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GHF legislative update: March 11

Legislative Update: Week 9

In this week’s update:

  • Action alert: Urge Senators to modify HB 1339!
  • Amended FY25 budget updates 
  • Bills on the move: Parental leave and children’s residential treatment programs 
  • Crossover Day correction: HB 1125
  • Advocacy events: Housing Day at the Capitol
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

Action alert: Urge your Senators to amend HB 1339!

Urge your Senator to modify HB 1339 and
take immediate action to close the coverage gap this year! 

This morning at 9:30 am, the Senate Regulated Industries committee will have its second hearing on HB 1339, with a vote likely. This legislation – while primarily focused on the state’s regulation of hospitals – includes a provision that would establish a Comprehensive Health Coverage Commission to explore closing Georgia’s coverage gap in 2025 or 2026.

The committee is very likely to approve HB 1339 this morning, and move the bill to the Rules Committee so it can eventually be voted on by the full Senate. 

While HB 1339 signals legislative interest in finding a solution, our state Senators have the power to close the coverage gap right now. Delaying access to health care for hardworking Georgians is costly for families, harms the state’s workforce, and strains rural hospitals. Rather than agreeing to study the issue, lawmakers should work together to pass legislation that allows Georgia to close the coverage gap this year. 

Please contact your Senators and urge them to modify HB 1339 so that it closes Georgia’s Medicaid coverage gap this year. Thank you for your advocacy! 

House approves FY25 budget with more health spending

Last Thursday, March 7, the House approved its version of the FY25 budget, which lays out a new spending plan for Georgia’s next fiscal year (starting July 1). Notably, the House increased spending to support the health of Georgians. We have noted these changes below. The Senate wasted no time last week and is already working on its own changes to the FY25 budget. 

  • Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities
    • Governor’s Budget
      • $9.4M to make permanent 500 NOW and COMP waivers, plus $2.3M for 100 new waiver slots
      • NOW & COMP waivers allow people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) to receive support and health services that help them live in their communities rather than hospitals or long-term care facilities.  Currently, about 13,000 individuals l are served by NOW/COMP with more than 7,300 on the waiting list
      • $9.4M for a new crisis center in DBHDD Region 1 (in north Georgia)
    • House of Representatives
      • Added: $500,000 to increase funds for Hepatitis C screening services at core behavioral health sites
      • Added: $100,000 to increase funds for an addiction treatment locator
      • Added: $3.2M for the Crisis Stabilization Diagnostic Center in Macon for individuals with IDD 
      • Added: $108,000 Increase funds for adult autism services
  • Department of Community Health
    • Governor’s Budget
      • The federal government will pay Georgia slightly more for our Medicaid expenses. The Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) will increase from 65.89% to 66.04%. These changes are reflected throughout DCH’s budget
      • Reduction of $104M in Low-Income Medicaid to reflect lower enrollment and use of services because of the Medicaid unwinding
      • To better oversee the performance of Georgia’s Medicaid insurers (usually called Care Management Organizations or CMOs), the budget calls for $1.5M to fund 20 new positions for employees who will monitor, evaluate, and support improvements in CMO performance
      • $1.49M increase to the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce for 79 new residency slots in primary care medicine. This is an important step for reducing the shortage of doctors in areas that lack primary care
        • The House added another $500,000 to increase the number of primary care residency slots to 105
      • An enhanced rate for emergency service (ambulance) providers for a program called “treatment without transport.” This helps to provide health care to people with certain urgent health needs who do not need to go to the emergency room (which is one of the most expensive places to receive care)
    • House of Representatives
      • Added: $750,000 to expand primary care, mental health, or dental services at three Federally Qualified Health Centers
      • Added: $2.8M for continuous glucose monitors for Medicaid members (per SB 35 from the 2024 session)
      • Added: $2M for rural hospital stabilization grants
      • Added: $8.3M to increase the reimbursement rates for certain primary care and OB/GYN services for Medicaid members
      • Added: $7.4M to increase adult dental services for people with disabilities ($1.6M) and other Medicaid members ($5.8M)
      • Increased funds to increase reimbursement rates for speech-language pathology, audiology, physical therapy, and occupational therapy providers ($3.96M)
      • $1.5M in new training programs, residencies, fellowships, and rotations for health care providers in rural, maternal, and related areas of practice. This funding includes $56,000 for a rural health preventative medicine rotation to train future doctors 
  • Department of Human Services
    • Governor’s Budget
      • $3.24M for 300 additional Medicaid eligibility caseworkers for redeterminations
      • Beginning April 1, 2023, DHS and DCH began to assess the eligibility of 2.7M Medicaid members, including PeachCare for Kids. For many members, this is the first time they’ve gone through the “redetermination” process, because it has been paused since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. The state’s 14-month window to complete redeterminations, disenrollment, and appeals will end around May 2024
    • House of Representatives
      • Added $1.5M to increase funds for child advocacy centers to expand mental health services and forensic interviewing for children who have experienced abuse, neglect, exploitation, and trafficking, and an additional $100,000 for a psychiatric nurse to support these survivors
      • Added $1.1M for independent living services for people with vision impairments and $500,000 for non-Medicaid covered home and community based services for seniors.
  • Department of Insurance 
    • Governor’s Budget
      • Added another $20M to the reinsurance program to lower health insurance premiums
    • House of Representatives
      • Bumped up the increase to the reinsurance program to $21.4M
  • Department of Public Health
    • Governor’s Budget
      • Because of the way Georgia structures its public health system, 4,300 county public health employees will receive the 4% pay increase slated for all state employees. This is incredibly important for employee retention in county PH departments that are often thinly staffed
      • $1M to expand the maternal health home-visiting pilot program in rural communities
      • $150,000 to add one case manager position to help pregnant women (and those who have recently delivered) who have tested positive for congenital syphilis and/or HIV connect to testing and treatment resources
    • House of Representatives
      • $780,000 for outreach and breast cancer screening services
      • Added $1.4M to the Governor’s proposed $1M (total $2.4M) to expand the home visiting pilot program in rural communities that aims to improve birth outcomes, reduce preterm deliveries, and decrease infant and maternal mortality

Bills on the move

Woman holding baby

Paid leave extention for public workers approved by Senate committee    

Last Thursday, the Senate Children and Families Committee passed HB 1010. The bill now awaits a vote by the Senate Rules committee to send it to the full Senate for final approval. 

Ask your Senator to support HB 1010! 

Introduced by Rep. Jan Jones, HB 1010 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. 

SB 377 heading to the Governor’s desk  

The House unanimously passed SB 377 and the bill now awaits the signature of the Governor. Introduced by Sen. Blake Tillery, SB 377 updates the definition and oversight of “qualified residential treatment programs (QRTPs).” Children and adolescents with serious emotional and mental conditions receive in-patient treatment through these programs. This bill closely aligns with other licensing requirements around the country and seeks to ensure quality services are available to young Georgians in need.

Crossover Day recap correction

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. 

We mistakenly reported that HB 1125 did not pass the House before the Crossover Day deadline on February 29th. This bill was approved by the House and now sits in the Senate Industry & Labor committee for consideration.

Advocate with us at the Capitol

Send GHF your 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

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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