Month: January 2020

Legislative Update: Let’s talk about money

Legislative Update: Week 2

General assembly meets for joint budget hearings

Last week the Georgia General Assembly met for joint budget hearings. Both the House and Senate heard from Governor Brian Kemp and agency leaders about their requests for the current and upcoming state budgets. The General Assembly’s budgetary considerations consist of two parts:

1) Amendments to the current FY 2020 state budget (sometimes called the “little budget”) which will run through June 30, 2020, and

2) The FY 2021 general state budget (sometimes called the “big budget”), which will begin on July 1, 2020.

After the agency presentations, the House will craft the budget requests into legislation and continue its funding considerations.

Here we highlight some of the primary asks made by the state agencies that most impact consumer health. For more detailed budget analysis, please see the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s Overview of Georgia’s 2021 Fiscal Year Budget document.

Both chambers will reconvene today, January 27th, for the fifth day of legislative session.


State agencies present budget requests to General Assembly

Department of Community Health

The Department of Community Health (DCH) oversees Medicaid, PeachCare, hospital regulation, and other state health care programs. DCH’s presentation to the budget committees listed their current priorities as a reorganization of the Medicaid program, improvements in health care analytics, and certificate of need. While Medicaid was specifically exempted from the Governor’s requested budget cuts, DCH’s other programs are subject to funding reductions.

DCH’s FY 2020 budget includes an addition of $23 million to support the Indigent Care Trust Fund, which draws down additional federal money for Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments. DCH’s proposed cuts for the current budget year include a $463,000 cut from the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center, $962,000 in reduced funds for the Mercer School of Medicine operating grant and $1.2 million cut from the Morehouse School of Medicine operating grant.

DCH’s FY 2021 budget reductions included additional funding cuts for the Rural Health Systems Innovation Center, Mercer School of Medicine, and Morehouse School of Medicine. DCH requested an increase of $169 million for Medicaid and PeachCare, of which $79.8 million would offset a reduction in the matching Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate. The FY 2021 request also includes a $101.5 million increase for expected enrollment growth in Medicaid.


Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) provides treatment, support services, and assistance to Georgians with disabilities, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders. Commissioner Fitzgerald presented DBHDD’s budget, and while acknowledging the need for improved efficiencies, she lamented the negative impact budget cuts would have on services to Georgians.

As expressed in their presentation to budget leaders, DBHDD’s top priority is minimizing the impact of funding cuts on the Georgians they serve. The FY 2020 budget will see $33.3 million in reduced funding, in part made up of $12.8 million from child and adolescent mental health services, $5 million from adult addictive disease services, and $4.1 million in reduced direct care support services.

The FY 2021 budget includes an addition of $2.7 million for 125 new slots in the New Options Now program for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, the budget also includes funding cuts of $14 million to child and adolescent mental health services, $8 million in adult behavioral health services, $5 million for adult addictive disease services, and $4.8 million in direct care support services.


Department of Insurance

The Office of the Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner (aka the Department of Insurance or DOI) regulates individual and small group health insurance and many other types of insurance sold in Georgia. DOI’s budget request included a one-time addition of $700,000 for updated technology so that the department can more efficiently regulate and collect fees from insurance companies. DOI’s budget has been largely stagnant for the last decade and, as a result, few budget cuts were required.


Halfway there! Don’t miss your chance to act!

The comment period is halfway over! Take action now!

Before the legislative session began, Governor Kemp filed paperwork with health officials in the federal government to move forward with their plans to change Medicaid and private insurance in Georgia. Now those health officials need your input, beginning with the Medicaid plan!

Governor Kemp’s Medicaid plan will leave thousands of low-income Georgians with no meaningful way to get health insurance. Instead of expanding Medicaid to cover 490,000 Georgians, this plan would cover only 50,000 people and cost three times more per person.

