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GHF legislative update: March 4

Legislative Update: Crossover Day Recap

Thursday was the 28th day of the Georgia legislative session, which is also called Crossover Day. Crossover Day is the final day for a bill to cross from its chamber of origin to the opposite chamber to remain viable for this legislative session.

Today, we run down which consumer health bills made it through and which did not. We have primarily focused on bills that were covered in our previous legislative updates.

Note: After the flurry of activity on Thursday, we are still working to update our legislative tracker with the current status of each bill. While many are updated, it is best to find the bill you are interested in and click through to find the full information about the bill’s status on legis.ga.gov. 

Crossover Day Recap

HB 915: AFY24 Budget | CROSSED OVER

The final version of the FY24 amended budget, or the “little budget” was approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee last week. The amended budget totals $37.5 billion, which includes $5 billion in new spending. It was signed by the Governor last Thursday. 

HB 916: FY25 Budget | DID NOT CROSS OVER

The coming fiscal year’s FY25 budget, was not passed by the House before the Crossover Day deadline and still remains in the House Appropriations committee. Although this is different from other legislation that has to meet the Crossover Day deadline, the budget is allowed to pass the House at a later date. The House Appropriations Committee is expected to present its version of the FY26 state budget tomorrow morning. We will include a rundown of the health-related changes in next week’s legislative update email. 

HB 1339: Studying how to close Georgia’s coverage gap | CROSSED OVER

HB 1339, introduced by Rep. Butch Parrish, 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 (CON) 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 should amend this legislation so that it closes Georgia’s coverage gap this year, enabling all Georgians have quality health coverage. 

HB 284: Changing the definition of a Health Care Sharing Ministry | DID NOT CROSS OVER

HB 284, introduced by Representative Beth Camp, would expand the kinds of organizations that can establish health care sharing ministries and would allow the full amount each member paid for “shares” each year to be tax-deductible on their Georgia income tax.

This bill would expand Georgia’s definition of Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs) so that almost any non-profit (those with a 501(c)3 designation) that shares “a common set of ethical or religious beliefs” can establish and be recognized as an HCSM. Previously only faith-based organizations could establish HCSMs. HCSMs do not include the protections that most consumers expect from their health insurance coverage: they can charge people more for pre-existing conditions, refuse to pay claims for pre-existing conditions or medical issues that don’t align with their beliefs (e.g. mental health, pregnancy outside of a marraige), and there are no out-of-pocket costs to protect consumers’ finances.

HB 343: Lowering Prescription Drug Costs for Patients Act | DEAD FOR THIS YEAR

HB 343, introduced by Rep. Mark Newton during the 2023 legislative session, would have changed requirements for pharmacy benefits managers (PBMs). PBMs have come under scrutiny for their role in driving up prescription drug costs. HB 343 would have required PBMs to pass on half of their negotiated savings directly to consumers by lowering the amount a person pays at the pharmacy counter.

HB 343 crossed from the House to the Senate in 2023, but was voted down by the Senate HHS committee early this year. 

HB 363: Rural Tax Credit for Hospitals | DID NOT CROSS OVER

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 404: Quality housing for Georgia renters | CROSSED OVER

HB 404, introduced by Rep. Kasey Carpenter, will provide protections for tenants by ensuring: 

  • Residential rental properties are fit for human habitation;
  • Cooling as a utility cannot be shut off after an order for eviction has been issued by the court;
  • Allows a tenant three (3) business days following a written eviction notice to pay money that is due prior to a lawsuit seeking to evict them may be filed with the court; and
  • Limiting landlords from requiring a security deposit that exceeds two months’ rent.

GHF enthusiastically supports this bill!

HB 663: No Patient Left Alone Act | CROSSED OVER 

HB 663, introduced by Rep. Matt Hatchett, will expands the types of caregivers that can be admitted to a facility as a visitor when a person is in a hospital or long-term care facility to include essential caregivers.

