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Legislative Update: Action alert on express lane Medicaid, Gov. Kemp’s Medicaid plan, and telehealth & emergency care

Legislative Update: Week 5

The GHF team enjoys keeping you in the loop with these weekly updates and you enjoy reading them! It takes time and effort to deliver this service to you in a complete and accurate way every week of Georgia’s legislative session. If these updates help 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
  • Vote expected tomorrow on bill to reduce the number of uninsured children in Georgia
  • Legislation on telehealth, prescription drug savings, tobacco and vaping education, and more!
  • Governor’s partial Medicaid expansion plan hits roadblock
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

Action Alert: House to vote on Medicaid “Express lane” for kids

Ask the Georgia House to vote YES on HB 163!
Cartoon mom and child standing together

HB 163, which would enroll an estimated 60,000 eligible but uninsured children in Medicaid coverage, will be on the House floor for a vote tomorrow, Feb. 16th! Contact your representative today and ask them to vote YES on HB 163!   

Sponsored by House Health & Human Services (HHS) Committee Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, HB 163 directs Georgia’s Medicaid program to adopt “express lane” eligibility for kids who qualify for Medicaid coverage. Express lane eligibility is an evidence-based and cost-effective way to reduce the number of uninsured children in Georgia by making it easier for them to get enrolled and stay covered under Medicaid. Ask your representative to vote YES on HB 163!  

Legislation on telehealth, tobacco, hospital visitation, & emergency services

Legislation introduced to expand telehealth services
Telehealth appointment

Health appointments done over the phone or by video have become increasingly valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic. They allow patients to continue their normal health care routines while protecting them from exposure to COVID-19. Rep. Sharon Cooper and Rep. Mary Robichaux have introduced HB 215 and HB 307 respectively to to expand the use and functionality of these important services. 

HB 215 requires the Department of Community Health (DCH) to make permanent the temporary flexibilities granted for Medicaid telehealth services during the pandemic emergency. The bill also requires DCH to develop a system of certification and training for health providers using telehealth options.

HB 307 allows health care providers to provide telemedicine services from home and patients to receive telemedicine services from their home, workplace, or school. Additionally, the bill prohibits insurers from requiring a deductible or an in-person consultation before covering (paying for) telemedicine services. 

Both bills have been referred to the House Health & Human Services Committee.

Addition of tobacco and vaping education to K-12 curriculum
Image of crossed out cigarette and vape

HB 287, sponsored by Rep. Bonnie Rich, would require the inclusion of tobacco and vapor products when students in grades K-12 learn about alcohol and drugs. These learning units about unhealthy substances are required every year for Georgia students.

When presenting the bill to the Academic Innovation Subcommitteelast week, Rep. Rich responded to questions about the bill. She suggested that the actual content of these learning units would be determined by local school boards. The subcommittee voted yes on the bill and it has been sent to the full House Education Committee.

Contentious legislation to alter safety requirements in hospitals and nursing homes stalled
Icon of woman coughing

HB 290, sponsored by Rep. Ed Setzler, would prohibit hospitals and nursing homes from limiting visitation by patients’ loved ones during public health emergencies unless the Governor explicitly includes the limitation in an emergency declaration. It would also prevent visitors from suing hospitals or nursing homes if they became sick after their visits. 

The bill was heard last week in the House Human Relations and Aging Committee. Hospital groups expressed their concerns that the bill would “put people at risk.” No vote was taken on the bill and it is unclear when or if the committee will return to it again.

Patients protection in emergency services
image of plus sign

SB 82, sponsored by Senator Michelle Au, requires that insurers pay for emergency services regardless of the final diagnosis of the patient. The bill also revises the definition of “emergency medical services,” “emergency care,” and “emergency condition” in order to better protect patients. SB 82 was introduced in reaction to a relatively recent policy by some insurers to review consumers’ use of the emergency room to see if it is “medically necessary”. The policy has caught consumers off-gaurd and left them on the hook for unaffordable emergency room bills, while emergency providers go without payment.

The bill was heard in the Health and Workman’s Compensation subcommittee. The subcommittee approved the bill and it now moves to the full Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.

Governor’s partial Medicaid expansion plan hits roadblack

Federal government rolls back approval of gov. Kemp’s Pathways plan
Image of outline of state of Georgia

Late on Friday, federal officials changed the status of Governor Kemp’s partial Medicaid expansion plan from “approved” to “pending.” This comes after an Executive Order from President Biden to “protect and strengthen Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and to make high-quality healthcare accessible and affordable for every American.” 
The Governor’s plan requires that low-income Georgians prove they are working or completing other approved activities at least 80 per month, despite evidence that this requirement would keep thousands of Georgians from gaining coverage. These requirements are inconsistent with the President’s Executive Order and federal law. 
Federal officials will now negotiate with Georgia leaders to re-work the plan. The timeline and next steps are a bit uncertain at this time, but Georgia still has the option to fully expand Medicaid.  Ask your state leaders today to make the right choice for Georgia and expand Medicaid!

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
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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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