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Legislative Update: Early budget preview, legislation, and opportunities for advocacy

Legislative Update: Week 1

The 2021 legislative session has begun
Picture of the Georgia capitol

Last week, the Georgia General Assembly convened for the first time in 2021. The first four days of the 2021 legislative session were held with additional COVID-19 safety protocols in place. The attentions of legislators were mostly taken up with committee appointments, (including a change in leadership for the Senate Insurance Committee from Sen. Burt Jones to Sen. Dean Burke), Governor Kemp’s third State of the State address, and other annual traditions, including GHF’s own Health Care Unscrambled

This week will be primarily dedicated to budget hearings for the current (FY 2021 Amended) and next year’s (FY 2022) state budgets. The General Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday, January 26th for the fifth day of legislative session.

GHF releases 2021-2022 policy priorities
GHF logo

Georgians for a Healthy Future released its 2021 policy priorities at this month’s eleventh annual Health Care Unscrambled event. These annual priorities outline the issues that GHF believes are most pressing for Georgia consumers and are best addressed by the state legislature. This year’s priorities list is longer than in past years because of the strain that COVID-19 has placed on our health system and the lessons that we have learned from the racial justice movement. A few familiar and new highlights include:

  • Close Georgia’s coverage gap. GHF supports extending health insurance to all low-income Georgians.
  • Build a strong foundation for Georgia’s health insurance marketplace by strengthening consumer protections, increasing access to needed health services, and limiting the sale of health plans that do not cover basic services (like prescription drugs).
  • Set and enforce standards that provide for equitable coverage of mental health and substance use treatment services by public and private health plans.
  • Fund and create Georgia’s all payer claims database.
  • Provide Georgia’s Department of Public Health with sufficient funds, resources, and support to carry out its mission
  • Motivate state leaders to examine the racial equity implications of state budget and legislative proposals.

GHF will work to move all of these issues forward by engaging state policy makers, consumers, and coalition partners throughout the legislative session and in other settings this year and next.

Governor outlines priorities in annual address

Governor Kemp submits his budget recommendations
Georgia image

Last Thursday, Governor Kemp addressed the General Assembly in his third annual State of the State address and, per tradition, used the opportunity to introduce his proposed budget. Governor Kemp highlighted the state’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and outlined several priorities for the 2021 legislative session. 

The Governor’s amended budget proposal (an update to the current state budget) includes some modest restoration of cuts from last year. Excitingly, the proposal includes the addition of $750,000 to the Department of Community Health for Georgia’s all-payer claims database. This budget runs through June 30, 2021.

The Governor’s recommended FY 2022 budget, which begins on July 1, 2021, restores some funding to schools but otherwise retains many cuts from the current budget.  This proposed budget directs the Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities to use existing funds to expand the housing supports pilot program for the Georgia Housing Voucher Program.

Both budgets include funds for the initial roll-out of the Governor’s partial Medicaid expansion plan ($74 million collectively). Also included in both budgets is funding (more than $50 million) for a broadband infrastructure grants program to enable rural communities to expand and improve their broadband connectivity—an important asset for telehealth and improving access to care for rural residents.

The House will now consider and make changes to the two budget proposals before passing them to the Senate later in the session.

Opportunities for advocacy!

New Year! New Medicaid goals!
Image with gold 2021

Over 560,000 Georgians are still waiting for Georgia leaders to make the right choice and expand Medicaid. State leaders can expand Medicaid at any time and we are asking them to publicly commit to doing just that in 2021! By expanding the Medicaid health insurance program, thousands more Georgians would gain health coverage and access to care if they become sick without the worry of unaffordable medical bills afterward. Georgia is one of only 12 states that have not yet done the right thing by expanding Medicaid. Our legislators can make 2021 a brighter, healthier year for all Georgians! Ask your legislators to make a New Year’s resolution for Medicaid expansion today.

Speak up for a healthier Georgia during these virtual advocacy days!
Photo of a rally for health care at the Georgia capitol

Don’t miss out on opportunities for advocacy with GHF and our amazing partners! We’ll be sharing exciting events and advocacy opportunities throughout this year’s legislative session. Save these dates and help us build a healthier Georgia together:

Early legislation introduced

Mental Health Parity Act introduced
Stock image of a young person's head with multicolor orbs to represent thought

HB 49, the Mental Health Parity Act, would require insurers to treat mental health and substance use disorders just as they do other kinds of health needs. While this is already required by federal law, public and private health insurers often fall short. State law would give the Georgia Departments of Insurance and Community Health new tools to enforce the federal parity law. With these tools, state officials could better ensure public and private health insurance plans cover the care they are required to cover for Georgia adults and children with mental health and substance use needs. The legislation is sponsored by Rep. Shelly Hutchinson. You can learn more about this topic in our What is Parity in Behavioral Health Services?fact sheet. 

The legislative calendar begins to take shape
Photo of Georgia capitol

The General Assembly set its calendar for the first five days of the 2021 legislative session in HR 10. After this week’s budget hearings, the session will pick up again according to the following schedule:

  • January 26: Day 5

GHF has you covered

Stay up-to-date with the legislative session
Icon capitol image

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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