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Legislative Update: Crossover Day recap, plus action alerts on Medicaid expansion & prior auth!

Legislative update: Week 9

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:
Image of the Georgia capitol
Crossover Day marks the beginning of the end of session

Last Monday was the 28th day of the Georgia legislative session, which is also referred to as Crossover Day. Crossover Day is the final day for a bill to cross from its chamber of origin to the opposite chamber to remain viable for this legislative session. This week’s legislative update provides a rundown of consumer health legislation: which bills made it through and which did not. You can see a list of all the bills we’re tracking here

The legislature will work Monday through Thursday of this week. The legislature will also be in session on next Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and committees will work on the intervening days. The legislative session wraps up with two final days on Monday, March 29th and Wednesday, March 31st.  

Action alerts: Medicaid expansion and prior authorization

Ask for a hearing on SB 172!
image showing a gap between medicaid and marketplace coverage

SB 172, sponsored by Sen. Gloria Butler, would allow Georgia to fully expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Georgia is one of only 12 states that continues to 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

SB 172 was sent to the Senate Finance Committee but has not yet received a hearing. Contact Committee Chairman Sen. Chuck Hufstetler today to ask for a hearing on SB 172! You can reach him at chuck.hufstetler@senate.ga.gov or (404) 656-0034. (Phone calls are better than emails!)

Ask the House Insurance Committee to vote YES on SB 80!
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SB 80 will be heard by a subcommittee of the House Insurance Committee tomorrow, March 16. The Ensuring Transparency in Prior Authorization Act is sponsored by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick and 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.) Insurance companies do not want this bill to pass and are doing their best to weaken it as it moves through the legislative process.

Contact the members of the House Insurance Committee today in support of SB 80. Ask them to ensure clear timelines and strong protections for consumers are included in the bill, and then vote YES!

Our priorities

Medicaid “express lane” for kids heads to Governor’s desk | CROSSED OVER

HB 163, sponsored by House Health & Human Services (HHS) Committee Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, will direct Georgia’s Medicaid enrollment system 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. HB 163 has been approved by both the House and the Senate, and now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.

Expansion of telehealth services moves forward in Senate | CROSSED OVER
Telehealth appointment

HB 307, sponsored by Rep. Mary Robichaux, would allow 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. This would give providers and consumers more flexibility for when and where they can access care virtually or over the phone. The bill has been approved by the House and now awaits a hearing by the Senate Health & Human Services Committee.

Another option for Medicaid expansion | DID NOT CROSS OVER 
image showing a gap between medicaid and marketplace coverage

Like SB 172, HB 630 would allow Georgia to fully expand Medicaid. Sponsored by Minority Leader James Beverly, this bill has not received a hearing and did not cross over by the Crossover Day deadline. However, a hearing on either bill would be valuable (anchor link to action alert section) so that legislators learn more about the value of Medicaid expansion to Georgia, including the new $1.3-$2 Billion incentive passed as part of the American Rescue Plan.

Updating mental health & substance use laws | DID NOT CROSS OVER
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HB 514, sponsored by Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, would update Georgia’s mental health and substance use laws so that they are tied to the most up-to-date science and standards. Georgia’s current laws refer to the mental health standards of 1981. Our understanding of mental health and substance use disorders has progressed substantially since then. The changes proposed by this bill would bring state law in line with current standards and keep it updated moving forward. HB 514 was approved by the House Insurance Committee

Incentivizing Georgia’s all-payer claims database | DID NOT CROSS OVER
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SB 1, sponsored by Sen. 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. SB 1 was sent to the Senate Finance Committee but has not yet received a vote.

Crossover day recap

HB 80: Amended FY 2021 Budget | SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
HB 80 makes adjustments to the state budget for the current fiscal year which runs through June 30, 2021. The “little budget” has passed both chambers of the General Assembly, been signed by the Governor and went into effect February 15, 2021.

HB 81: FY 2022 Budget | CROSSED OVER
HB 81 is the budget document for the coming state fiscal year which will run from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022. For more information on the health care highlights in the proposed FY 2022 budget, read the budget overviews from the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute

HB 49: Mental Health Parity Act | DID NOT CROSS OVER
HB 49, the Mental Health Parity Act, sponsored by Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, 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.

HB 72: Postpartum Medicaid extension | DID NOT CROSS OVER
HB 72, sponsored by Rep. Carolyn Hugley, continues Rep. Sharon Cooper’s work from 2020 to extend the amount of time that new moms are covered by Medicaid. This 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 128: Organ transplant discrimination | CROSSED OVER
HB 128, sponsored by Rep. Rick Williams, would protect people with disabilities from being removed from organ donor waiting lists because of their disabilities. 

