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GHF legislative update: February 13

Legislative update: Week 4

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:

  • GHF testifies in two committees last week
  • Budget updates
  • New legislation on Medicaid coverage, network adequacy, and moving to a state-run ACA marketplace
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

GHF PROVIDES CONSUMER PERSPECTIVE ON TWO BILLS LAST WEEK

GHF’s Health Policy Analyst testifies to Senate Insurance Committee about state-based marketplace bill

SB 65, sponsored by Sen. Ben Watson, would would move Georgia’s health insurance marketplace from healthcare.gov (which is managed and run by the federal government) to a state-based marketplace (SBM). We covered this bill in detail in last week’s legislative update here. Last Wednesday, the Senate Insurance Committee heard SB 65, including testimony from GHF’s Health Policy Analyst, Whitney Griggs. You can watch her 3-minute testimony here and the full committee hearing here

During the hearing, the Department of Insurance explained the SBM model and that they believed much of the infrastructure was already in place following their launch of Georgia Access. They said that moving Georgia to an SBM would save money for the state and create a more tailored marketplace experience that meets the specific needs of Georgians.

Whitney testified that there are many trade-offs to be considered when setting up an SBM. The potential benefits that DOI presented can be achieved but those must be balanced with the time, resources, and expertise required to establish and run a successful SBM. GHF asked legislators to look beyond the possible cost-savings; articulate a set of clear goals for what the SBM should accomplish for Georgia consumers; detail how consumer voices will meaningfully guide the development and on-going management of the SBM; and outline how the legislature will monitor and evaluate the SBM’s progress in the decade to come. 

The bill was approved by the Senate Insurance Committee and will go to the full Senate for a vote. 


Protecting Georgians from high health care costs

SB 20, called the CATCH Act, is Senator Kirkpatrick’s network adequacy bill. (See last week’s detailed overview of the bill and network adequacy here.) It received a hearing at the Senate Health Insurance subcommittee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 9th.

Whitney offered GHF’s testimony in support of strengthening Georgia’s network adequacy standards and protecting consumers from high costs when they are forced to see an out-of-network provider. Before the bill received the subcommittee’s approval, it was watered down to remove several benefits and protections for consumers. The bill will now go to the full Senate Insurance committee for a vote.

Speak up for access to health care! Call or email Senator Kay Kirkpatrick and other members of the Senate Insurance committee members this week. Ask them to strengthen SB 20. 

Don’t know what to write or say? Here’s some help: 

Dear Senator ____, Please amend SB 20 so that families like mine have peace of mind that we can have on-time access to the health care we need, without having to pay unaffordable out-of-network prices. Please restore quantitative standards for appointment wait times. Without this measure, insurance companies can sidestep the promises they have made to their paying customers. This leaves consumers in the “wild west” without access to necessary care or in danger of paying unaffordable medical bills. 

Thank you for your consideration of this issue and your work for the well-being of all Georgia consumers.

We encourage the committee to re-visit the changes made to the bill that protects consumers from high costs and poor outcomes due to inadequate provider networks.


LEGISLATION THAT DESERVES YOUR ATTENTION

Budget check: This week, House appropriators began hearings on the FY24 budget, which will begin on July 1st. On Wednesday, the Health Appropriations Subcommittee took public testimony for the FY24 budget. Public testimony allows stakeholders to give their thoughts on the budget and make suggestions to lawmakers for improvements.

Tomorrow, the Human Resources Appropriations Subcommittee will take public testimony on the proposed FY24 budget for the Department of Human Services. This includes many of Georgia’s most important safety net programs like SNAP and enrollment for Medicaid and PeachCare. 

The Senate continues to hold appropriations hearings on the amended FY23 budget.

Here are a few bills that we believe deserve your attention and the attention of legislators.


Expanding assistance to Georgia families 

HB 129 has been introduced by Representative Hong Soo, one of Governor Kemp’s floor leaders. The bill would expand Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to pregnant women who meet TANF eligibility criteria. TANF is a cash assistance program for families with children and with very low incomes. To be eligible for TANF, adults must meet a 30-hour-a-week work requirement on top of other activity and financial obligations. TANF benefits are about $280 per month for a family of 3 (which is about 15% of the federal poverty level).

Very few families in Georgia receive TANF, and the program only serves 5 in 100 Georgia residents living in poverty (source: GBPI).

HB 129 was passed by the House of Representatives this morning and will go to the Senate for consideration.


Medicaid coverage for persons with HIV

HB 266, introduced by Representative Sharon Cooper, would expand Medicaid to uninsured Georgians living with HIV who make less than 138% of the federal poverty level. Currently, uninsured Georgians living with HIV can receive medications to manage the disease through the Ryan White Program’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). ADAP is vital to helping Georgians manage their HIV and prevent new infections. However, Georgia has the highest rate of new HIV diagnoses in the country, and the program does not receive enough federal and state funding to meet the growing needs of these Georgians.

Expanding Medicaid to cover Georgians living with HIV would allow the Ryan White Program to expand access to treatment services for uninsured HIV patients. Increasing access to treatment and medical services not only improves quality of life and increases the life span of uninsured Georgians living with HIV, but it also reduces the spread of HIV and gets us closer to ending the epidemic.

This same bill was introduced last year and included in the FY23 budget, but Governor Kemp vetoed it.

This bill has been referred to the House Public Health committee.  


Bills banning gender-affirming surgery for minors 

SB 140 and SB 141 would ban gender-affirming health care for minors. Under SB 140, any physician that performs surgery to alter the primary or secondary sexual characteristics of a minor would be subject to administrative action by their licensing board. SB 141 specifically bans hormonal treatments, which are necessary for transgender youth are medically necessary for their mental health and well-being.

Research shows that gender-affirming surgery greatly improves the mental health and overall well-being of gender-diverse, transgender, and nonbinary children and adolescents. Every major U.S. medical and mental health organization–including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Federation of Pediatric Organizations and American Psychological Association–supports access to gender-affirming care for transgender young people and adults. 

Please follow our partners at Georgia Equality for the most up-to-date action alerts and news about these bills. 


OPPORTUNITIES FOR ADVOCACY!

Check out these advocacy events: 

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, here are tools to help you stay in touch with health policy under the Gold Dome.


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