2018 Legislative Session Wrap Up

Author: HMHB Staff

Sine Die was March 29, 2018 – Here’s What Happened:

Please note that, while uncommon, all passed bills are subject to veto by the Governor. The Governor has 40 days to sign or veto legislation after the session ends. If he fails to sign or veto, the bill then becomes law on the effective date as established in the bill (which is typically July 1 of that year).

The following bills passed both the House and Senate and are on their way to the Governor for his consideration:

HB 769 – Micro Hospitals, Rural Recommendations
(Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper): A comprehensive bill to implement the recommendations of the rural hospital coalition committee. This includes the rural hospital tax credit, streamlining and creating efficiencies, establishing micro hospitals, establishing physicians incentives for rural practice, creating a powerful innovation council, and redefines “rural county” from 35,000 or less residents to 50,000 or less. This bill passed the House and Senate and awaits signature by the Governor.

HB 909 – Creation of DPH Perinatal Facilitates
(Deborah Silcox R-Sandy Springs) This bill would allow the Department of Public Health to define and designate Perinatal Facilities in Georgia. Perinatal facility means a hospital, clinic, or birthing center that provides maternal or neonatal healthcare services. The bill is meant to encourage the improvement of quality of care to create better maternal and neonatal outcomes. HMHB strongly supports this legislation and was happy to provide testimony and support of this bill on the Senate side. This bill passed the House and Senate and awaits signature by the Governor.

SB 357 – Health Coordination & Innovation Council
(Dean Burke, R-Bainbridge) This bill would create the Health Coordination and Innovation Council and establish the Health System Innovation Center, with the goal of figuring out how to ensure that more rural Georgians have access to quality health care. SB 357 Passed the Senate with only one no vote. Merged with 769, awaiting signature by the Governor.

HB 159– Domestic Relations Adoption
(Bert Reeves, R-Marietta) Comprehensive bill updating the state’s adoption law. Provides a nonresident to allow an adoption of his or her child, allows adoption of foreign-born children, provides for a waiver to revoke a surrender of parental rights. Includes no restrictions against same-sex couples. Signed by the Governor on 3/3/18. Act 285

HB 513 Safe Haven for Newborns
(Pam Dickerson, D-Conyers) This bill would provide a safe place for newborns, for signs to be posted at certain medical facilities to indicate locations where a newborn child may be left such that the mother can avoid criminal prosecution. Passed the House and Senate. Awaiting signature from the Governor.

HB 834– Termination of Lease for Domestic Violence Circumstances 
(Mandi Ballinger, R-Canton) This bill would provide for the termination of a rental or lease agreement for residential real estate under circumstances involving family violence. Passed the House and Senate. Awaiting signature from the Governor.

The following items were passed in the budget:

Maternal Mortality
Citing consistently dismal rates in maternal mortality and considering recommendations from the Georgia OB/Gyn Society, House and Senate leaders have converged on addressing maternal mortality in conjunction with the Department of Public Health. Senate Heath leaders, led by Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford), have signaled that they intend to direct appropriations towards research-based practices to address maternal mortality. We are happy to report that the House HHS budget included the full $2 million appropriations request for the Maternal Mortality Review Committee. That budget must now be reviewed and approved by the Senate HHS, specifically the appropriations sub-committee for Human Development and Public Health. We are grateful to Representative Terry England, Appropriations Chairman, and Butch Parrish, Health Appropriations Sub Committee Chairman for prioritizing this critical need for Georgia. The funding request of $2 million has been maintained in both the House and Senate versions of the budget to date.

Group Prenatal Care
Group Prenatal Care (also referred to as ‘Centering Pregnancy’) is an evidence-based, patient-centered model of group prenatal care. It works to bring patients out of the exam room and into a group setting, helping to build their community of support. This model has gained traction in Georgia and is poised to receive additional funding and support during the 2018 legislative session. HMHB supports funding additional group prenatal care sites in Georgia and supports efforts led by the March of Dimes to make these access points available across the State. $500K has been maintained in the budget to support Group Prenatal Care.

Perinatal Hepatitis C
215,700 added to the budget to improve perinatal hepatitis C surveillance, linkage to care, and testing to address the statewide increase of the hepatitis C virus due to opioid epidemic (DPH)

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit
$250,000 added to the budget to establish and launch a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Peer Recovery Coaching Program (DBHDD)

Newborn Delivery (Rural Counties)
$335,200 added to the budget for a $250 add-on payment for newborn delivery in rural counties (population less than 35,000)

OB/GYN Residency Programs 
$306,600 added to the budget for 20 slots in OB/GYN residency programs, with four slots each at Emory University School of Medicine, Medical College of Georgia, Memorial University Medical Center, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Navicent Health Care Macon. (DCH)

Planning For Healthy Babies:
The Department of Community Health is authorized to submit a request to the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the continuation of the existing Planning for Healthy Babies Waiver.

Children’s Mental Health 
20.6 million for programs and services recommended by the Commission on Children’s Mental Health

SR 1063– Senate Study Committee on Certificate of Need Reform
Creates a 15- member study committee on Certificate of Need (CON) reform. Passed the Senate. The committee will hold hearings on the topic over the interim, filing a report by December 1.

The following bills failed to pass this legislative session:

SB 375– Keep Faith in Adoption and Foster Care Act
(William Ligon, R-Brunswick): This bill would allow a child-placing agency to decline to accept a referral from the department and decline to perform services not referred under a contract with the department based on the child-placing agency’s religious beliefs. This would also prevent the department from discriminating against or causing any adverse action against a child-placing agency based on it’s religious beliefs. Passed by the Senate, failed to pass the House.