HB 793: Expediting license exams for behavioral health workers | CROSSED OVER

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 873: Creation of new Juvenile Treatment Court | CROSSED OVER 

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. 

HB 913: The EmPATH Georgia Act | DID NOT CROSS OVER 

HB 913, sponsored by Rep. Imani Barnes, within the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) would create emergency psychiatric assessment, treatment and healing (EmPATH) units within Georgia hospitals. 

When someone experiencing a “brief, intense crisis” arrives to a hospital they would be given immediate treatment for their situation and brought to a calming area. Other states with this immediate care have shown a reduced boarding costs and unnecessary hospitalizations

HB 924: Prohibiting discrimination against certain healthcare facilities and providers | CROSSED OVER 

HB 924, introduced by Rep. Mandi Ballinger, will prohibit insurers from discriminating against certain healthcare facilities and providers in connection with the administration of provider administered drugs. Provider administered drugs are medicines that cannot be self-administered by the patient or a caregiver. They are typically infused or injected by a health care provider in a physician’s office, clinic, infusion center, or hospital. Examples include some clotting factors for bleeding disorders and immunosuppresants used by transplant patients, among others.

This bill aims to ensure insurers will not be able to exclude coverage for a provider administered drug if not given out by a pharmacy selected by the health benefit plan. Some physicians purchase these drugs directly from the manufacturer or other source.

HB 991: Hospital Medicaid Financing Program | CROSSED OVER 

HB 991, introduced by Rep. Shaw Blackmon, would extend the Hospital Medicaid Financing Program through June 30, 2030. This program requires hospitals pay a fee (based on their net revenues) to the Department of Community Health. These funds make up part of the state’s matching dollars for federal Medicaid funding. Without this program, Georgia would have to use more public tax dollars to fund Medicaid. The program is currently set to expire in 2025, so this bill simply extends that into 2030. 

HB 1010: Parental Leave increase | CROSSED OVER 

HB 1010, introduced by Rep. Jan Jones, would increase state employees’ paid parental leave from three weeks to six weeks. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorses paid leave for at least eight weeks, as paid parental leave has recognized benefits including decreased infant mortality, decreased rehospitalization rates, decreased post-partum depression and intimate partner violence.  

HB 1037: Georgia Commission on Maternal and Infant Health | CROSSED OVER

HB 1037, introduced by Rep. Lauren Daniel, would create the Georgia Commission on Maternal and Infant Health. The Georgia Department of Public Health would provide administrative support to the commission, which would consist of 14 members. Six members would be appointed by the Governor, three appointed by the Lt. Governor and three appointed by the Speaker of the House. The governor’s appointees would include an obstetrician, either a pediatrician or neonatologist, a midwife and a representative of a perinatal facility. 

This commission is tasked with gathering different perspectives about the state of perinatal health care in Georgia to inform policy and programs that improve perinatal care in Georgia.

HB 1046: Allow Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and Physician Assistants (PAs) to order home health care | CROSSED OVER 

HB 1046, introduced by Rep. David Clark, increases the authority of NPs and PAs to order home health care and sign death certificates, given workforce shortages.

HB 1077: Increases in behavioral health residency training and development of loan repayment program | CROSSED OVER

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 receive 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 1081:  Early testing for preeclampsia | DID NOT CROSS OVER

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. 

It is our understanding that the preeclampsia biomarker test is already required to be covered under Georgia’s 2022 biomarker law, so this bill is not necessary.

HB 1125: Eliminating subminimum wage for workers with disabilities | CROSSED OVER

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. 

HB 1176: Insurance coverage for breastfeeding supplies & formula | DID NOT CROSS OVER

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 1179: Avoiding step therapy for mental health prescriptions | DID NOT CROSS OVER

HB 1179, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, would prohibit the use of some step therapy protocols for those with a serious mental illness (SMI). (You may remember that this idea was part of last year’s big mental health bill, HB 520, which died in committee.)Step therapy is a process by which insurers (public or private) require patients to try one or more alternative medications before they can access the medicine prescribed by their provider.

