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Legislative Update: HIV, lead poisoning prevention, & lots of PBMs

Legislative Update: Week 7

Legislative session passes halfway mark

Last week marked the halfway point of the 2020 Georgia legislative session. The General Assembly was busy with legislative hearings and committee votes last week, illustrated well by the flurry of activity in all of the health-related committees. We have your complete updates below.

The Senate is expected to pass their version of the amended FY2020 state budget this week and work continues in the House on the FY2021 budget. Committee hearings will continue in earnest this week ahead of next week’s Crossover Day deadline. (Crossover Day is the 28th day of session and the deadline by which bills must pass the House or the Senate in order to remain viable to become law.)

Effort to modernize HIV laws moves forward

HB 719 passed by House Health & Human Services committee

HB 719, sponsored by Rep. Deborah Silcox, would modernize Georgia’s HIV-related laws and make progress towards decriminalizing HIV. Current Georgia law deems it a felony for people living with HIV to have sex or donate blood without disclosing their status, or for spitting at or using bodily fluids on a law enforcement officer by a person living with HIV. Under HB 719 only the act of having sex without disclosing a person’s HIV status would remain illegal and the punishment for that would be downgraded to a misdemeanor. This legislation has the backing of LGBTQ+ advocates and public health professionals. 

The House Health & Human Services committee approved HB 719 on Wednesday. The bill will now be considered by the House Rules committee. 

Addressing childhood lead exposure

Resolution introduced to establish study committee on child lead poisoning

Last year, 2,333 Georgia children under six years of age were found to have lead poisoning, which is irreversible and can cause speech, language, and behavioral problems, lower IQ levels, and nervous system damage. To address this issue, Rep. Katie Dempsey has introduced HR 1280 to establish a Joint Study Committee on Childhood Lead Exposure. The resolution has been referred to the House Health & Human Services committee for its consideration.

For more information on this important public health issue, check out this helpful fact sheet from Voices for Georgia’s Children.  

Pharmacy benefit managers in the spotlight

Georgia’s House and Senate committees have taken a keen interest in legislation to change how pharmacy benefit managers operate in Georgia. Pharmacy benefit managers (commonly called PBMs) are companies that manage prescription drug benefits for health insurance companies. in order to secure lower prices on medications, PBMs have adopted practices that are seen as to burdensome by pharmacies, restrictive and hard-to-navigate by consumers, and opaque by elected officials. Here are a few of the bills that are moving forward that would reform PBM practices in Georgia.

HB 918: Restricts onerous PBM audits of pharmacies

PBMs may audit the practices of pharmacies as part of their responsibilities for a health insurer. However, these audits can strain independent and small pharmacies with fewer employees. HB 918, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper, puts in place limits on the practices of PBMs within these audits so that pharmacies can more easily meet audit requests and the benefit of the doubt is given to pharmacies when small or innocuous mistakes are discovered.

The House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care approved HB 918 on Friday. The bill will now be considered by the House Rules committee.

HB 946: Increases accountability for PBMs

HB 946, sponsored by Rep. Matt Knight, would increase fines on PBMs when they “steer” consumers to specific pharmacies and would prohibit PBMs from paying affiliated pharmacies more than independent ones. The bill would require PBMs to pass along rebates to insurers (who would presumably pass those savings on to consumers) and would ban programs called “co-pay accumulators.” Co-pay accumulators increase out-of-pocket costs for consumers who need prescription drugs, especially those with expensive medications and those with high deductibles and other cost-sharing.

The House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care approved HB 946 on Friday. The bill will now be considered by the Hosue Rules committee.

HB 947: Examining the costs of PBMs in Medicaid

HB 947, also sponsored by Rep. Matt Knight, would require Georgia’s Department of Community Health to complete an independent study to find out if Georgia would save money by removing the current PBM structure from its Medicaid plans. If the estimated savings are more than $20 million annually, Georgia would eliminate PBMs from most of the state’s Medicaid plans.

The House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care approved HB 946 on Friday. The bill will now be considered by the Hosue Rules committee.

SB 313: Benchmarking for prescription drug prices

SB 313, sponsored by Senator Dean Burke, is expected to receive a vote today in the Senate Insurance & Labor committee.

This bill is consistent with HB 946 in many ways, although not an exact match. SB 313 requires that PBMs use the “national average drug acquisition cost,” as a reference point for reimbursing pharmacies for prescriptions. The bill also includes many of the same patient protections as those in HB 946. 

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, we have the tools you need to stay in touch with health policy under the Gold Dome.


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