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Legislative Update: $$$, this week’s advocacy opportunities, & what’s next

Legislative Update: Week 2

General Assembly meets for joint budget hearings 
Picture of the Georgia capitol

The Georgia General Assembly met last week for joint budget hearings. During “budget week” both the House and Senate heard from Governor Kemp and agency leaders about their requests for the current and upcoming state budgets. The General Assembly’s budgetary considerations consist of two parts:

  1. Changes to the current FY 2022 state budget (sometimes called the “little budget”) which will run through June 30, 2022, and
  2. The FY 2023 general state budget (the “big budget”), which will begin on July 1, 2022.

After the agency presentations, the House will pull together the budget requests into legislation and continue to review funding requests.

Below we highlight some of the primary asks made by the state agencies that most impact our health, especially during the current health crisis. For more detailed budget analysis, please see the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s Overview of Georgia’s 2023 Fiscal Year Budget.

The General Assembly will reconvene on January 25th for the fifth day of legislative session.

State agencies present budget requests to General Assembly

Department of Public Health 
Icon with apple, house, dollar sign, and car. Represents health care in all sectors

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) works to prevent disease, injury and disability; promote health and well-being; and prepare for and respond to disasters from a health perspective.

Dr. Toomey, Commissioner of DPH, began the agency’s presentation by addressing the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, outbreaks in the state due to the Omicron varient, and testing sites including school testing sites as well as COVID-19 therapeutics. DPH reported that 54% of all Georgians are fully vaccinated with 9% of children aged 5 through 11 being fully vaccinated. 

DPH requested an increase of $76M to their FY2022 to FY2023 budget, which includes a $5,000 state employee pay raise. It also includes $9.9 million for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, which you can read more about in Georgia Equality’s new report here.  This budget request is an 27% increase from FY2021 to FY 2022. 

Department of Community Health 
Medicaid and Peachcare icon

The Department of Community Health (DCH) oversees Medicaid, PeachCare, hospital regulation, and other state health care programs. DCH’s presentation to the budget committees highlighted their COVID-19 response priorities including increased hospital bed capacity, data collection, infection control, and increases in children and family Medicaid coverage. Commissioner Caylee Noggle also highlighted the recruitment of new staff for the department and DCH’s new focus on technology and IT infrastructre changes. 

DCH’s FY2022 to FY2023 budget includes a request for an increase of $513M, which is an 13% increase from FY2021 to FY 2022. DCH’s request makes up almost one quarter (23%) of the state’s budget. This increase includes changes to Medicaid enrollment and adjusts for the expected end of the COVID-19 public health emergency when the federal government will stop sending extra Medicaid money to states to support the pandemic response.

Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities  
Image depicting behavioral health

The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) provides treatment, support services, and assistance to Georgians with developmental disabilities, mental health conditions, and substance use disorders. 

Commissioner Judy Fitzgerald presented DBHDD’s budget and highlighted statewide effects from the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health, suicide rates, and substance use. These effects include statewide an increase in rural suicide rates (while the rest of the state saw a slight decrease), an increase in overdose deaths statewide, and severe staff shortages in hospitals and direct crisis medical centers. 

The FY2022 to FY2023 budget requested an $129M increase, which is an 11% increase from FY2021 to FY 2022. 

Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner

The Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner (OCI) licenses and regulates insurance companies (including health insurance companies), investigates reports of insurance fraud, and inspects buildings to prevent fire.

OCI’s amended FY2022 to FY2023 budget contain $140M for a reinsurance program that aims to lower health insurance premiums, especially in rural areas. It also includes $15M to remove Georgia from healthcare.gov and set-up a state website that refers consumers to agent, brokers, and insurance companies. This plan is currently under review by federal health officials. 

OCI’s budget does not yet include a request for a full-time employee to ensure that health insurance companies are covering mental health and substance use services in fair, transparent, and equitable ways. GHF and many of our advocacy partners will be working with law makers to add funding to the budget for this position and the supports they will need to be effective.

Opportunities for advocacy!

Speak up for a healthier Georgia during these virtual advocacy days!
Image of rally for health care in front of Georgia capitol

Each week during the legislative session, we’ll highlight legislative advocacy days from partner groups. These are great opportunities for you to participate in the lawmaking process by meeting your legislators and speaking up about important issues. Upcoming:

If you have an upcoming advocacy event that you’d like included, please contact Alex McDoniel at amcdoniel@healthyfuturega.org

GHF has you covered

Stay up-to-date with the legislative session
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GHF will be monitoring legislative activity on a number of critical consumer health care topics. 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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