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Legislative Update: Behavioral health, recess, and prescription drugs

Legislative Update: Week 9

Flawed legislation is likely to receive hearing this week

The Georgia House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care has scheduled a hearing on SB 106, for this Wednesday, March 20th at 2:00pm. 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). This “partial expansion” would leave out thousands of Georgians who earn just above the poverty line and would be covered under alternate plans, including traditional Medicaid expansion or a broader 1115 waiver. Additionally, the bill allows Governor Kemp to make potentially seismic changes to private health insurance in Georgia through 1332 waivers with little accountability.

We need your help to tell the committee that this legislation remains flawed and risky and could leave thousands of Georgians without health care coverage for years to come.

Ask your representatives to fix this flawed bill by increasing Medicaid eligibility up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. 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!

Attend the hearing!

Want to attend the hearing in person? Here’s the information you need:

House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care

Georgia State Capitol

Wednesday March 20, 2019

2:00 pm in room 341 CAP

You can also stream the hearing online here. If attending in person, make sure to bring photo ID for security. And make sure to contact your state representative today!

Prescription drug transparency bill at risk

Accuracy and transparency for prescription drug benefits

SB 195, the Prescription Drug Benefits Freedom of Information and Consumer Protection Act, sponsored by Senator Chuck Hufstetler made it through Crossover Day and was referred to the House Insurance committee. 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. The House Insurance Committee held a hearing on SB 195 last week but the bill has not yet received a vote.

Call Insurance Committee Chairman Richard Smith at (404)-656-6831 and ask him to bring SB 195 up for a vote.

Physical activity important for children’s mental health

Recess legislation scheduled to be heard in Senate committee this week

HB 83, sponsored by Representative Demetrius Douglas, was passed by the House on Crossover Day and was referred to the Senate Education and Youth committee. 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 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Education and Youth committee on March 18th. 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.

What happened last week

Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission passed by Senate committee

Last Wednesday the Senate Health and Human Services committee voted to pass HB 514. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Kevin Tanner, would create the Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission through at least June 30, 2023. The Commission would work to analyze and offer improvements to the state’s mental health system. The Commission would be made up of a 23 member paneland 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. The bill now sits in the Senate Rules Committee, awaiting a vote on the Senate floor.

Surprise billing legislation stalls

After being passed by the Senate, SB 56 was referred to the House Insurance Committee. The bill which aims to improve transparency and disallow surprise billing in emergency situations was heard during a subcommittee meeting last week but no vote was taken. According to the subcommittee chair, it is unlikely to receive a vote before the end of legislative session. (For more details on the legislation, see our February 11th legislative update.)

Georgia Senate continues work on state budget

After finishing work on the “little budget”, the Senate held hearings last week on Georgia’s FY2020 budget. HB 31 is the budget document for the coming state fiscal year which will run from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020. It includes several new investments in behavioral health and mostly maintains funding for other health care programs and priorities. Requests from state agency leaders to the Senate included:

  • Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD)
    • $500,000 to add 550 supported housing beds in Fulton County
  • Department of Community Health (DCH)
    • $500,000 for FQHC start-up grants in Screven and Chatham counties
    • $1.9 million for 139 new primary care residency slots.
    • $500,000 for Center of Excellence on Maternal Mortality at Morehouse School of Medicine
  • Department of Public Health (DPH)
    • $2.4 million to include four new disorders to newborn screenings
    • $1 million for maternal mental health screening and referral in rural and undeserved areas
    • $500,000 for feminine hygiene products in schools and health departments

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.

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.

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