"These gaps really make it so that Georgians can't afford needed health care. If they receive health care, they're left with medical debt, or they have to make really tough…
Legislative Update: Week 7
After a long debate on Tuesday, the Senate passed SB 106 with no changes. Titled the Patients First Act, the legislation permits Georgia’s Governor to pursue two health care waivers that could make significant changes to health coverage for Georgia consumers. The bill will now be sent to the House’s Special Committee on Access to Quality Healthcare for its consideration. A hearing on the bill is expected shortly after this Thursday’s Crossover Day (the last day a bill can move from one chamber to the other).
The legislation, as written, would leave behind thousands of uninsured, near-poor Georgians and will likely cost the state more to cover fewer people. Additionally, the bill opens the door to potentially immense and detrimental changes to private health insurance in Georgia. A new analysis of the bill is available on our blog, along with other tools and resources to help you understand the potential impact of this legislation.
Housing is health
On Friday, the House Judiciary Committee passed HB 346, legislation that 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. Housing is a dynamic social determinant of health that can support or undermine the health of children, seniors, and families. Georgia is the only state in the country that does not protect tenants against unsafe and uninhabitable housing conditions with a “warranty of habitability.”
Late into the night on Tuesday, a subcommittee heard powerful testimony from advocates and supporters, including that of long-time GHF Board member Dr. Harry Heiman. The subcommittee approved the bill on Thursday and the full House Judiciary Committee passed it the following day. HB 346 will now go to the House Rules committee to await a vote on the House floor ahead of Thursday’s Crossover Day.
House completes work on budget bills
Last week, the House passed HB 31, the FY 2020 budget (also called the “big budget”). The record $27.5 billion budget includes an additional $27.4 million for the PeachCare for Kids program to offset a change in how the federal and state governments share costs for the program. It also contains an increase of $78.7 million for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD). The additional funds will, in part, fund an increase of $10.2 million for behavioral health crisis beds, $2.5 million for supported housing, and 125 new slots for NOW and COMP waivers (a type of Medicaid) to reduce the current waiting list.
House passes HIV prevention & treatment bills
A package of HIV-related legislation passed the House last week. Georgia currently leads the U.S. in the rate of new HIV cases diagnosed each year and each of the three bills (HB 158, HB 217, HB 290) attempts to slow the epidemic by preventing new infections and improving care for people currently living with the condition. HB 158 has already received a hearing in the Senate Health & Human Services Committee, where HB 217 will also be heard. HB 290 has not yet been referred to a Senate committee. (For more details on all three pieces of legislation, see our February 26th legislative update).
GHF has you covered
Stay up-to-date with the legislative session
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.)