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Legislative Update: Mental health bill introduced, new legislation, General Assembly calendar and more!

Legislative update: Week 3

The GHF team loves bringing you these weekly legislative updates, and you have told us that you enjoy reading them! Our team works hard to deliver this service to you in a complete and accurate way every week of Georgia’s legislative session. If you rely on these updates to keep you connected to the health happenings under the Gold Dome, please consider supporting our work with a donation today. Thank you very much!

In this week’s update:

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  • Georgia House Speaker introduces Mental Health Parity Act
  • Legislation on increasing postpartum coverage, drug prices, COVID-19 vaccines, and more!
  • The General Assembly sets their 2022 calendar
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

House Speaker introduces big mental health & substance use legislation

House Speaker Ralston unveils Mental Health Parity Act with bipartisan support from legislators & advocates  

On Wednesday, January 26th, House Speaker David Ralston introduced landmark legislation to address the state’s pressing mental health & substance use needs. Joined by bipartisan legislators and advocates from around the state, including GHF, Speaker Ralston announced HB 1013, known as the Mental Health Parity Act. Central to the bill are strong behavioral health parity provisions for both private health insurers and public health insurance (Medicaid managed care, Peach Care for Kids, and the State Health Benefit Plan). These parity provisions will require insurers to cover mental health and substance abuse disorders services equitably to other health services. 

In the words of Speaker David Ralston, “They [insurers] can expect to treat mental health care just the same as they treat physical health care. It is way past time they did that.” 

The Mental Health Parity Act is almost 80 pages long and includes many other provisions that aim to close our mental health & substance use workforce gaps, support children and youth with complex mental health & substance use needs, distance mental health & substance use from the criminal legal system, and more. GHF is working with a coalition of advocates in support of this legislation and we look forward to releasing an easy-to-understand bill summary in the coming days.  

The Mental Health Parity Act has been referred to the House Committee on Health & Human ServicesJoin GHF and our advocate partners and show your support for this bill by contacting your legislators today!

Legislation that deserves your attention

The first few weeks of Georgia’s legislative session are taken up by some ceremonial activities and a lot of focus on the budget. That means new legislation gets off to a slow start. While little attention has been paid to new bills so far, we expect committees in both chambers to begin meeting and considering legislation in the coming days. Here are a few that we believe deserve your attention and the attention of legislators.
Increasing postpartum coverage Medicaid

Introduced by Senator Dean Burke, SB 338 will increase postpartum coverage for mothers under Medicaid from six months to one year following birth (or miscarriage). The bill aims to improve maternal health in Georgia as Medicaid covers more than half of births in the state each year. The Governor has already expressed his support for this coverage extension and dedicated $28 million to it in his proposed FY23 budget.

SB 338 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health & Human Services and will receive a hearing on February 1st at 2 pm. 

Putting prescription drug savings back in consumer pockets
image of prescription medication

Titled the “Truth in Prescription Pricing for Patients Act”, HB 867 is sponsored by Rep. Mark Newton. This bill would require private health insurers and their Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to disclose the true net cost and final net cost of drugs to consumers at the pharmacy counter. The bill directs PBMs to disclose the full rebate amount they receive from drug manufacturers and to pass along 100% of that rebate to the consumer. This will reduce prescription drug costs for Georgians at the point of sale.

HB 867 was heard and approved by the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care last week. The House Rules Committee will now decide if the bill will get a vote by the full House.

Three bills attempt to ban COVID-19 vaccine “passports”

Three Republican legislators have filed bills that attempt to prohibit vaccination requirements or proof of vaccines in one way or another.

HB 869, sponsored by Rep. Charlice Byrd, is perhaps the most narrowly written. It would prohibit local governments or the state from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination for participation in public programs (like school) or for entry into public settings (like government buildings or health care facilities.) It would also prohibit local governments or the state from issuing standard documentation that serves as proof of vaccination (often called a “vaccine passport”).

Senator Jeff Mullis introduced SB 345. This bill would prohibit state and local governments from mandating vaccine passports, but is so broadly written that it could be interpreted to end all required vaccinations like those for school children. SB 345 has been referred to the Senate Health & Human Services committee.

SB 372 is sponsored by Senator Brandon Beach. It would define vaccine requirements as discriminatory, which would make it unlawful to require vaccines for school admittance (except current vaccination requirements), as a condition of employment, and in other circumstances. SB 372 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

GHF wholeheartedly supports FDA-approved vaccines and vaccination requirements to participate in public life/institutions. We will be watching these bills closely. 

Georgia’s General Assembly released meetings and adjournments for 2022

This past week the 2022 General Assembly adopted the full calendar for the rest of the 2022 legislative session. Two important dates to note:

  • March 15th – Crossover Day. This is the deadline by which a bill has to be approved by either the Senate or the House so it can “cross over” to the other chamber. 
  • April 4th – SINE DIE “Sine Die” means “no certain date to resume.” At the Georgia legislature, that means it’s the last day of that year’s session.

This week’s advocacy events

Check out these advocacy days:

man in group setting

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 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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