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GHF legislative update: March 25

Legislative Update: Week 11

In this week’s update:

  • GHF testifies to close Georgia’s coverage gap
  • Budget updates 
  • Legislation on the move: housing, paid leave, Medicaid financing, & more!
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

GHF testifies in favor of closing Georgia’s coverage gap

GHF’s Executive Director testifies to Senate about closing the coverage gap

On Thursday, the Senate Regulated Industries committee held a hearing on HB 1077. Originally a bill meant to address mental health workforce, HB 1077 was amended to create a new program called PeachCare Plus that would extend no-cost, private health insurance to uninsured Georgia adults. These adults fall outside the traditional Medicaid eligibility criteria and aren’t able to afford private insurance. The proposed PeachCare Plus program would have closed Georgia’s health insurance coverage gap and had a transformative impact on our state. 

Thursday’s hearing was Georgia’s first-ever committee hearing on a bill to close the state’s coverage gap, and GHF’s Executive Director, Laura Colbert, was among those who testified in support of the bill. You can watch her testimony here and the full committee hearing here (beginning at the 1:13:00 mark).  

The committee voted on whether to approve the bill and with a tie of 7-7, the bill was not approved. While we are deeply disappointed in this outcome, we want to thank the legislators who stood up in support of the coverage that so many Georgians deserve. Join us in saying “Thank you”! 

Update on second opportunity to close Georgia’s coverage gap

While HB 1339 is primarily focused on the state’s regulation of hospitals, it also includes a provision that would establish a Comprehensive Health Coverage Commission to explore closing Georgia’s coverage gap in 2025 or 2026.

While the current version of HB 1339 shows legislative interest in finding a solution, it does not close the coverage gap soon enough. HB 1339 received its final amendments and approvals from the House and Senate on Thursday. If the Governor signs this bill into law, the Comprehensive Health Coverage Commission will likely convene this summer for its first meeting. We will keep you updated about the Commission, its activities, and opportunities to engage in its study of Georgia’s coverage gap.

Budget Updates

FY25 Budget 

Last week the Senate released its version of the FY25 budget, which is expected to be voted on by the Senate tomorrow. Once the Senate passes its budget, the House and Senate will appoint a conference committee to work out the differences between their two budget drafts so they can agree to one final budget. We will highlight notable health investments in the final budget next Monday.  

You can read our previous overviews of the Governor’s and state agencies’ FY25 budget here and the changes the House made here. 

Bills on the move

Upcoming for this week: This Thursday, March 28th, is the final day of the 2024 legislative session. The last day is often called “Sine Die,” which means “without any future date being designated.”

This week will be full of long, rushed days at the Capitol. Bills and budget changes will move quickly between now and midnight on Thursday so the information below is only as current as the timestamp on this email. Follow GHF and #gapol on social media for the latest updates! 

Next Monday, we’ll send a legislative update recapping what did and didn’t get accomplished in this year’s session. In the meantime, we may send some last action alerts to help final bills move forward or keep others from being approved. Stay tuned!

Quality housing for Georgia renters

HB 404, was approved by the Senate on Thursday! Now it only needs an “agree” from the House before going to the Governor’s desk.  (If you called or emailed Senate Rules Committee members about HB 404, thank you!)

Introduced by Rep. Kasey Carpenter, HB 404 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.

Creation of new Juvenile Treatment Court

HB 873 was approved by the Senate on Monday. This bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.

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. 

Hospital Medicaid Financing Program

HB 991 was approved by the Senate on Monday. This bill now awaits the Governor’s signature.

Introduced by Rep. Shaw Blackmon, HB 991 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. 

Woman holding baby

Paid leave extension for public workers    

HB 1010 was approved by the Senate on Thursday! Now it only needs an “agree” from the House before going to the Governor’s desk.  (If you advocated for HB 1010, thank you!)

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. 

Preventing harm to people in need of care

The House approved SB 456 last Monday, and it now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.  

Introduced by Sen. Brian Strickland, SB 456 would allow 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.

Student loan repayment program for mental health & substance use providers

SB 480, introduced by Sen. Mike Hodges, would establish a student loan repayment for mental health and substance use professionals, including physiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and other mental health professionals. (This bill is similar to HB 1077 before it was amended this week). Qualifying providers could receive repayment assistance for up to five years. The bill does not specify how much assistance providers might be eligible for, so the Georgia Board of Healthcare Workforce will likely make that determination as it oversees the program and is based on any funding allocated to the program by the Georgia General Assembly.

In order to be eligible for student loan repayment assistance, providers must see underserved Georgia youth or practice in unserved geographic areas of Georgia that are “disproportionately impacted by social determinants of health,” as determined by the workforce board.

The House passed SB 480 last Monday. It now awaits the Governor’s signature.

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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