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GHF legislative update: February 27

Legislative update: Week 7

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:

  • Crossover Day in a week!
  • New mental health bill
  • Cover Georgia advocacy day!  
  • Budget updates
  • Legislation on the move
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!


Crossover Day is next Monday! 

We’re now one week away from Crossover Day. Crossover Day marks the point during the legislative session when a bill must be approved by its originating chamber so it can move across the Capitol to the other chamber. A House bill that is not passed out of the House and any Senate bill that is not passed out of the Senate by Monday, March 6th, will not be able to become law this session. (There are occasional exceptions to this rule.) This deadline means things are heating up at the Capitol, and committees are working furiously to hear legislation. Expect a lot of activity over the next week, and follow GHF for updates.


Expanding on last year’s mental health reform

HB 520, introduced by Representatives Mary Margaret Oliver and Todd Jones, seeks to build upon the sweeping mental health reform bill passed and signed into law last session. This year’s bill focuses on addressing the statewide shortage of mental health providers, increasing capacity for in-patient mental health and substance use treatment, streamlining the way state agencies involved in behavioral health share data, and addressing the needs of so-called “familiar faces” (people that cycle between homelessness, jails, and hospitals due to serious mental illness). The bill also expands the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission (BHRIC) to include two “peer support specialists.” This addition acknowledges the important role peer support plays in helping people with mental health and substance use disorders find a way to recovery.

HB 520 also directs DBHDD and DCH to develop an 1115 waiver to use Medicaid funds to provide housing, employment, and nutrition supports, as well as case management, outreach, and education to Medicaid members. This type of waiver is intended to address the non-medical needs of Medicaid members that impact their health and reduce health disparities. These kinds of needs are sometimes called the social determinants of health (SDOH). Eighteen (18) states have 1115 waivers with SDOH provisions, and eight more are pending.

HB 520 has been assigned to the House Public Health Committee and will be heard at 1:00 pm today


Cover Georgia at the Georgia Capitol to advocate for Medicaid expansion

Join Cover Georgia, today, to ask our lawmakers to expand Medicaid so all Georgians–regardless of their income–have a pathway to health coverage. This morning, Cover Georgia will host an advocacy day at the Georgia Capitol.

Can’t make it to the Capitol this today?You can still let your lawmakers know that you care about this issue and you want them to take action. Take a few minutes to contact your state legislators now! Ask the House Health Committee to hear HB 62! Then ask the Senate Appropriations, Health subcommittee for a hearing on SB 24! Both bills would expand Medicaid in Georgia. Hearings give supporters and opponents a chance to publicly make their cases for or against an issue. Ask state leaders to allow a public and fair discussion of this important issue today!

This is your chance to speak up about one of the biggest issues impacting the health of Georgians. Make your voice heard in support of Medicaid expansion in Georgia!


Budget check: Last Thursday, the Georgia Senate passed the amended FY23 budget. The Senate made some adjustments to certain Medicaid line items but few meaningful changes were made to other health items. The differences between the House and Senate versions of the AFY23 budget will be hammered out in a conference committee. Then both chambers will vote to agree to the same version before it goes to the Governor.

The FY24 budget is expected to come out of the House Appropriations committee this week ahead of Crossover Day.

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

Insurance coverage for biomarker testing

HB 85, introduced by Representative Sharon Cooper, would require insurance companies to cover comprehensive biomarker testing. Biomarker testing allows patients to receive treatments for diseases, like cancer, that are tailored to the genetic make-up of the disease. Once the specific biomarkers have been identified, doctors are able to select the right medication without having to try other, less-effective drugs first.

The House has passed HB 85 and it has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Medicaid coverage for persons with HIV passed out of committee

HB 226 was approved by the House Public Health committee and was scheduled for a vote on the House floor last Thursday. The vote was postponed and we’ll be encouraging its continued progress as part of today’s Cover Georgia advocacy day. 

HB 226 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. 

Bill to update Georgia Surprise Billing bill 

HB 294, introduced by Representative Lee Hawkins, would update Georgia’s surprise billing law to address several issues that have arisen now that the law has been in place for two years.

The updates to the bill address the arbitration process for insurers and providers and do not affect consumers. These kinds of adjustments to Georgia law are normal when parts of new laws don’t work as well as intended.

HB 294 has been passed by the House Insurance committee and will now go to the Rules committee

Lowering Prescription Drug Costs for Patients Act
Prescription white pills

HB 343 was approved by the House Health Committee. This bill would change requirements for pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs).

As we covered in last week’s update, PBMs are companies that manage prescription drug benefits on behalf of health insurers.PBMs have come under scrutiny recently–including in the Georgia legislature–for their role in driving up prescription drug costs for consumers. HB 343 follows several years of efforts by state legislators to better regulate PBMs and hold down prescription costs.

PBMs often receive discounts, known as rebates, from drug makers. Rather than passing these savings down to consumers, PBMs often keep the money. HB 343 would help lower what consumers pay for prescriptions by requiring PBMs to pass on 80% of their rebate savings directly to consumers. This requirement would mean that when you visit the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for which your PBM received a manufacturer discount, you would pay less for it.

State-based marketplace bill 

The House Insurance committee passed SB 65 last Wednesday. It will now go to Rules committee to be scheduled for a House vote.

SB 65 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). Ahead of this week’s subcommittee and committee votes, GHF and partner groups submitted a letter to encourage the legislature and the Department of Insurance to maintain and grow funding for local consumer outreach and assistance. This kind of investment would prevent coverage losses during the switch from healthcare.gov to a Georgia-led marketplace. It would also set the SBM up for the greatest success in reaching eligible but uninsured Georgians.

Bill to remove the certificate of need requirement 

SB 162, introduced by Senator Ben Watson, would repeal Georgia’s Certificate of Need (CON) requirement for hospitals and certain other health care facilities. It would replace CON with a new “special health care services license.”

CON is a program run by the Department of Community Health that evaluates the need for new hospitals or clinics. Under current law, hospitals and clinics must receive a CON before they can open new locations, expand their bed capacity, or offer certain major health services (like open heart surgery). CON was originally intended to avoid duplication of health services, control health costs, and ensure access to care for low-income communities.  

Supporters of repealing CON argue that removing the CON requirement would increase competition among hospitals and other facilities, and thus drive down prices for consumers. Hospitals defend CON saying they would face increased financial stress and that many (especially nonprofit hospitals) would ultimately close without it. They also argue that in some parts of the state opening additional hospitals would cause an increase in staffing shortages as more hospitals compete from an already depleted workforce.

GHF has no official position on CON.

After a hearing in the Senate Regulated Industries committee, committee members approved the bill. SB 162 now awaits a vote in the Senate Rules Committee.


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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