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GHF legislative update: February 26

Legislative Update: Week 7

In this week’s update:

  • New bill would study options to close Georgia’s coverage gap 
  • Cover Georgia is at the Capitol today! Advocate with us!  
  • Legislation GHF is tracking 
  • Legislation on the move 
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

New bill would study options to close Georgia’s coverage gap

Closing Georgia’s coverage gap

Last week, Rep. Butch Parrish introduced HB 1339, which would establish a Comprehensive Health Coverage Commission to study opportunities to close Georgia’s coverage gap. Most of the bill is focused on making changes to hospital certificate of need regulations. 

This bill demonstrates that legislators are interested in finding a solution in 2025 or 2026, but they have the power to close the coverage gap now. Keeping hardworking Georgians from the coverage that they need for another year (or more) is not only costly for Georgia families but is harmful to the health of the state’s workforce and keeps rural hospitals on the ropes. Legislators need to act now on legislation that would close Georgia’s coverage gap so all Georgians have quality health coverage. 

HB 1339 is likely to be voted on in the House Health committee today at 2 pm. Join GHF and our Cover Georgia partners by asking our state legislators to close Georgia’s coverage gap during this legislative session. Check out our action alert right here 👇👇.

Today is Cover Georgia’s Advocacy Day!

Thank you for your support and your advocacy! 

We are thrilled to have so many advocates attend Cover Georgia’s advocacy day at the Capitol this morning! We spent our time talking with elected officials and urging them to take action to close the coverage gap immediately to protect the health of all Georgians. For those who attended, thank you for letting your state legislators know Georgians want them to act now to close Georgia’s coverage gap! Thank you!

Couldn’t make it to the Capitol? There’s still time to advocate!

Let your legislators and Governor Kemp know that you care about closing Georgia’s coverage gap and you want them to take action during this legislative session. Take a few minutes to contact them about why this issue matters to you.

  1. Calls are more effective than emails. Take a few minutes to find and call your state legislators here. Call the last two officials on the page. (Please be polite when you speak with your elected officials or their staff.) Not sure what to say? We’ve got you covered–just click here.
  2. Email your state leaders. Urge them to close Georgia’s Medicaid coverage gap during this legislative session. 

Once you’ve contacted your elected officials, get loud on social media! Click here to access sample social media graphics and more to engage Georgians with messages about how closing Georgia’s coverage gap will benefit Georgia.

Legislation GHF is tracking

Crossover Day is this Thursday! Crossover Day marks the point during the legislative session when a bill must be approved by its originating chamber. Once a bill gets this approval, it moves across the Capitol to the other chamber. A House bill that has not been passed by the House andd Senate bill that has not been passed by the Senate by this Thursday, February 29th are unlikely 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 and vote on legislation. Expect a lot of activity over the next week, and follow GHF for updates.

Eliminating subminimum wage for workers with disabilites 

Under current law, people with disabilities can be paid less than the state-mandated minimum wage. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act allows employers who receive a special certificate from the Department of Labor to pay wages less than the federal minimum wage to workers who have disabilities. HB 1125, introduced by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would prohibit Georgia employers from using this loop-hole after July 1, 2026. 

Because income influences health, this bill would help improve the health of people with disabilities. GHF supports this bill.

HB 1125 has been referred to the House Industry and Labor committee.

Woman holding baby

Improving maternal and infant health

HB 1176, introduced by Rep. Trey Kelly, aims to help mothers who are unable to breastfeed. This bill would require that private health insurance plans that cover breast pumps and supplies also provide coverage for infant formula when a healthcare provider submits documentation that a new mother is medically unable to breast feed. Medicaid would also be required to cover formulate for mothers who are medically unable to breast feed. 

HB 1176 has been sent to the House Public Health committee.

Housing and health 

Housing is one of the most important factors that influences health. HB 1182, introduced by Rep. Clint Crowe, makes changes to Georgia’s Housing Tax Credit (HTC) program. 

The HTC is one of the most powerful tools for producing and preserving affordable rental housing. Through the Georgia HTC program, private for-profit and nonprofit organizations currently receive a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their federal taxes in return for financing the rehabilitation or construction of low and very low-income rental units.

