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Legislative update: week 9

Health care bills re-appropriated for new purposes

Each year, as the end of the legislative session comes into view, legislators work to ensure that priority legislation can be successfully passed before the Sine Die deadline. Sine Die is the day that legislative session ends and is scheduled for March 29th this year. This often results in major changes to legislative language or the combination of related bills. These changes are evident in several notable health care bills, which we have detailed here.

  • This week, the Senate HHS committee heard HB 161, which effectively decriminalizes needle exchange programs in Georgia. The bill passed out of committee but with major additions. The additions are largely taken from SB 352 which, among other things, establishes a Commission on Substance Abuse & Recovery headed by a Director (for a more detailed review of SB 352, read our previous coverage here). The bill now awaits approval by the Senate Rules Committee in order to receive a vote on the Senate floor.
  • The House HHS committee this week voted to pass SB 325 which, in its original form, would have allowed Georgia to enter into the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. However, all of the bill’s original language was removed and substituted with new legislative language that, among other provisions, limits step therapy and sets up a process for physicians to request exceptions (previously HB 519). Step therapy is a requirement by some insurers that patients try a series of lower-cost treatments before the insurer will cover the treatment prescribed by a patient’s physician. SB 325 will now go to the House Rules committee to be approved for a vote by the full House.

Health Care Bills Favored By Legislative Leadership Passed
Rural health bill and Health Coordination & Innovation Council bill passed by respective chambers

Two bills named as priorities by legislative leaders passed their respective chambers this week. The rural health care bill, HB 769, passed the Senate and SB 357, legislation creating the new Health Coordination & Innovation Council, passed the House. Both bills included negotiated changes to better coordinate the two bills’ likely impacts. Because the bills passed with changes, they will each need to return to their chamber of origin for an “Agree” vote before they are eligible for the Governor’s signature.



Legislation Impacting Social Determinants of Health
Legislation concerning suspension of young students passed by Senate committee

HB 740, which requires schools 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, was passed by the Senate Education & Youth Committee on Thursday. The legislation provides increased opportunities for schools to screen students for a variety of academic and behavioral health needs, and connect them to the appropriate health and other services. The bill will now need approval by the Senate Rules Committee to reach the floor for a vote by the full Senate.



Legislation to promote healthy housing fails; Resolution proposing study committee introduced

Housing, one of the most recognized social determinants of health, can influence a person’s physical and mental health, and access to economic opportunity and necessary social and health services. Earlier this session, Representative Scott Hilton introduced HB 954, which would have prohibited landlords from retaliating against tenants who complain about unhealthy or unsafe rental housing but the bill never received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. In order to lay the groundwork on this issue for future legislative sessions, Representative Sharon Cooper has sponsored HR 1431 establishing a study committee on healthy housing, which if passed would evaluate the scope of unhealthy housing problems in the state, its impact on Georgia families and the costs of unhealthy housing to the state and local communities, and would identify promising initiatives and policies in other states that address unhealthy housing.

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