose of providing legislative permission to the Governor and the Department of Community Health to seek per capita block grant funding for Georgia’s Medicaid program. It remains unclear if this resolution will get a hearing or a vote.While resolutions are non-binding and do not impact state law, this resolution could begin a risky conversation among lawmakers. Shifting Georgia’s Medicaid program from its current federal-state partnership structure to a block grant program would mean cuts in services and in 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. Resolutions do not need to pass one chamber by Crossover Day because they can be adopted by a single chamber. As a result, this resolution remains viable in the House.