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Legislative Update: Sine Die


Legislative update: Sine Die

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!

Sine Die

The 2022 Georgia legislative session is over, but we are not finished! 

Monday was Sine Die at the Georgia General Assembly – the last day of the 2022 legislative session. This year’s session saw the passage of several bills that will impact Georgians’ access to health care and the overall health of the state. These bills included the Childhood Lead Exposure Control Act; easing of prior authorization requirements for people with chronic medications; increasing postpartum Medicaid coverage; the addition of mental health and substance use emergencies to Georgia’s surprise billing protections; and much more.

These bills now move to the Governor’s desk for his consideration and signature. The Governor has 40 days to sign or veto bills. We will continue to monitor these bills through the mid-May deadline. For the bills that become law, state agencies like the Department of Insurance will then figure out how to put them into practice.

Check out our summary of the more notable health bills of the 2022 session below and a full list of health care-related legislation at GHF’s legislative tracker.




GOV. KEMP SIGNS GA MENTAL HEALTH PARITY ACT!

The Georgia Mental Health Parity Act officially signed into law by Governor on Monday!

The Georgia Mental Healthy Parity Act (GMHPA) was signed into law by Governor Kemp this week! After passing both chambers, Gov. Kemp, legislative leaders, and advocates celebrated this remarkable success at Monday’s signing ceremony!

Please join GHF & our partners in thanking Governor Kemp and 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! Take a minute to say thank you for their time and dedication!


HOUSE AND SENATE FINALIZE FY23 BUDGET

Final FY23 budget approved! 

Before gaveling out on Monday, the Senate and House reconciled their differences in the FY23 budget, which takes effect July 1, 2022. Overall, this budget restores much of the state’s funding to pre-pandemic levels. However, it does not address the chronic underfunding that plagued state agencies, like the Department of Public Health (DPH), even before the pandemic. 

Notable items in the FY23 budget include:

  • $5,000 cost of living increase for all state employees
  • Funding to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months
  • Funding to allow low-income individuals living with HIV to enroll in Medicaid
  • Use of American Rescue Plan Act funds to study the reimbursement rates for providers of home & community-based services for people with developmental disabilities
  • Funds to maintain the Georgia APEX program, a school-based mental health program that connects students to community-based providers based on their needs
  • Funding for the continued development of the All-Payer Claims Database
  • Funding in the Department of Insurance for a full-time mental health & substance use parity coordinator
  • Funds to separate Georgia from the ACA marketplace without a meaningful replacement

Governor Kemp has 40 days to sign the state budget. He is allowed to strike ( or “erase”) individual line items if he chooses. GHF will monitor the Governor’s changes to the budget and keep you updated about any major changes.  


2022 SESSION RECAP

HB 752: Psychiatric Advance Directive Act | PASSED

HB 752, introduced by Rep. Sharon Cooper, 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. This bill passed the House and Senate and is currently waiting for the Governor to sign. 


HB 867: Truth in Prescription Pricing for Patients Act | DID NOT PASS

HB 867, sponsored by Rep. Newton, would require pharmacy benefits managers to disclose the true cost of prescription drugs and  calculate the cost sharing requirements based on the true cost. This bill crossed over but never received Senate hearing. 


HB 1041: Tax credit increase for rural hospitals | PASSED

HB 1041, sponsored by Rep. Clay Pirkle, will increases the tax credit limit for contributions to rural hospitals from $60M to $75M per year. This bill passed the House and Senate and is currently waiting for the Governor to sign. 


HB 1042: Primary care facilities in shortage areas | PASSED

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 can 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 the primary care facilities. This bill passed the House and Senate and is currently waiting for the Governor to sign. 


HB 1192: Medicaid coverage for persons with HIV | DID NOT PASS

HB 1192, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would direct the Department of Community Health (DCH) to provide Medicaid coverage to uninsured Georgians living with HIV/AIDS who have incomes below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level. This bill would save the state $53 million that could be used to better address the HIV epidemic in Georgia. This bill unanimously passed the House, but never received a hearing in the Senate. 

Funding for this program is included in the FY23 budget (as noted above). We believe the budget language gives the state enough authority to implement this program even though this bill did not pass.


HB 1273: Medicaid Continuity of Coverage Program | DID NOT PASS 

HB 1273, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Wilson, will require the establishment of the Medicaid Continuity of Coverage program thus transition the continuous enrollment Medicaid beneficiaries into traditional Medicaid. This bill would partner with the Department of Community Health (DCH) to manage these transitions. This bill did not receive a committee hearing.


HB 1273: Medicaid Continuity of Coverage Program | DID NOT PASS

HB 1273, sponsored by Rep. Matthew Wilson, will require the establishment of the Medicaid Continuity of Coverage program thus transition the continuous enrollment Medicaid beneficiaries into traditional Medicaid. This bill would partner with the Department of Community Health (DCH) to manage these transitions. This bill did not receive a committee hearing.


HB 1276: Transparency on state health plans on department website | PASSED 

HB 1276, sponsored by Representative Lee Hawkins, requires the Department of Community Health (DCH) 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. Now this bill is headed to the Governor to sign.