We need you to step up AGAIN and become a health care hero by telling national officials what you think of the Medicaid plan! The deadline for comment is Friday, February 7th. Visit CoverGA.org to comment today!

Did you submit a comment in November? Please submit a comment again so federal officials can hear directly from you.


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.


Legislative Update: Surprise billing, vaping, & Georgia’s budget

Legislative Update: Week 1

The 2020 legislative session has begun

Last week, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the first time in 2020. The first four days of the 2020 legislative session were mostly taken up with committee appointments, Governor Kemp’s second State of the State address, and other annual traditions including GHF’s own Health Care Unscrambled

This week will be dedicated primarily to budget hearings for the current (FY 2020 Amended) and next year’s (FY 2021) state budgets. The General Assembly will reconvene next Monday, January 27th for the fifth day of legislative session. 


Efforts to address surprise billing gain early momentum

The issue of surprise out-of-network medical billing (sometimes called “surprise billing” or “balance billing”) is already getting a lot of attention early in the 2020 session. At Health Care Unscrambled, Senate Health & Human Services Chairman Ben Watson said, “If we do not pass balanced billing or surprised billing this year, I don’t think it will be a successful session.” Governor Kemp added his support during his State of the State address, saying “Working with patients, providers, and the private sector, we’ll craft a legislative remedy to reduce surprise medical billing. We will demand transparency, embrace empathy, and insist on fairness.” 

GHF and our partners at Georgia Watch have long advocated for a legislative solution that protects Georgia consumers from payment battles between insurers and providers. We are grateful for the support of Governor Kemp, Lieutenant Governor Duncan, and legislative leaders on this important issue. We look forward to working with all parties to ensure that Georgia consumers are no longer stuck with surprise bills when they go to the doctor.


Governor outlines priorities in annual address

Governor Kemp submits his budget recommendations

On Thursday, Governor Kemp addressed the General Assembly in his second annual State of the State address and, per tradition, used the opportunity to introduce his proposed budget. Governor Kemp also laid out his priorities for his second year in office, including education, foster care, and public safety.

The amended budget (an update to the current state budget) includes a 4% cut to cut state spending through the end of the state fiscal year (June 30, 2020).

The Governor’s recommended FY 2021 budget, which will begin on July 1, 2020, includes a 6% cut to state spending. Despite the cut, a $89.6 million increase in the Medicaid budget is proposed to address growing enrollment. The House will now take up and consider the two budgets before passing them to the Senate later in the session.


Action Alert!

Act now, submit your comment today!

Before the legislative session began, Gov. Kemp filed paperwork with health officials in the federal government to move forward with their plans to change Medicaid and private insurance in Georgia. Now those health officials must ask for your input, beginning with the Medicaid plan! 
 

Gov. Kemp’s Medicaid plan will leave thousands of low-income Georgians with no meaningful pathway to coverage. We need you to step up AGAIN and become a health care hero by telling health officials what you think of the Medicaid plan! The deadline for comment is Friday, February 7th. Visit CoverGA.org to comment today! 

Did you submit a comment in November? Please submit a comment again so federal officials can hear directly from you.


Early legislation introduced

Legislation to restrict vaping

SB 298 would raise the minimum age to purchase vaping products from the current age of 18 to 21. It would also set tougher penalties for selling tobacco, nicotine and vaping products to minors and would require schools to include information about the harms of vaping and smoking in their health education curricula. The legislation is sponsored by Senator Renee Unterman. Similar legislation is expected to be introduced in the House in the coming weeks. The bill has been referred to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.


The legislative calendar begins to take shape

The General Assembly set its calendar for the first fourteen days of the 2020 legislative session in HR 879. After this week’s budget hearings, the session will pick up again according to the following schedule:

January 27: Day 5

January 28: Day 6

January 29: Day 7

February 30: Day 8

February 31: Day 9

February 3: Day 10

February 4: Day 11

February 5: Day 12

February 6: Day 13

February 10: Day 14


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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