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Legislative Update: Mental health & substance use updates, prior authorization, Medicaid expansion, telehealth, & more!

Legislative Update: Week 7

The GHF team prides itself on being able deliver timely and accurate updates on health care happenings at the Capitol. We hope that you enjoy reading our weekly legislative updates and that they help you stay informed and connected. If you enjoy them, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you for your continued support!

In this week’s update:
Image of the Georgia capitol

General Assembly approves calendar for the rest of session
icon of calendar

The General Assembly has set its calendar for the rest of the 2021 legislative session in HR 264. The General Assembly convenes today and will reconvene for legislative day 26 on Wednesday, March 3rd. The rest of the legislative calendar will take place this month and the General Assembly plans to wrap up their work by March 31st: 

  • Crossover Day: Monday, March 8
    Crossover Day is the 28th day of session and the deadline by which bills must pass the House or the Senate in order to remain viable to become law.
  • Sine Die: Wednesday, March 31
    Sine Die is the final day of this year’s legislative session.

Action alerts: Prior authorization, Medicaid expansion, & updates to mental health & substance use laws

Prior authorization legislation moves ahead
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SB 80, the Ensuring Transparency in Prior Authorization Act, sponsored by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, aims to increase access to care by putting common sense guardrails around prior authorization. (Learn more about prior authorization in our February 8th legislative update.)This bill was heard in the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee last week and passed with amendments. SB 80 has been sent to the Senate Rules committee.

SB 80 will receive a vote by the Senate today! Ask your Senators to vote YES when this bill comes to the Senate floor! 

Second Medicaid expansion bill introduced in House!
image showing a gap between medicaid and marketplace coverage

HB 630, sponsored by House Minority Leader James Beverly, would allow Georgia to fully expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Georgia continues to be one of only 12 states that to still reject federal money to cover low-income adults. Medicaid expansion would cover more than 500,000 Georgians and remains the most popular, cost-effective, and evidence-based solution available

HB 630 was referred to the House Health and Human Services Committee.

Contact Committee Chairwoman Rep. Sharon Cooper today to ask for a hearing on HB 630! You can reach her at sharon.cooper@house.ga.gov or (404) 656-5069. (Phone calls are better than emails!)

Update to mental health & substance use laws to be heard today
behavioral health icon

HB 514 would update Georgia’s mental health and substance use laws so that they are tied to the most up-to-date science and standards. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Shelley Hutchison and has bi-partisan backing. Georgia’s current laws are tied to the mental health standards of 1981. Our understanding of mental health and substance use disorders has progressed substantially since then. The simple change proposed by this bill would bring state law in line with current standards and keep it updated moving forward.

HB 514 is on the agenda in the House Insurance Committee today. Please contact House Insurance committee members and ask them to support this bill! 

Rule changes for APRN, telehealth, & the ACA

Just in case…
icon of insurance documents

HB 509, sponsored by Rep. Houston Gaines, would only take effect in the event that the Affordable Care Act is repealed or overturned by the Supreme Court. The law requires that insurance companies offer at (watch the line spacing here) least one “reasonably priced comprehensive” health plan that has the same costs and benefits for people with preexisting conditions as compared to other consumers. The legislation has passed the House already and will now be referred to a Senate committee for further consideration. 

This bill is a promising signal from Rep. Gaines and our state legislators that the Affordable Care Act is a fundamentally important law that protects the health and well-being of Georgia consumers. While we are pleased at the bill’s sentiment, it needs to be strengthened to offer meaningful protections to Georgia individuals and families.

Legislation would make critical rule changes for APRNs
woman with nurse

HB 369, sponsored by Rep. Alan Powell, would allow physicians assistants and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to prescribe Schedule II drugs in emergency situations. These prescriptions are limited to the initial prescription only (no refills) and limited to a 5-day supply. This bill balances increased access to care, scopes of work for non-physician providers, and limits on highly addictive medications. The bill was referred to the House Regulated Industries Committee and is scheduled to be heard in the committee today.

Legislation to expand telehealth crosses over to Senate
Telehealth appointment

During the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth has been essential to Georgians, allowing them to continue their normal health care routines while staying protected from COVID-19 exposure. Several pieces of legislation were introduced this session to expand the use and functionality of these important services. HB 307 allows health care providers to provide telemedicine services from home and patients to receive telemedicine services from their home, workplace, or school. This would give providers and consumers more flexibility for when and where they can access care virtually or over the phone.  (Learn more about telehealth in our February 15th legislative update.) 

HB 307 was passed in the House and will now be considered by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.

This week’s advocacy events

Speak up for a healthier Georgia during these virtual advocacy days!
man in support circle

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:

  • Georgia Equality 2021 Lobby Day Series: Transgender Advocacy
    Tuesday, March 2, 2021, 12 – 5 pm
    Join Georgia Equality for a day of legislative advocacy from the safety of your home. Get the tools to advocate for the LGBT community and communicate with your legislators.
  • Georgia Equality 2021 Lobby Day Series: HIV/AIDS advocacy
    Tuesday, March 9, 2021
    More information to come, including a link to register and participate​​​​​​​.

Federal COVID-19 relief advances in Congress

U.S. House votes to pass American Rescue Plan 
image of U.S. capitol

This weekend, the U.S. House of Representatives (the House located in Washington, D.C.) voted to pass the American Resuce Plan. This bill follows Congress’s previous COVID-19 relief bills and would bring huge benefits to Georgia individuals and families: 

  • Extra funding if Georgia expands Medicaid–Georgia could receive $1.3 billion in extra funding if our state leaders say “yes” to Medicaid expansion. 
  • Eliminates or cuts premiums for many people with low or moderate incomes who enroll in plans through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces 
  • Provides new financial help to consumers who face high premiums but did not previously qualify for help to lower costs
  • Protects marketplace enrollees (especially those whose income fluctuated last year) from having to repay large portions of their premium tax credits

The U.S. Senate will now take up the bill. We expect that this bill will receive final approval by Congress between March 8th –14th. 

When this bill gets its final thumbs up from Congress, the Cover Georgia coalition will hold a digital advocacy day to let legislators know about the Medcaid expansion bonus! We will keep you updated on when this advocacy day will be scheduled. Plan to join us and spread the word! 

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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