HB 1348: Georgia Smoke-free Air Act | DID NOT PASS 

HB 1348, introduced by Representative Bonnie Rich, 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 workplaces). Georgia’s smoking ban was put in place in 2005, well before vaping became popular. This bill passed the House and was tabled by the Senate. 


HB 1351: Moving managed care pharmacy benefits to DCH | DID NOT PASS 

HB 1351, sponsored by Rep. David Knight, would reform the way that prescription drugs are covered within Georgia’s Medicaid program. Currently, each Medicaid insurer sets its own list of covered medications (called a drug formulary). HB 1351 would instead require the Department of Community Health (DCH) to create a central shared drug formulary that all Medicaid insurers would use. This bill crossed over but never received Senate hearing.


HB 1355: Childhood Lead Exposure Control Act | PASSED

HB 1355, sponsored by Rep. Katie Dempsey 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. This bill passed the House and the Senate, the Senate amended and the House agreed to changes. This bill is heading to the Governor to sign.


HB 1371: Rural Health Advancement Commission | DID NOT PASS 

HB 1371, sponsored by Rep. Rick Jasperse, would create the Rural Health Advancement Commission. The purpose of this commission is to look at “private-sector solutions” to address health and long-term care workforce shortages, with an emphasis on rural areas. The solutions may include collaborations between health care systems and educational institutions. This bill passed the House and did not receive Senate committee hearing. 


HB 1404: Institutions for mental diseases (IMDs) to receive Medicaid reimbursement | DID NOT PASS*

HB 1404, introduced by Rep. Robert Pruitt, would direct the Department of Community Health (DCH) to apply for a federal waiver for institutions for mental diseases (IMDs) to receive Medicaid reimbursement. IMDs are in-patient mental health or substance use recovery facilities with 16 or more beds. Current federal regulations bar Medicaid from covering treatment at IMDs because of our country’s cruel history of institutionalizing people with mental illness. 

*The bill’s language was amended into SB 610, which passed. 


SB 338: Bill to increase postpartum Medicaid coverage | PASSED

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. This bill is headed to the Governor to sign. 


SB 341: Prior authorization for chronic illnesses | PASSED

SB 341, sponsored by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, 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. This bill is on the Governor’s desk for his signature.


SB 342: Requiring insurers to report on mental health and substance use benefit parity | DID NOT PASS 

SB 342, sponsored by Sen. 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. This bill passed the Senate and approved by House HHS Committee. The bill then went to the House Rules Committee, but was recommitted back to House HHS Committee.


SB 345: One-year ban on proof of COVID vaccinations for public services and buildings | PASSED

SB 345, introduced by Sen. Jeff Mullis, would prohibit 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. This bill is headed to the Governor to sign.


SB 403: Georgia Behavioral Health and Peace Officer Co-Responder Act | PASSED

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. This bill is headed to the Governor to sign.


SB 435: Anti-transgender athlete bill | DID NOT PASS*

SB 435, sponsored by Sen. Marty Harbin, would ban transgender youth from playing on a school sports team that does not match the gender on their birth certificate. GHF opposed SB 435 because of the negative impacts it would have on Georgia children of all gender identities. It will be especially harmful to the mental health & well-being of transgender children and youth. This bill passed the Senate and was referred to the House HHS Committee

*Late on Monday evening, a version of SB 435 was added to a larger education bill, HB 1084. The new language establishes an oversight committee to the determine whether transgender girls should be able to compete in school sports in Georgia. Our partners at Georgia Equality had this to say about the change: “While a commission is marginally better than an outright ban, we must denounce the establishment of this oversight committee for what it is– a political attempt to score points on the backs of young people who just want to be left alone, and allowed to play sports with their friends.” 


SB 456: Ban on receiving abortion-inducing medication by mail | DID NOT PASS

SB 456, sponsored by Sen. Bruce Thompson, would prohibit medication abortion pills from being mailed while: 1) Requiring an in-person doctor’s visit, ultrasound, and additional consent before the medication can be prescribed, and 2) Pushing physicians to give medically inaccurate advice on the reversibility of medication abortion. The Senate passed SB 456 and the House HHS Committee heard and approved it. This bill did not receive a vote by the full House ahead of Sine Die.


SB 566: Georgia’s Surprise Billing & Consumer Protection Act | PASSED

SB 566, introduced by Sen. Dean Burke and Sen. 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.) This bill is on the Governor’s desk for his signature.


SB 610: Review of provider reimbursement rates | PASSED

SB 610, sponsored by Sen. Sally Harrell, would require the Department of Community Health (DCH) to conduct a comprehensive review of provider reimbursement rates for home and community based services covered by the COMP and NOW waivers. The bill was amended in the House to include language from HB 1404, which directs DCH to apply for a waiver to allow Medicaid to reimburse private in-patient MH and SUD treatment facilities. This bill is headed to the Governor to sign.


This week’s advocacy events

Check out these advocacy days:

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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:


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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