SB 314 Consumer Coverage and Protection for Out-of-Network Care Act
(Chuck Hufsteler, R-Sandy Springs): This act will establish standards for carriers and health care providers with regard to payment under a managed care plan in the provision of emergency medical care. This bill will provide disclosures for patients, prospective patients, and insurer disclosures. This includes payments to providers for those in managed care contracts and penalties for violations. Passed by the Senate, failed to reach the House.

SB 8 Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act 
(Renee Unterman, R-Buford): This will provide for billing and reimbursement of out-of-network services; to provide for procedures for dispute resolution for surprise bills for non-emergency services and provide for payment of emergency services. This will also provide for an out-of-network reimbursement rate work group to provide for related matters, repeal conflicting laws and for other purposes. This bill has passed the House, but failed to reach the Senate.

HB 519- Step Therapy 
(Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta): This bill would require health benefit plans to utilize certain clinical review criteria to establish step therapy protocols and provide for a step therapy override determination process. Passed the House, failed to pass by Senate.

SB 351 – Independent Practice Authority for APRNs
(Renee Unterman, R-Buford) This bill makes advanced practice registered nurse eligible to engage as a licensed independent practitioner if they are primarily employed in a rural county. This would include the ability for APRNs to order computed tomography (CT) scans and to prescribe, procure, administer, dispense, and furnish pharmacological agents, including controlled substances. Amended onto HB 927 and passed the Senate unanimously, but failed to pass by the House.

HB 669 – Medicaid Expansion
(Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville) The Minority House Leader introduced a bill that would require Georgia to authorize state dollars to draw down additional federal dollars to expand Medicaid. When asked how the State would fund their portion of the expansion costs, estimated to be between $120-200 million, Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) suggested a 50-cent tobacco increase. Did not make crossover, but the House agreed to a hearing. This was the first ever hearing on a clean Medicaid expansion bill.

SB 334 Georgia Board of Nursing
(Renee Unterman, R-Buford) SB 334 would transfer the Georgia Board of Nursing from the Secretary of State’s office to the Department of Community Health. SB 334 passed the Senate, failed to pass by the House.

SB 352 – Commission on Substance Abuse & Recovery
(Renee Unterman, R-Buford) This bill would establish the Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery and would create a director of Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Related Disorders. This bill is expected to receive its first hearing (and pass) in the coming week. SB 352 passed the Senate unanimously, but failed to get agreement from the House.

HB 184– Georgia Pregnant Workers Fairness Act 
(Park Cannon, D-Atlanta) This bill would have provided reasonable accommodations to job applicants and employees for circumstances related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. It also would have provided for a civil cause of action for unfair unemployment practices. While this bill did not make crossover, it did have a hearing in the House Industry and Labor Committee. We expect a similar bill to be introduced next session.

HB 827 – Increase Value of Rural Hospital Tax Credit to 100%
(Trey Kelley, R-Cedartown) This bill would allow for the full amount of a donation to rural hospitals in Georgia to be considered tax-deductible. The maximum would be $10,000 for jointly filing married couples and corporations and $5,000 for individuals. HB 827 passed the House, failed to pass Senate. Language was amended to HB 769.

HB 877 – Modified Risk Tobacco
(Chad Nimmer, R-Blackshear) A bill to cut the tobacco tax in half for so called “modified risk” tobacco products has passed the House Ways and Means committee and is now in the Rules committee awaiting a vote on the House Floor. Health advocates agree that this was a bad bill because: 1) There is no data to quantify the claim of reduced risk, 2) It will likely create a false sense of safety and actually encourage tobacco use, particularly among minors, and 3) Georgia already has the second lowest tobacco tax in the country. This bill lost decisively on the House Floor by a vote of 109-59.

SB 344 – Legal Sale of Retail Marijuana
(Curt Thompson, D-Tucker) This bill would provide for the legal sale of retail marijuana in the state. The bill details the regulatory provisions for the sale, distribution, and cultivation of retail marijuana. Did not make crossover.

HB 733– Including Psychiatrists in Loan Forgiveness for Underserved Areas
(Kimberly Alexander, D-Hiram) This bill would expand the service cancelable loan program for health professionals to include psychiatrists who practice in under-served, rural parts of the state. Did not make crossover.

HB 747– Medications for Hemophilia Under Medicaid
(Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta) The bill would allow Medicaid recipients to receive unrestricted access to medications for hemophilia. Did not make crossover.

HB 382 – Place the Georgia Commission on Women Under Department of Public Health
(Jimmy Pruett, R-Eastman) This bill would place the Georgia Commission on Women (GCW) under the purview of the Department of Public Health. The Georgia General Assembly along with Gov. Zell Miller created the GCW in 1992. The mission of the Commission is to advise appointing officers and look at how laws affect women in Georgia and their families. Did not make crossover.

HB 927– Info to Caregiver by DFCS upon Placement of Child
(Rep. Chad Nimmer- R) Relating to general provisions relative to dependency proceedings, so as to require certain information be provided to a caregiver, foster parent, preadoptive parent, or relative by DFCS upon placement of a child. Status: Referred to Juvenile Justice Committee, passed committee, passed House, sent to Senate, referred to Health Committee, passed Senate by substitute, sent to House for agree/disagree. Dead

HB 263– Dental Services for Medicaid and Peachcare for Kids Recipients 
(Rep. Darlene Taylor-R) Relating to medical assistance generally, so as to provide for administrators for dental services for Medicaid recipients and PeachCare for Kids participants; to require the Department of Community Health to competitively bid out and contract with such administrators. Referred to Health & Human Services. Dead