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GHF legislative update: March 20 – Three Action Alerts!

Legislative update: Week 10

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:

  • Action alert: Urge Senators to vote NO on SB 140!
  • Action alert: Ask Senate committee to support safe, healthy housing (HB 404)!
  • Action alert: Continue to urge Senators to support strong mental health reforms (HB 520)!
  • Legislation on the move: vaping, biomarker testing, & more!
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!


Let’s keep doctors and families in charge of their own evidence-based health care!

SB 140 would ban certain surgical procedures and hormone replacement therapies for the treatment of gender dysphoria in youth in Georgia. The Senate may take a final vote on SB 140 as early as today! Act now and urge your Senator to vote “no”!

Last Tuesday, the House Public Health committee amended SB 140 to criminalize medical providers for administering gender-affirming care in line with established standards of care. The House approved the amended version of SB 140 on Thursday. Because the House made changes to the Senate bill, the Senate must vote on the bill one more time.

Research shows that gender-affirming care 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. 

This bill would be harmful to transgender youth, their families, and health care providers. Urge your state senator NOW to vote NO on SB 140!


Amended SB 140 heads to the Senate!

HB 404, the Safe at Home Act, would help families stay safely and stably housed (essential to prevent homelessness), help children to stay healthy and succeed in school, and allow parents to work. Decent, safe and stable housing is fundamental to keeping children and adults healthy, able to make ends meet, continue working, allow children to succeed at school, and so much more.

HB 404 will be heard in the Senate Judiciary committee today at 4 pm. Please call or email committee members now and ask that they support and strengthen the bill during this afternoon’s hearing.  

Amendments made in the House have made HB 404 stronger. We would like to see the Senate build on the House’s improvements by adding the following recommendations: 

  • Add a definition for “fit for human habitation” that landlords must provide, and a remedy process if landlords fail to meet that standard. 
  • Reduce the cap on security deposits from two months’ rent to one month which is what most landlords charge now.
  • Clarify that all tenants should receive the written notice and right to cure before an eviction may be filed. (A right to cure is an opportunity to fix the problem that prompted the eviction notice, like paying past-due rent.) This would help reduce costly eviction filings that prevent people from renting their next home.
  • Increase the notice and right-to-cure period from three business days to seven days. Three business days is not long enough for someone to move out or pay.
  • Strengthen the delivery of the written notice to include tacking on the door and electronic delivery or overnight mail.

The bill will be heard in the Senate Judiciary committee today at 4 pmClick here to see the list of committee members. Click on their names to find their Capitol phone numbers. (Calls are better than emails!) Call or email to ask them to support & strengthen HB 404 now! 

If you don’t know what to say when you call, use this example: “My name is ________. (If you like in their district, add “I live and vote in your district.”) Please vote YES on House Bill 404 when it is heard in the Senate Judiciary committee today. This bill would provide fair housing protections to families, including by making sure all rental units are safe and healthy. That’s something all Georgia families should be able to rely on no matter where they live in our state. Thank you!”


Mental health reform bill in jeopardy because of stigma 

Last week, a subcommittee of the Senate Health & Human Service committee heard HB 520, but no vote was taken. Please call Senate HHS committee members now to ask that they support HB 520! 

This bill seeks to build on last year’s sweeping Georgia Mental Health Parity Act. HB 520 aims to address the statewide shortage of mental health providers, understand the capacity for in-patient mental health and substance use treatment, streamline the ways that state agencies involved in behavioral health can share data, and address the needs of so-called “familiar faces” (people that cycle between homelessness, jails, and hospitals due to serious mental illness). 

Similar to last year’s mental health bill, this bill has been the subject of misinformation and stigma. It is incredibly important that Senate HHS committee members hear from you with your support! 

Click here to see the list of committee members. Click on their names to find their Capitol phone numbers. (Calls are better than emails!) Call or email to ask them to support HB 520! 

If you don’t know what to say when you call, use this example: “My name is ________. (If you like in their district, add “I live and vote in your district.”)  Please vote YES on House Bill 520 when it comes to the Senate Health and Human Services committee for a vote. It will help Georgians more easily access and afford the mental health and substance use services that they need. It will also help build the mental health workforce that Georgia needs. Thank you!”


Insurance coverage for biomarker testing

HB 85 is headed to the Governor’s desk for his signature, after receiving Senate approval last Tuesday. 

Introduced by Representative Sharon Cooper, HB 85 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 Consumer Access to Contracted Healthcare (CATCH) Act

SB 20 was introduced by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick and is titled the Consumer Access to Contracted Healthcare (CATCH) Act. The original intention of the CATCH Act was to set network adequacy standards for insurers and provide consumers with protections when they are forced to go out of a health plan’s network of providers to access timely care.

The bill was meaningfully weakened by the Senate Insurance committee. The committee removed the consumer protections and did not add in measurable network adequacy standards to which insurance companies can be held accountable. Despite advocacy by GHF and partners, the House Insurance committee did not make changes that would re-strengthen SB 20. 

The House Insurance committee approved SB 20. The House Rules committee will now determine if and when it gets a vote on the House floor. 

Bill on vaping regulations 

SB 47 was approved by the House Public Health committee last Wednesday. It now goes to the House Rules committee to await a vote by the full House.

SB 47, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, would update the Indoor Air Quality Act.The changes would prohibit vaping in the same areas that smoking is currently banned in Georgia. 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.

Hospital Certificate of Need reform

SB 99, introduced by Senator Greg Dolezal, would repeal Georgia’s Certificate of Need (CON) requirement for new acute care hospitals located in counties with fewer than 50,000 residents. The aim of the bill is to reduce barriers for new hospitals to open in rural parts of the state. In order to be exempt from CON, the new hospital would also need to accept Medicaid and Medicare patients, treat uninsured patients, and demonstrate that at least 10% of their annual revenue goes to indigent care, charity care, or bad debt. (Currently, hospitals are required to devote 3% of their revenue to these costs but most far exceed 3%.)

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 SB 99 argue that its proposed changes would enable new hospitals to open sooner and more easily in rural areas that need one. Hospitals defend CON saying they would face increased financial stress and that many (especially nonprofit hospitals) would ultimately close without it. They also state that CON is not what is driving rural hospital closures or the primary factor in where new hospitals are being established.

GHF has no official position on CON at this time.

SB 99 was heard in the House Health committee last week but did not receive a vote. Chairman Hawkins stated the bill will be heard again this week.

Senator Dolezal also introduced SR 279 to create a study committee on CON reform. The study committee would be made up of seven senators and 7 non-legislative members, including representatives from for-profit and non-profit health systems and an insurance industry representative. The resolution does not currently include a consumer or patient advocate as part of the study committee. 

GHF has you covered!

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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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