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Legislative Update: Action alert: Call your Senators about HB 1013, final countdown, legislation on the move, advocacy events coming up, and more!


Legislative update: Week 12

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:

Image of the Georgia capitol
  • Action Alert: TODAY: Ask the Senate HHS committee to pass the Georgia Mental Health Parity Act! 
  • Final Countdown! 
  • On the Governor’s desk!
  • Waiting in Rules Committee…
  • Coming up this week
  • Senate passes FY23 budget
  • Advocacy Days this week
  • GHF’s got you covered this session

THE SENATE HHS COMMITTEE NEEDS TO HEAR YOUR SUPPORT FOR THE GEORGIA MENTAL HEALTH PARITY ACT!

TODAY: Ask the Senate Health and Human Services Committee to vote YES on the Mental Health Parity Act! 

The Senate Health & Human Services Committee held several hearings on the Georgia Mental Health Parity Act last week. Unfortunately, the hearings were muddied by misinformation about what is in the bill and how it would impact Georgians.

The truth is the Georgia Mental Health Parity Act (GMHPA) would make mental health & substance use (MH/SU) services easier to access and afford in our state. It would put recovery in reach for many more Georgians. Here’s a fact sheet that explains the major parts of the bill.

The GMHPA is expected to receive a vote this afternoon or early this week. You can help ensure it passes with strong support by calling or emailing the committee members and asking them to unanimously pass the bill!

Then ask your state Senator to support the bill!

Now is the time! Please call or email legislators to say why you support this bill and to ask for their strong support too.


THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

Sine Die is approaching! 

This week marks the last full week of the 2022 Georgia legislative session. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday are legislative days 36-38, and votes will be taken on many bills in both the House and Senate. Thursday is a committee workday and one of the last chances for bills to emerge from committees before the legislative session comes to an end. Friday, April 1st is legislative day 39. Watch out for April Fool’s Day shenanigans while the House and Senate work late considering which bills deserve to become law.

The General Assembly is scheduled to work over the weekend, reconciling differences between House and Senate versions of bills.

The 40th and final day of the 2022 session is called “Sine Die”. This year’s Sine Die will take place next Monday, April 4th and its likely to be a long day for legislators. The House and Senate usually gavel out around midnight on Sine Die.

Because there is so much happening under the Gold Dome between now and next Monday, we expect to send out action alerts about important health-related bills. Make sure you’re following GHF on FaceBook and Twitter, and that you’re signed up for the Georgia Health Action Network so you get the most timely updates & alerts this week!


ON THE GOVERNOR’S DESK

Prescription medications for chronic illnesses 

Sponsored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, SB 341 updates guidelines for medicines prescribed for chronic conditions. It specifically addresses prior authorization, which is an approval of coverage from your insurance company. Under the bill, if an insurance company approves a medication used to manage a chronic condition, the authorization must be valid for one year.

The new guidelines would reduce the amount of time that both consumers and providers must spend on paperwork just to get medicines they need to stay healthy. (The new guidelines would not apply to prescriptions that treat acute illnesses or prescriptions given by a provider for less than year.) 

SB 341 has been approved by both the House & Senate. It now heads to Governor Kemp’s desk for his signature.


WAITING IN RULES COMMITTEE…

Bill to increase postpartum Medicaid coverage 

SB 338, one of GHF’s 2022 priorities, was passed by the House HHS Committee earlier this month. Now, the House Rules Committee will now decide if and when SB 338 gets a vote on the House floor. Contact House Rules Chairman Richard Smith and ask him to move this bill to the House floor as soon as possible!  

SB 338 will increase postpartum Medicaid coverage from six months to one year following the end of a person’s pregnancy. Georgia has one of the highest pregnancy-related death rates in the country. This bill is an important step to improving maternal health outcomes in Georgia because Medicaid covers more than half of births in the state each year.


Reporting on mental health & substance use benefits in health care plans 

SB 342, sponsored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, would require private health insurers to submit current and correct data to the Department of Insurance about their mental health and substance use coverage benefits. The reports must show that selected insurance plans meet federal parity requirements to cover mental health and substance services in the same ways as physical health services.

SB 342 is a more limited bill than the Georgia Mental Health Parity Act, which would apply to both private and public insurers, enforce federal parity law, and require robust reporting. 

SB 342 passed out of the House HHS Committee and will now go to the House Rules Committee


One-year ban on proof of COVID vaccinations for public services and buildings

SB 345, introduced by Senator Jeff Mullis, passed the House Health & Human Services committee this week. The bill prohibits state and local governments from mandating proof of COVID-19 vaccinations for public services and access to public buildings. The ban expires on June 30, 2023.