HB 1182 changes Georgia’s HTC program so that it would only be an 80% reduction in taxes except for certain “targeted community projects” which would remain eligible for the 100% match. Targeted community projects are affordable housing projects that: 

  1. Are located in a rural area;  
  2. Reserve or prioritize a majority of units for seniors or provides a preference for veterans or first responders;  
  3. Are located near public transportation hubs;  
  4. Are rehabilitating or renovating existing housing (rather than new construction); OR 
  5. Are owned by a public housing authority

HB 1182 was heard and approved by the House Ways and Means committee last week.

GHF is following this bill closely and is working to add people with disabilities to the priority groups listed in criteria #2 above. Check out our 2023 report about housing for people with developmental disabilities for more information (pdf page 21 for this information in particular).

Legislation on the move

Rural Tax Credit for Hospitals 

HB 363, introduced by Rep. John LaHood, would make some revisions to the Rural Hospital Tax Credit program. It increases the tax credit limit for contributions by corporate donors from $10M to $25M. The bill also clarifies that if contributions exceed the maximum amount allowable to an individual hospital, the rest of the contribution should be directed to other rural providers.

HB 363 was approved by the House Ways & Means committee. The Rules committee will decide whether it receives a vote by the House before this Thursday’s Crossover Day deadline.

ncreasing the behavioral health workforce 

HB 793, from Rep. Matt Barton, would allow students in Masters programs for Counseling, Social Work, and Marriage and Family Therapy to take the licensing exam in their final semester of study, rather than having to wait. 

HB 793 passed the House last Tuesday. It now moves to the Senate, where it’s been referred to the Regulated Industries and Utility committee.

HB 1077, introduced by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would create a grant program administered by the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce that would fund more behavioral health workforce training. This bill would support residency training for psychiatrists and psychologists, and clinical training for social workers, professional counselors, marriage and family therapists and others. HB 1077 also creates the Behavioral Health Provider Student Loan Repayment Program. Program participants could recieve loan repayment assistance for up to six years in annual amounts ranging from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on the share of Medicaid patients the provider sees. Both the training program and loan repayment program will need funding from the legislature before they can be implemented. 

HB 1077 passed the House last Wednesday and now heads to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities committee.

Creation of new Juvenile Treatment Court

HB 873 was approved by the House on Tuesday. Sponsored by Rep. Stan Gunter, this bill would provide alternative ways of handling juvenile delinquency and truancy cases with the creation of new Juvenile Treatment Court divisions within the juvenile court system.

These new court divisions aim to reduce family disruption or removal to an alternative placement and increase juvenile rehabilitation and treat their mental and behavioral health needs. 

The bill now sits in the Senate, where it has been referred to the Judiciary committee.

Early Testing for Preeclampsia 

The Georgia Preeclampsia Biomarker Testing Act of 2024, or HB 1081, introduced by Rep. Darlene Taylor, would require Medicaid and private insurance plans (only those regulated by the state) to cover preeclampsia biomarker testing during a pregnant person’s first prenatal visit. 

Preeclampsia is diagnosed by persistent high blood pressure that develops for the first time after mid-pregnancy or right after delivery. A test approved by the FDA just last year can predict whether the person will develop severe preeclampsia in the next two weeks. The availability of these novel biomarker tests will allow caregivers to better manage and potentially improve outcomes for both mothers and their newborns.

HB 1081 passed out of the House Public Health committee and awaits a floor vote. The Rules committee will decide whether this bill receives a vote by the House before or on Crossover Day.

Naloxone availability in schools

HB 1170, introduced by Rep. Lee Hawkins, would require certain state government buildings, courthouses, and university buildings to acquire and have naloxone available.

The House Public Health committee approved this bill on Feb. 16th, and the House passed it last Thursday. 

Of the three opioid overdose prevention bills that we covered in last week’s update, the only one that has not yet met the Crossover Day deadline is SB 395, which allows for opioid reversal medicines in schools. It is waiting on the Senate Rules committee to schedule it for a vote. 

Advocate with us at the Capitol!

Send GHF your advocacy events: 

Each week during the legislative session, we highlight legislative advocacy days hosted by partner groups. These are great opportunities for you to participate in the lawmaking process by meeting your legislators and speaking up about important health issues. If you are hosting or know of an advocacy event, send it to us! 

Contact Alex McDoniel at amcdoniel@healthyfuturega.org

GHF has you covered

Stay up-to-date with the legislative session

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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