HB 164: Prescription drug savings | DID NOT CROSS OVER
HB 164, sponsored by Rep. Demetrius Douglas 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. 

HB 215: Telehealth certification & Medicaid flexibilities | DID NOT CROSS OVER
HB 215, sponsored by Rep. Mary Robichaux, 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 287: Tobacco & vaping education | CROSSED OVER
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.

HB 290: Hospital & nursing home visitation & patient rights | CROSSED OVER
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. 

HB 408: Promoting housing stability | DID NOT CROSS OVER
HB 408, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would promote housing stability for families. The bill would require eviction notices be provided and delivered in writing. The bill would also allow tenants to pay all back rent within seven days of receiving the notice – an opportunity they do not currently have.

HB 567: | Updating newborn screening for new disorders | CROSSED OVER 
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.

HB 697: Promoting effective electronic records | CROSSED OVER
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).

HR 52: Childhood lead exposure | DID NOT CROSS OVER 
HR 52, sponsored by Representative Katie Dempsey, creates the Joint Study Committee on Childhood Lead Exposure. Lead poisoning in children continues to be a serious issue in Georgia as lead poisoning is irreversible and can cause speech, language, and behavioral problems, lower IQ levels, and nervous system damage.

HR 186: Joint Medicaid Sustainability Study Committee | DID NOT CROSS OVER 
HR 186, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Bucker, would create the Joint Medicaid Sustainability Study Committee. This bill would bring together state leaders, consumers, health care providers, insurers, and other stakeholders to examine Georgia’s Medicaid system and look for opportunities to strengthen it.  

SB 46: Expanding vaccine administration | CROSSED OVER 
SB 46, sponsored by Senator Dean Burke, allows emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and cardiac technicians to give vaccines during public health emergencies. This authorization only applies to vaccines for illnesses for which there are declared public health emergencies. This bill also removes the exemption for children under 18 to register with the statewide vaccination registry (called GRITS) for vaccinations administered due to a declared public health emergency.

SB 82: Patient protections in emergency situations | CROSSED OVER 
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 83: Making Medicaid a public option | DID NOT CROSS OVER 
SB 83, sponsored by Senator Sally Harell, provides for a Medicaid public option program. The bill directs the Department of Community Health to develop a new public insurance option called “Peachcare Public Option” that would allow all Georgians, regardless of age, income level, or insurance status to buy in to Georgia’s Medicaid Managed Care program. This is the same system used for Georgia’s popular Peachcare for Kids program. 

SB 106: Promoting behavioral health to keep students in school | CROSSED OVER 
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. 

SB 164: Updating HIV related laws | CROSSED OVER
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.

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:

League of Women Voters: 2021 Virtual Legislative Day
Today, 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.

Georgia Equality 2021 Lobby Day Series: LGBT advocacy
Tuesday, March 16, 2021, 12 – 5:00 pm
Join Georgia Equality for an overview of Georgia legislation that impacts the LGBT community and online tasks for you to complete throughout the day

President Biden signs COVID-19 relief bill

President Biden signs American Rescue Plan into law
image of U.S. capitol

Last Thursday, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan into law. The bill went through some changes before reachng the President’s desk but the major health provisions remain largely unchanged. The benefits of the American Rescue Plan to Georgia individuals and families include:

  • Enhanced funding opportunities for states (like Georgia) who expand Medicaid–Georgia could receive $1.3 billion in extra funding if our state leaders say “yes” to Medicaid expansion.
  • New options to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months so new moms stay covered longer
  • A requirement that consumers covered by Medicaid and or PeachCare for Kids pay nothing out-of-pocket for COVID-19 vaccines and treatment 
  • Additional federal funding for home- and community-based health services that allow seniors and people with disabilities to live with dignity in their homes
  • Funding to expand access to substance use treatment and prevention services, addiction workforce training, and community substance use & mental health services (like syringe services programs and programs that keep people with addictions alive and supported)
  • New financial help to consumers who face high premiums but did not previously qualify for help to lower their costs
  • Lower or zero-dollar ($0) premiums for many people with low or moderate incomes who enroll in plans through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplaces
  • Subsidies for COBRA premiums for individuals who have lost coverage through a qualifying event.
  • Protections for marketplace enrollees (especially those whose income fluctuated last year) against large repayments of their premium tax credits

The American Rescue Plan is the first and a meaningful expansion of the Affordable Care Act since the ACA’s passage more than a decade go. Help us spread the word! 127,000 uninsured Georgians are newly eligible for financial help to lower their health insurance costs. Another 134,900 uninsured Georgians can qualify for quality health insurance with a $0 monthly premium. Georgians can visit healthcare.gov to shop and enroll in coverage until May 15th! 

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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