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GHF legislative update: Wrapping up Georgia’s 2023 legislative session

2023 SESSION SINE DIE

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!

The 2023 Georgia legislative session is over, but GHF is not finished!

We’ve made it to the end of the legislative session and through Sine Die (the last day of legislative session).

In this week’s update we review which notable health bills passed and which bills didn’t quite make it across the finish line. Among those bills is HB 520, this year’s mental health bill, which we cover below.

You can find a full list of this year’s health care-related legislation at GHF’s legislative tracker.


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!  

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What is the Medicaid unwinding, and what do Georgians need to know?

Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids provide health insurance coverage to 2.4 million Georgians, most of whom are children. Though Medicaid and PeachCare typically involve a complex annual renewal process, members were relieved of it throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead Georgia’s Medicaid agency (the Department of Community Health, DCH) has been required to keep Medicaid and PeachCare members continuously enrolled in exchange for additional federal funding.

Since March 2020, more than 610,000 Georgians1 have newly enrolled in Medicaid/PeachCare and have benefited from the continuous coverage protections. However, today (April 1st, 2023) Georgia begins a renewal process to see which members are still eligible and to disenroll those children and adults who no longer qualify.

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GHF legislative update: Housing action alert + Sine Die this Wednesday!

Legislative update: Week 11

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: Ask Senators to vote “YES” for HB 404 in support of safe, healthy housing!
  • Mental health bill’s future is uncertain
  • FY24 budget updates 
  • Legislation on the move: vaping, state-based marketplace
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

ACTION ALERT: URGE YOUR SENATORS TO VOTE “YES” ON HB 404

Senate to vote on healthy housing bill!

Last week, the Senate Finance committee heard and approved HB 404. (GHF testified in support!) The Senate Rules committee followed suit and scheduled HB 404 for a Senate vote today or Wednesday. Please contact your Senator now and ask that they vote “Yes!”. 

HB 404, the Safe at Home Act, would help families stay safely and more stably housed. 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.

In it’s current form, HB 404: 

  • Requires that rental properties are “fit for human habitation”
  • Includes cooling as a utility that cannot be shut off prior to an eviction action
  • Prohibits landlords from requiring a security deposit that is more than two months’ rent.
  • Allows a tenant three business days (following a written notice) to pay owed monies prior to an eviction proceeding being filed. (This is called a “right to cure”)

Click here to find your state Senator. (Tip: they will be the second-to-last official listed on the page.) Call to ask them to support HB 404 when it comes up for a vote! 

If you don’t know what to say when you call, use this example: “My name is ________. I live and vote in your district. Please vote YES on House Bill 404 when it comes to the Senate for a vote. This bill would provide fair housing protections to families, including by making sure all rental units are safe and healthy. This is especially important to help keep Georgia kids in school, out of foster care, and healthy in their communities. Thank you!”

(Want to know more about how housing & health are connected? Take a look at GHF’s Healthy Housing page.)  

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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!

ACTION ALERT: URGE YOUR SENATORS TO VOTE NO TO SB 140!

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!

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GHF legislative update: March 13

Legislative update: Week 9

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 support HB 520!
  • Amended FY23 and FY24 budget updates 
  • Biomarker bill gets Senate committee approval
  • TANF for pregnant women 
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

ACTION ALERT: URGE YOUR SENATORS TO SUPPORT HB 520!

New mental health bill will be heard in Senate committee today

A subcommittee of the Senate Health & Human Service committee will hear HB 520 this afternoon at 2 pm. Please call HHS committee members now to ask that they support the bill! 

HB 520 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 very important that state Senators hear from you with your support!

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

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GHF legislative update: Crossover Day Recap

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: CROSSOVER DAY RECAP

In today’s update:

Monday 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.

In this special midweek legislative update, we run down which consumer health bills made it through and which did not. We have included only the bills that we covered in Monday’s week 8 legislative update.

Note: After the flurry of activity on Monday, 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 ACTION

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GHF legislative update: March 6

Legislative update: Week 8

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:

  • New mental health bill passes house!
  • Modernizing the TANF program
  • Better housing for Georgians!
  • Crossover Day: legislation we are watching ahead of today’s deadline! 
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

NEW MENTAL HEALTH BILL PASSES HOUSE!

Mental health bill moving onto the Senate! 

HB 520, this year’s mental health reform bill, received the approval of the Georgia House and will be considered by the Senate after Crossover Day.  

This bill was introduced by Representatives Mary Margaret Oliver and Todd Jones and 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). The bill also expands the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission (BHRIC) to include two “peer support specialists.”

HB 520 also directs DBHDD and DCH to develop an 1115 waiver to use Medicaid funds to provide housing, employment, and nutrition supports, as well as case management, outreach, and education to Medicaid members. This type of waiver is intended to address the non-medical needs of Medicaid members that impact their health and reduce health disparities. These kinds of needs are sometimes called the social determinants of health (SDOH).

