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Legislative Update: Sine Die brings Georgia’s 2021 legislative session to an end

Legislative update: Sine Die

Thank you for your continued readership and support during the 2021 legislative session! The GHF team is proud to deliver timely, accurate updates to you on health care happenings at the Capitol. We hope that they have helped you stay informed and connected. If you have enjoyed reading each week’s edition, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you very much!

In this week’s update:
Image of the Georgia capitol
Sine die brings end to 2021 legislative session 

The 40th and final day of Georgia’s legislative session is called “Sine Die”. This year’s Sine Die took place on Wednesday, March 31st.

While the House and Senate have finished their work for the session, the bills they approved will now be considered by the Governor. The Governor has 40 days to sign or veto each piece of legislation. (If he does not sign a bill, it automatically becomes law.) 

Below you will find a summary of the more notable bills taken up this session, including bills that advance GHF’s 2021-2022 policy priorities. You can find a full list of health related legislation at GHF’s legislative tracker.

Our priorities

Medicaid “express lane” for kids awaits Governor’s signature

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 was approved early in this year’s session, and now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Expansion of telehealth services heads to Governor’s desk

HB 307, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, 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 restricts insurers from requiring a deductible or an in-person consultation before covering (paying for) telemedicine services. This would give providers and consumers more flexibility about when and where they can access care virtually or over the phone. The bill received a final thumbs up from the House on Sine Die, and has been sent to Governor’s desk.

Prior authorization passed by General Assembly

SB 80 was passed by the Georgia House last week after several changes were made to the bill. 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 changes to the prior authorization bill in our March 29th legislative update.)  This week the Senate agreed to the changes made to SB 80 in the House for final approval and can now be sent to the Governor for his signature.

Priority legislation that did not succeed this year

Several GHF priorities were not approved in this year’s session. These bills can be considered by the General Assembly during the 2022 legislative session.

  • HB 630 and SB 172, which would have allowed Georgia to expand Medicaid coverage to low-income adults, did not receive hearings or votes by the legislature.
  • HB 514 would have tied Georgia’s mental health and substance use laws to the most up-to-date science and standards, and keep our laws updated moving forward. After approval from the House Insurance Committee, HB 514 did not receive a vote by the House before Crossover Day.
  • SB 1 would have required that companies receiving Georgia tax exemptions contribute health insurance data to the state’s all payer claims database. Business groups opposed SB 1, so the bill did not receive a vote in the Senate Finance Committee despite having a hearing in the early days of this year’s session.

Sine Die 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 | PASSED
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 on the approved FY 2022 budget, check out Georgia Budget & Policy Institute’s Sine Die blog and this article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

HB 128: Organ transplant discrimination | PASSED
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 146: Paid parental leave for state employees  |  PASSED
HB 146, sponsored by Rep. Houston Gaines, would provide three weeks of paid parental leave to state employees after birth, adoptions, or foster placements.

HB 287: Tobacco & vaping education | PASSED
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 | DID NOT PASS
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 454: Changes to in-network health care providers |  PASSED 
HB 454, sponsored by Rep. Mark Newton, which requires health insurance plans to cover health services as if they are in-network even if the provider moves out-of-network after a consumer’s health plan year has started. The protection would last for 6 months (180 days) from the time of the change or the end of a consumer’s plan year, whichever is sooner.

HB 567: | Updating newborn screening for new disorders | PASSED
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 | DID NOT PASS
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).

SB 46: Expanding vaccine administration | PASSED
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 | DID NOT PASS
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 106: Promoting behavioral health to keep students in school | DID NOT PASS
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 | DID NOT PASS
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.

GHF has you covered!

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