HB 1182: Changes to Georgia’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit | CROSSED OVER

HB 1182, introduced by Rep. Clint Crowe, makes changes to Georgia’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program. The LIHTC is one of the most powerful tools for producing and preserving affordable rental housing. Through the Georgia LIHTC program, private for-profit and nonprofit organizations currently receive a dollar-for-dollar tax credit in return for financing the renovation or construction of low and very low-income rental units. HB 1182 changes Georgia’s LIHTC 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. Given that the bill limits the LIHTC program, GHF is closely watching this bill.

HB 1190: Streamlining licensing for the behavioral health workforce | CROSSED OVER 

HB 1190, introduced by Rep. J Collins, hope to streamline the licensure process that providers have to go through. In this bill, if a provider applicant (including social workers, counselors, and marriage & family therapists) has met all licensure requirements, this bill would allow the division director of the licensure board to issue the license, even when the professional licensure board has not been able to act. This would help address the lengthy amount of time it can take for behavioral health and other professionals in the state to become licensed, or move to the state with a license so that they can practice.

HB 1302: Increasing mandatory maternal mental health screening | DID NOT CROSS OVER 

HB 1302, introduced by Rep. Karen Bennett, will require coverage for the screening of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders for Medicaid Recipients.

HB 1344: Streamlining licensing for the behavioral health workforce  |  CROSSED OVER

Sponsored by Rep. Katie Dempsey, HB 1344 would authorize the professional licensure board for Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage & Family Therapists to waive all or a portion of the usual in-state experience requirements for providers who are already licensed in another state, and have maintained full licensure in good standing for a minimum of two years. This would speed up licensing for BH providers who are moving to Georgia from another state. (HB 1344 mirrors SB 336, which we covered in our Feb. 19th legislative update email.) This bill is a priority for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities.

SB 293: Approval processes for new public health leadership | CROSSED OVER

SB 293, Sponsored by Rep. Katie Dempsey, HB 1344 would authorize the professional licensure board for Counselors, Social Workers, and Marriage & Family Therapists to waive all or a portion of the usual in-state experience requirements for providers who are already licensed in another state, and have maintained full licensure in good standing for a minimum of two years. This would speed up licensing for BH providers who are moving to Georgia from another state. (HB 1344 mirrors SB 336, which we covered in our Feb. 19th legislative update email.) This bill is a priority for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities

The Commissioner at the Georgia Department of Public Health would be allowed to appoint an interim DHD until a permanent replacement is approved by the county boards of health.

SB 331: Drug Abuse Treatment and Education Programs | DID NOT CROSS OVER

SB 331, introduced by Sen. Randy Robertson, would provide definitions for certification of recovery residences and more oversight of these facilities – including more background checks on employees and further inspections from DCH. These inspections and trainings would ensure that the facilities aimed at improving Georgians’ mental health and substance use conditions are healthy, safe places for people to seek care.  

SB 456: Preventing harm to people in need of care | CROSSED OVER

SB 456, introduced by Sen. Brian Strickland, allows Georgia’s Central Caregiver Registry to be used to screen people who are applying to be caregivers of people with disabilities. The Registry was originally created so that family members or guardians of elderly Georgians could see if potential caregiver workers had criminal backgrounds or other safety concerns that might put their loved one in danger. 

Naloxone availability in schools, vending machines, and government buildings | ALL CROSSED OVER

HB 1035: In vending machines

HB 1035 would allow the the sale of opioid antagonists, including naloxone, through vending machines to increase availability in communities.

HB 1170: In government buildings

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

SB 395: In schools

SB 395, introduced by Senator Dixson, allows students, staff, and visitors at school and school events to carry naloxone. It will require that all school systems – both public and private – acquire and have naloxone available. 

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

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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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