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Legislative Update: Crossover day, big budget moves ahead, & action alerts!

Legislative update: Week 8

The GHF team prides itself on delivering timely and accurate updates to you 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:
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Crossover Day is here!
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Today marks Crossover Day and the 28th day of this year’s Georgia legislative session. Crossover Day is the day by which a bill must be passed from the House or Senate to the opposite chamber to remain viable. Bills that do not meet today’s deadline are “dead” for this year. In next week’s legislative update, we will run down which health bills were left on the cutting room floor and which can still be considered by legislators for their approval this year.

Action alerts: Mental health & substance use plus children’s health

Ask for a vote on HB 514 & HR 52 today!
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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 refer to the mental health and substance use standards of 1981, and are in need of an update.  (Learn more about children’s behavioral health in our March 2nd legislative update.) 

HR 52 would create the Joint Study Committee on Childhood Lead Exposure so that legislators can study how this issue is affecting Georgia children and consider fixes. (For more on HR 52, revisit GHF’s February 8th legislative update.)

Ask the House Rules committee to move these bills to the House floor for a vote today!

Bills likely to receive crossover day votes

Updating newborn screening for new disorders bill
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HB 567, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would create a Newborn Screening and Genetics Advisory Committee. This committee would make recommendations to the Department of Public Health for the addition of new disorders to Georgia’s newborn screening practices. Newborns are regularly screened for a standard panel of diseases and disorders so that they can receive any necessary services or care as soon as possible after birth. This bill is expected to receive a vote by the House today.

Legislation to promote more effective electronic health records
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HB 697, sponsored by Rep. Mark Newton, adds new requirements to an annual report submitted by all Georgia health care providers to the Georgia Department of Community Health. Under HB 697, hospitals would be required to report on whether their electronic health records (EHRs) meet federal rules that aim to improve the usefulness of EHRs for patients and providers (with the appropriate privacy protections). Read more about “meaningful use” standards for electronic health records here.

The information provided by hospitals under HB 697 would inform future efforts by the Georgia House Health & Human Services Committee to implement statewide meaningful use and interoperability requirements.

HB 697 is expected to receive a vote by the House today.

Legislation to keep young students in school by addressing health needs
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SB 106, sponsored by Sen. Gail Davenport, requires schools to provide a multi-tiered system of supports for students in pre-school through third grade before expelling or suspending students for five or more days. The legislation provides increased opportunities for schools to screen students for a variety of academic and mental health needs, and connect them to the appropriate health and other services. The bill is expected to receive a vote by the Senate today.

Legislation to update HIV related laws 
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SB 164, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, provides updates to modernize the state’s laws related to HIV. This bill would reform Georgia laws that have stigmatized and criminalized people living with HIV. The bill is expected to receive a vote by the Senate today.

Bills that would change Georgia election laws
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The Georgia Senate is expected to take up more than a dozen bills that would change Georgia’s election laws today. Last week the Georgia House passed legislation that would limit absentee and early voting, among other restrictions. Georgia’s elections, and those allowed to participate in them, shape our state’s health systems and determine the health of Georgia families. Connect with voting rights groups like the NAACPBlack Voters Matter, and League of Women Voters for updates on these bills and how you can take action. 

Approved last week

FY22 budget moves forward in General Assembly
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Last week the House approved changes to the FY22 budget (otherwise known as the big budget.) The House added $7.5 million to stabilize nursing home staffing and $500,000 added for two new federally qualified health centers in Jeff Davis County and Marion Counties. Additionally, the budget includes $1.5 million added to fund ongoing maintenance of GRITS, Georgia’s vaccine management system, and the addition of $2 million to expand the Georgia Apex Program (link to our blog), which provides mental health services in pre-K-12 schools. 

Before the budget received its House vote, Minority Leader James Beverly proposed an amendment that would have funded a Medicaid expansion so that low-income Georgia adults would have health insurance. House Republicans voted down party lines to reject the amendment, so it failed by a 98-68 vote.

The budget has been sent to the Senate Appropriations committee for its consideration. The FY22 budget begins on July 1, 2021.

Prior authorization unanimously passes in Senate
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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 passed unanimously by the Senate last week and has been sent to the House Insurance committee.

Patient protection in emergenceny services bill moves to House
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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. (Learn more about this legislation in our February 15th legislative update.) This bill was passed by the Senate last week and has been sent to the House Insurance committee.

This week’s advocacy events

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

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:

  • Cover Georgia: Digital Day of Action
    Wednesday, March 10, 2021
    Join the Cover Georgia coalition for a digital advocacy day this Wednesday, March 10th! The American Rescue Plan gives Georgia an extra $1.5 billion to expand Medicaid and is expected to gain final approval this week. Let your state leaders know that Medicaid expansion is the best deal for Georgia! More details to come!
  • Georgia Equality 2021 Lobby Day Series: HIV/AIDS advocacy
    Tuesday, March 9, 2021
    Join Georgia Equality for an overview of Georgia legislation that impacts people living with HIV and outline specific online tasks for you to complete throughout the day
  • League of Women Voters: 2021 Virtual Legislative Day
    Monday, March 15, 2021, 6 – 8:30 pm
    Join the League of Women Voters of Georgia for an update on legislation impacting elections and voting rights in this year’s legislative session.

Senate approves COVID-19 relief bill

U.S. Senate votes to pass American Rescue Plan
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This weekend, the U.S. Senate voted to pass the American Resuce Plan. The Senate’s version of the bill has some differences from the version passed by the U.S. House last week but the major health provisions remain largely unchanged. The benefits of the American Rescue Plan to Georgia individuals and families include: 

  • 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

We expect that this bill will receive final approval in the next few days! Join Cover Georgia and Southerners for Medicaid Expansion for a digital advocacy day later this week. Raise your voice to ask Georgia leaders to take a great deal and expand Medicaid!

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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