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Legislative Update: Action alerts, legislation on the move, advocacy events coming up, and more!



Legislative update: Week 12 – Part 2

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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  • Action Alerts! 
  • On the Governor’s desk!
  • On the move!
  • Other notable developments
  • Advocacy Days this week
  • GHF’s got you covered this session

ACTION ALERT:

CALL SENATE RULES COMMITTEE MEMBERS ABOUT THESE BILLS!

Ask the Senate Rules Committee to send the Quality Basic Education Act to the Senate for a vote!

The Quality Basic Education Act, HB 1283, will be heard in the Senate Rules Committee. This bill would provide recess for students in kindergarten through fifth grade on all school days (except on days when they have other physical education class or other structured physical activities). Children have been proven to perform best academically, behaviorally, and socially when schools adopt physical activity policies such as recess.

Call or email members of the Senate Rules Committee and urge them to vote YES. 


Ask the Senate Rules Committee to send the Childhood Lead Exposure Control Act to the Senate for a vote!

The Childhood Led Exposure Control Act, HB 1355, would protect children’s health and would most help children under the age of 6 and children of color. This bill would bring Georgia in line with federal blood level recommendations and prompt intervention before lead levels approach toxic levels.

Call or email members of the Senate Rules Committee and urge them to vote YES. 


Ask the Senate Rules Committee to send the Georgia Smoke-free Air Act to the Senate for a vote!

Introduced by Representative Bonnie Rich, HB 1348 would add vaping to the Georgia Smoke-free Air Act. The change would prohibit vaping in the same areas that smoking is currently prohibited in Georgia (most public buildings and work places). Georgia’s smoking ban was put in place in 2005, well before vaping became popular.

Seventeen percent (17%) of Georgia high schoolers report vaping. Because vaping products include nicotine, vaping can lead to addiction (just like cigarettes). It may also lead to lung disease.

Call or email members of the Senate Rules Committee and urge them to vote YES. 




ON THE GOVERNOR’S DESK

The Georgia Senate passed the Georgia Mental Health Parity Act yesterday! 

The Georgia Mental Healthy Parity Act (GMHPA) unanimously passed the Senate yesterday! After passing both chambers, the GMHPA is heading to Governor Kemp’s desk for his signature! Thank you to both chambers for supporting the need to increase access to mental health & substance use services in Georgia.

Please join GHF & our partners in thanking Georgia legislators in both chambers for their work and support to increase access to mental health & substance use services in Georgia. Representatives Todd Jones and Mary Margaret Oliver, House Speaker David Ralston, Senator Brian Strickland, and former representative Kevin Tanner deserve an extra thank you for their leadership on this incredible effort! Thank you!


Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act

SB 403, co-sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, aims to decrease risk to Georgians having a mental health crisis when they interact with police officers. It also aims to relieve police officers from handling mental health calls without the proper support and resources. SB 403 would also require community service boards (Georgia’s mental health safety net system) to work with law enforcement agencies to develop co-responder training programs and co-responder teams.

SB 403 has been approved by both the House & Senate. It now heads to Governor Kemp’s desk for his signature. 


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

SB 566, introduced by Senators Dean Burke and Chuck Hufstetler, updates the Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act.

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. 

SB 566 has been approved by both the House & Senate. It now heads to Governor Kemp’s desk for his signature.


ON THE MOVE

Bill to fill a gap in Georgia’s current advanced directive law

HB 752, the Georgia Psychiatric Advanced Directive Act, was introduced by Rep. Sharon Cooper late in the 2021 legislative session. The bill would allow those with diagnosed mental health disorders to create a plan and pick a representative who would have access to their medical background. The representative would be able to make treatment decisions on their behalf in the event that they are not able to do so. 

The bill is meant to benefit Georgians who live with episodic disorders (like manic-depressive disorder) that temporarily impair their ability to care for themselves.

A physician or psychologist that has examined the patient can invoke the directive if they determine the patient is unable to make mental health care decisions because of  “impaired thinking” or “other cognitive disability.”

HB 752 has been approved by the House and the Senate. The House must vote to “agree” to changes made by the Senate before the bill can go to Gov. Kemp for his signature.


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 been approved by the Senate. Now the House must vote to “agree” to the Senate’s changes before the bill goes to Governor Kemp’s desk.


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.

SB 345 passed the House SB 345 passed the House on Tuesday. The Senate must vote to “agree” to changes made by the House before the bill can go to the Governor for his signature.


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.


OTHER NOTABLE DEVELOPMENTS

SB 338: Bill to increase postpartum Medicaid coverage 

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.

SB 338 was withdrawn from the House and recommitted to House HHS Committee. While this seems like a worrisome development, the bill is not required for Georgia to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months. With the support of the Governor, the Department of Community Health can make this change without legislation. The funds for the postpartum Medicaid extension remain in the state’s FY23 budget. If the Governor signs the budget with these funds intact (as we expect him to), DCH can move ahead with the change.


SB 342: 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

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 approved Georgia Mental Health Parity Act. 

The Senate Rules Committee sent SB 342 back to the House HHS Committee. The GHF team suspects that SB 342 may be used as a vehicle for other health bills that the House would like to pass.


This week’s advocacy events

Check out these advocacy days:

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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