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GHF legislative update: February 27

Legislative update: Week 7

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:

  • Crossover Day in a week!
  • New mental health bill
  • Cover Georgia advocacy day!  
  • Budget updates
  • Legislation on the move
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

COUNTDOWN TO CROSSOVER DAY

Crossover Day is next Monday! 

We’re now one week away from Crossover Day. Crossover Day marks the point during the legislative session when a bill must be approved by its originating chamber so it can move across the Capitol to the other chamber. A House bill that is not passed out of the House and any Senate bill that is not passed out of the Senate by Monday, March 6th, will not be able 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 legislation. Expect a lot of activity over the next week, and follow GHF for updates.

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Public health is local: How preemption policies can hurt public health

In 2021 Georgians for a Healthy Future launched a project to raise awareness about the health harms of laws that stop, limit, or discourage local policy-making by communities about their health and well-being. . With support from Voices for Healthy Kids, GHF has spread the word that public health is local. 

When state or federal laws limit what laws or policies can be adopted by a local city or county, it’s called “preemption.” Check out our new video about preemption and public health here!  While it’s not always the case, preemption can be a sneaky way to stifle local efforts to build healthier communities. It can strip local officials of their powers to meaningfully govern in the best interest of their constituents.

Why does preemption matter for public health?

Communities in Georgia may want to promote public health with policies like these but preemptions in Georgia law stand in the way:

  • Adding a local sales tax to smoking and vaping products to prevent youth ;
  • Requiring COVID-19 vaccination or proof of negative COVID status before entering public buildings or taking part in public programs;
  • Requiring businesses to provide paid family leave;, and 
  • Raising the minimum wage for local workers.

Public health is crucial to promoting and protecting Georgians’ health and the health of our communities where we live, work, and play. Public health workers, agencies, and laws make it possible to track disease outbreaks, safely drink water from our faucets and eat at restaurants, help community residents learn healthy behaviors, and understand why some of us are more likely to experience poor health than others. It requires in-depth knowledge of the community and the ability to act locally in ways that are tailored to the needs and preferences of the residents. 

When the state or federal government preempts (stops) a community from making these local public health decisions, it can disrupt preparedness for future emergencies, worsen existing health gaps, and slow the spread of new or evidence-based policies. 

For example, it is well documented that  higher smoking and vaping taxes reduce rates of smoking and vaping, especially among young people and people with low-incomes. When local Georgia communities decide they want to prevent the adverse health effects of smoking and vaping among their middle and high school students, they can’t add a local tax to these harmful products. Georgia law hand-cuffs them from using one of the most effective anti-smoking and vaping policies to address their local needs. The inability to address this problem perpetuates higher smoking rates and worse health outcomes for some groups of people (particularly American Indians in Georgia).

Public Health is Local trainings: Savannah and statewide

As part of this project, GHF hosted two Public Health is Local trainings for Georgians. Step Up Savannah and Healthy Savannah co-hosted one of the trainings with  GHF. The event helped coastal Georgians learn more about preemptive policies (including some that are most relevant for that region of the state) and how they can take action to protect the public health of their communities.
You can view the virtual conversation HERE.

Advocacy opportunities

Preemption removes opportunities for effective, local public health action. Instead, state and federal laws should aim to set up frameworks that allow communities who know what will work best for their residents to try new and evidence-based policies.

One of the best ways to prevent state leaders from blocking local policy solutions is to recognize what preemption looks like and to speak up in support of public health in Georgia. Help keep public health local by:

If you are interested in partnering with Georgians for a Healthy Future to strengthen public health in Georgia, please contact Knetta Adkins (kadkins@healthyfuturega.org) for more information.


GHF legislative update: February 20

Legislative update: Week 6

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:

  • Changes to health care sharing ministries
  • Budget updates
  • New legislation on prescription drug costs, state earned-income tax credit and IDD commission
  • Legislation on the move
  • Advocacy events for your calendar
  • GHF’s got you covered this session!

GEORGIANS DESERVE ACCESS QUALITY,AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE!

Changing health care sharing ministries requirements

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.

Health care sharing ministries (HCSMs) are a form of health coverage in which members – who typically share a religious belief – make monthly payments to cover health care expenses of other members. HCSMs have gained popularity in recent years, especially among younger and healthier people, as a way to cut down on the cost of health insurance while still complying with the requirement to have health insurance (before the requirement was essentially removed). However, HCSMs do not have to comply with the consumer protections of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including covering the 10 essential health benefits. HCSMs do not guarantee which health care services they pay for, so members are not guaranteed coverage if they become sick or ill. For example, these plans may refuse to cover substance use treatment or contraception.

HB 284 would expand Georgia’s definition of 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. Additionally, the bill would allow for the member shares paid into the HCSM to be tax-deductible on state income taxes, thus incentivizing people to join an HCSM over more comprehensive and protective health insurance. 

GHF opposes this legislation because it will likely increase the number of consumers who are enrolled in poor quality health insurance with few protections. Those Georgians would be unable to access quality, affordable health care services.

HB 284 has been referred to the House Ways and Means committee.

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