The House Rules Committee will now decide if and when SB 345 gets a vote on the House floor.


Bill adds mental health & substance use to Georgia’s Surprise Billing & Consumer Protection Act

SB 566, introduced by Senators Dean Burke and Chuck Hufstetler, would update the Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act. The bill was approved by the House Insurance Committee on Wednesday, and it is scheduled for a vote on the House floor today!

The update clarifies that emergency mental health and substance use care is covered under the Surprise Billing & Consumer Protection Act. The clarification means that a person who goes to the emergency room for a mental health or substance use crisis would be protected from “surprise” out-of-network bills, even if they are at an out-of-network hospital. (These protections do not apply to facilities outside of a hospital.)

The update also adds a reference to the new federal surprise billing law, which clarifies when post-stabilization care is protected from surprise billing.


Review of provider reimbursement rates

SB 610, sponsored by Sen. Sally Harrell, would require the Department of Community Health (DCH) to conduct a comprehensive review of payment rates for providers of home and community-based services covered by certain Medicaid programs for people with disabilities. Called the NOW and COMP waivers, these programs cover services that help people with disabilities live in their communities, rather than in nursing homes or hospitals. The review is meant to determine if providers are paid enough so that people with disabilities can easily access services.

SB 610 was approved by the House Human Relations & Aging Committee. It now waits in the House Rules committee for a vote by the full House.


Greater transparency on state health plans on department website

HB 1276, sponsored by Representative Lee Hawkins, requires the Department of Community Health to post data on their website for Medicaid, Peach Care for Kids and the State Health Benefit Plan. Required data includes the numbers of providers in each plan, hospital utilization and costs, prescription drug spending, and more. The aim of the bill is to provide more transparency on the public insurance plans in Georgia. 

HB 1276 has passed out of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.  


Childhood Lead Exposure Control Act to better protect children from lead exposure

Sponsored by Representative Katie Dempsey, HB 1355 is titled the Childhood Led Exposure Control Act and would align Georgia’s blood lead level recommendations with federal recommendations for children. If a child’s blood lead level is above a certain amount, it triggers state action, like a requirement that the source of lead exposure be fixed or replaced. This bill also includes additional funding for more lead inspectors and equipment in a program managed by the Department of Public Health.

Our partners at Voices for Georgia’s Children have published this excellent fact sheet about childhood lead poisoning. 

The Senate HHS Committee passed HB 1355, which now sits in the Senate Rules Committee.  


COMING UP THIS WEEK: 

HB 1042: Primary care facilities in shortage areas

HB 1042, sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse, creates a grant program to establish primary care facilities in areas with shortages of primary care providers. The grant program would be operated by the OneGeorgia Authority. Local government bodies (called development authorities) would be eligible to apply for the grants. The grants could be used to establish a doctor’s office or other primary care medical facility. The development authorities would then partner with one or more primary care providers (dentist, doctor, or mental health provider) to operate and eventually own the primary care facilities. 

This bill is expected to receive a hearing in the Senate HHS Committee this week. 


HB 1304: Georgia Caregivers Act

HB 1304, sponsored by Rep. Lee Hawkins, would require hospitals to ask patients to identify and choose their lay caregivers. Lay caregivers are someone who agrees to provide aftercare to the patient in the patient’s home, and they are often spouses, family members, or other loved ones with no medical training. 

This bill is expected to receive a hearing in the Senate HHS Committee this week.


SENATE PASSES FY23 BUDGET

Senate approves next year’s budget with modest changes

The Senate passed the FY23 budget on Friday.

The budget maintains many of the investments promoted by Governor Kemp and the House, including a $5000 cost of living increase for state employees, funding to expand Medicaid coverage to 12 months postpartum, and investments in mental health services. 

The Senate added additional funds to several key health priorities:

  • An additional $3.7 million (for a total of $10.3 million) to fund 513 NOW/COMP waiver slots for people with intellectual & developmental disabilities to live in their communities.
  • Funds to expand co-responder teams (law enforcement & behavioral health providers) from five to 10 new sites

The Senate removed $1.7 million from the Department of Public Health’s budget. The funds were meant to go to county public health departments for improved infrastructure and support—a vital need following the erosion of public health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Georgia House and Senate will need to reconcile key differences in their versions of the FY23 budget before it can be sent to the Governor’s desk.


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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