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Legislative update: House passes state budget & more

Rural health care bill moves forward, does not include closing the coverage gap

The legislature began the final quarter of the 2018 session last week. Committees were especially busy as they began to consider the numerous bills that passed from the opposite chamber the previous week.

The Senate HHS committee this week considered HB 769, the result of the House Rural Development Council’s efforts to address barriers to health care in rural Georgia. The bill proposes a number of programs that incentivize health care providers to practice in rural areas, as well as establishes a Rural Health System Innovation Center within the State Office of Rural Health. It also increases the value of donations made to rural hospitals in an attempt to provide rural hospitals with additional funding. Senator Orrock correctly pointed out during the hearing that significant federal funding is available to help strengthen rural hospitals if state leaders would close Georgia’s coverage gap by providing health insurance to low-income Georgians. The Senate HHS committee passed HB 769 with no amendments to close the coverage gap, and the bill now proceeds to the Senate Rules committee.

Health Coordination & Innovation Council Bill Approved

Changes made to SB 357 to earn committee approval


On Tuesday, the House Health & Human Services Committee heard SB 357, which would establish a Health Coordination and Innovation Council to coordinate health care planning across state agencies and within the health care system. SB 357 will no longer include the creation of a Health System Innovation Center to support the work of the Council because it was seen as duplicative to HB 769’s Rural Health System Innovation Center. Changes were also made to enumerate who can be appointed to the Council; no consumer representation was included in the changes. The House HHS committee approved SB 357 on Friday, so the bill will move forward for consideration by the House Rules committee in order to receive a floor vote by the full House.


Correction: FY2019 Budget Passed By House This Week
House passes its version of the FY2019 budget

Last week’s legislative update incorrectly stated that the FY2019 state budget, which begins on July 1, 2018 and runs through June 30, 2019, had been passed by the House prior to Crossover Day. The House was still working on its version of the state budget through late last week and passed it on Friday, March 9th. The budget includes several new investments in children’s mental health and mostly maintains funding for other health care programs and priorities. For more information on the health care highlights in the proposed FY2019 budget, read the Community Health and Behavioral Health budget overviews from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.


Legislation Increases Screening Opportunities for Young Students
Bill would require schools to take certain steps before suspending students in preschool through 3rd grade

Education, in combination with the other social determinants of health, plays a major role in a person’s health and well-being. HB 740, sponsored by Representative Randy Nix, requires school systems to provide a multi-tiered system of supports for a student in pre-school through third grade prior to expelling or suspending the student for five or more days (unless the student possessed a weapon, drugs, or other dangerous instrument or the child’s behavior endangers the safety of others). While the legislation does not prescribe what types of supports must be provided, it is likely that schools will use the opportunity to screen students for a variety of academic and behavioral health needs, and connect them to the appropriate health services. Children with behavioral health conditions drop out of school at much higher rates than those without, so this opportunity to identify behavioral health and other health-related barriers to learning is a critical prevention strategy. HB 740 is expecting to be heard in the Senate Education & Youth Committee today.

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