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Legislative Update: House finishes little budget, take action for HIV/AIDs, plus new legislation

Legislative update: Week 3

The GHF team loves bringing you these weekly legislative updates, and you have told us that you enjoy reading them! Our team works hard to deliver this service to you in a complete and accurate way every week of Georgia’s legislative session. If you rely on these updates to keep you connected to the health happenings under the Gold Dome, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you very much!

In this week’s update:

Image of the Georgia capitol

Georgia House approves changes to current
state budget

On Thursday, the Georgia House of Representatives passed its mid-year changes to the state’s current budget. Before passage, the House made several notable investments in Georgia’s public health agency and added support for Georgia nursing homes. The Senate will now take up the amended FY2021 budget while the House turns its attention to Georgia’s FY2022 budget which will begin on July 1st. 
Additions to Georgia’s Department of Public Health but continued advocacy needed
Dollar sign in health care plus sign

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, led by Chairman Butch Parrish, added $33.7 million to the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) budget. This addition includes $286,000 for the addition of a chief medical officer, a deputy commissioner, and a chief data officer. It does not include any other staffing increases for DPH or county health departments or pay raises for existing staff. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Health will now decide whether these additions are maintained and whether any additional funding is dedicated to address the needs of Georgia’s public health workers. (You can easily contact these committee members through this link but be sure to add your own words about helping public health staff by funding salary increases and additional positions.)

The increase approved by the House also includes $18 million to replace the Georgia Registry of Immunization Transactions & Services (GRITS). GRITS is typically used to track children’s vaccination histories. It has now been put to work tracking who has received COVID-19 vaccines but it urgently needs modernizing to meet the demands of the pandemic. 

The subcommittee also added $15 million for the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). ADAP provides health coverage for Georgians with HIV/AIDS who would otherwise not be able to afford it or medications needed to keep them healthy and alive. Click here to ask Senate appropriations committee members to keep this money in the budget. 

House makes changes to help nursing homes; Division of Insurance Regulation budget static for 10 years

Other House-approved changes to the amended FY2021 include the addition of $18 million to the Department of Community Health’s budget for nursing homes, which will allow these facilities to draw down more federal funding. The House also added $478,000 to stabilize staffing in nursing homes which have suffered from large losses of personnel due to COVID-19.

The House removed $800,000 from the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ FY21 budget for a forensic behavioral health unit in Columbus. 

The House made no changes to the amended FY2021 budget for the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance. The Insurance Regulation Division of OCI will be funded with $5.4 million, the same level at which it has been funded for at least a decade. The static level of funding, adjusted only for inflation it seems, hinders the division’s efforts to do important work that would help Georgia consumers like enforcing mental health and substance use equity.

Take action to protect Georgians with HIV/AIDS

Georgia Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Public Health needs to hear from you today!
image of a red ribbon

A $15.4 million increase for the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program has been approved by the House (led by Subcommittee Chair Butch Parrish). These funds are necessary for more than 12,000 Georgians living with HIV to have continued access to life saving medication. Contact the Senate subcommittee that’s now considering whether to keep these funds in the budget! Georgia is poised to make dramatic inroads to contain the spread of HIV but only if the Department of Public Health and county health departments throughout Georgia have the funding they need to provide these services. Send your message now!

Legislation that deserves your attention

The first few weeks of Georgia’s legislative session are taken up by some ceremonial activities and a lot of focus on the budget. That means new legislation gets off to a slow start. While little attention has been paid to new bills so far, we expect committees in both chambers to begin meeting and considering legislation in the coming days. Here are a few that we believe deserve your attention and the attention of legislators.
Medicaid “express lane” for kids, plus more Medicaid for new moms
child and mother health care

Sponsored by House Health & Human Services Committee Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, HB 163 directs Georgia’s Medicaid enrollment system and Medicaid agency to adopt “express lane” eligibility for kids who qualify for Medicaid coverage. Express lane eligibility means that the state would use information collected from other state programs (like food assistance) to assess whether a child is eligible for Medicaid and get them enrolled. This is an evidence-based and cost-effective way to get more Georgia kids covered and keep them covered over time. 

Rep. Carolyn Hugley has sponsored HB 72 which continues Chairwoman Sharon Cooper’s work from 2020 to extend the amount of time that new moms are covered by Medicaid. Last year’s successful passage of Rep. Cooper’s HB 1114 prompted Georgia to seek approval from the federal government to extend Medicaid coverage for new moms from 2 months to 6 months after birth. The state’s request is still pending but it will likely be approved. Rep. Hugley’s bill would extend the length of coverage for new moms from 6 to 12 months, which is the duration recommended by the Georgia Maternal Mortality Review Committee and other groups in 2019. 

HB 72 and HB 163 have both been referred to the House Health & Human Services Committee. 

Putting prescription drug savings back in consumer pockets
image of prescription medication

Titled the “Prescription Drug Consumer Financial Protection Act”, HB 164 is sponsored by Rep. Demetrius Douglas and has bi-partisan backing. The bill would require health insurers to pass on at least 80% of the savings or rebates received on prescription drug costs to the consumer when a person pays for their medicines. Health insurers often use middle-men called “pharmacy benefit managers” to negotiate cost savings on prescription medicines but those savings do not have to be passed on to the consumer directly. This bill would ensure at least 80% of those savings are given to the consumer directly and applied on the front end to lower the cost when a person is paying for their medicines at the pharmacy.HB 164 has been referred to the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care

Incentivizing participation in Georgia’s new all-payer claims database
image of plus sign

With SB 1, Senator Dean Burke continues his work to establish Georgia’s all-payer claims database (APCD), which will help Georgia policymakers, consumer advocates, and other stakeholders manage the rising costs of health care. SB 1 requires that companies that receive Georgia tax exemptions submit data to the APCD. If companies like these, which provide a large proportion of Georgia consumers with job-based health coverage, do not contribute their data, the APCD will be incomplete and inaccurate. A more complete dataset–made possible by the participation of these companies–will paint a more accurate picture for policy makers, researchers, advocates, and consumers, and lead to better policy making. (Bottom line: Georgia will trade existing tax exemptions for businesses’ health insurance data. We believe that will help Georgians pay lower health costs.) SB 1 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Chuck Hufstetler. 

This week’s advocacy events

Speak up for a healthier Georgia during these virtual advocacy days!

man in group setting

Don’t miss out on opportunities for advocacy with GHF and our partners! Attend these advocacy events and help us build a healthier Georgia together:

GHF has you covered!

Stay up-to-date with the legislative session

icon of the capitol

GHF will continue monitoring legislative activity on a critical consumer health care issues. 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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