2019 Legislative Session Wrap Up


Sine Die was April 2, 2019 – Here’s What Happened:

sine die 2019

After months of committee meetings, heated debates, and quiet resolutions, the 2019 Georgia legislative session came to a close this week. 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). If a bill did not pass both chambers this legislative session, it is not dead. Since this is a biennial session, the bill must wait until 2020 to continue its progress.

The following bills were signed by the Governor:

SB 106 – Patients First Act
(Blake Tillery, R-Vidalia) Would allow the State to submit a 1115 Medicaid Demonstration Waiver to increase Medicaid coverage to those who are at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Line.

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

SB 16 – Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Act
(Kay Kirkpatrick, R-East Cobb) Would authorize the Georgia Composite Medical Board to administer the compact in this state.

HR 589 – House Committee on Maternal Mortality
(Mark Newton, R-Augusta), creates the House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality. The Study Committee will develop strategies and institute systemic changes to decrease and prevent maternal deaths in Georgia.

HR 707Maternal Mental Health Day at the state capitol
(Katie M. Dempsey, R-  Rome) Would recognize May 1, 2019 as Maternal Mental Health Day at the state capitol.

SB 18 – Direct Primary Care Act
(Kay Kirkpatrick, R-East Cobb) would ensure that providers who are giving care to patients for an agreed upon fee, and does not bill a third-party for services rendered, must inform the patient that the agreement is not the same as insurance. It also exempts primary care agreements from the same regulation as health insurance.

SB 115 – Telemedicine Practice
(Renee Unterman, R-Buford) Would allow physicians who are licensed to practice telemedicine in other states to practice telemedicine in Georgia.

HB 12Quality Basic Education Act
(Rick Williams, R-Milledgeville) Would require every public school to post a sign containing the toll-free telephone number operated by the Division of Family and Children Services of the Department of Human Services to receive reports of child abuse or neglect.

HB 26Psychology Interjurisdictional Compact
(Dave Belton, R-Buckhead) Would allow psychologists licensed in participating states to facilitate telehealth and temporary in-person, face-to-face practice of psychology across jurisdictional boundaries.

HB 62Margie’s Law
(Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta) Would require that if a patient’s mammogram demonstrates dense breast tissue, the health care facility that conducted the mammogram shall provide notification to the patient.

HB 63Step Therapy Protocols
(Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta) Would require health benefit plans to establish step therapy protocols. Step therapy is an insurance practice which forces patients to try and fail on medications other than the ones their health care providers prescribe.

HB 187Obesity Management Pilot Program
(Katie Dempsey, R-Rome) provide for a pilot program at the Department of Community Health to provide coverage for the treatment and management of obesity and related conditions.

HB 217Needle Exchange Program
(Houston Gaines, R-Athens) decriminalizes the act of working or volunteering for a syringe services program, a step towards legalizing the programs. Distributing clean hypodermic syringes and needles to people who use injection drugs (e.g. heroin) helps to prevent the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

HB 233 – Pharmacy Anti-Steering and Transparency Act
(David Knight, R-Griffin) Would address referral practices that may limit or eliminate competitive alternatives in the healthcare services market and that may result in overutilization of health care services. Specifically addresses pharmacies that are an affiliate of the healthcare system where the patient has been prescribed medication to avoid conflicts of interest.

HB 323 – Insurance: Administration of Claims by Pharmacy Benefit Managers
(David Knight, R-Griffin) This bill would force pharmacy benefit managers to report to the state Department of Insurance on how much they are receiving in rebates from pharmaceutical manufacturers and how much of those rebates they are not passing on to patients.

HB 287 – Preceptor Tax Credit
(Matt Dubnik, R-Gainesville) Would create income tax credit for licensed physicians, advanced practice registered nurses, or physician assistants who provide uncompensated preceptorship training to medical students, advanced practice registered nurse students, or physician assistant students.

HB 290PrEP Pilot Program at DPH
(Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta) Would create a three-year pilot program under the Department of Public Health that would provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drug assistance to people who are at risk of being infected with HIV.

HB 321Medicaid Financing Program
(Jodi Lott, R-Evans) would extend the sunset provision of the hospital provider fee for five years. The hospital payment program, which draws down additional federal funding, provides almost $1 billion annually to the state’s Medicaid budget.

HB 324 Georgia’s Hope Act
(Micah Gravley, R-Douglasville) Would allow for the legal production, manufacturing, purchase, and sale of THC oil in Georgia. Certain individuals who suffer from a list of qualified disease may currently possess THC oil, but they cannot legally buy THC oil in the state – this bill would allow for that transaction.

HB 345Dignity for Incarcerated Women
(Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta) Would ensure that no restraints of any kind are used on a woman who is in the second or third trimester of pregnancy, in labor, in delivery, or in the immediate postpartum period while incarcerated. Also ensures that no pregnant women would be subject to a squat and cough search or vaginal exam unless prescribed and performed by a licensed healthcare professional. David Dreyer, D-Atlanta, also filed a dignity for incarcerated women bill – HB 475 – it did not move forward. HMHB strongly supports this legislation and thanks Chairwoman Cooper and Representative Dreyer for their leadership on this important issue.

HB 481Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act
(Ed Setzler, R-Acworth) Would place restrictions on accessing abortion care. Legislation would only allow abortions to take place up until there is a detectible heartbeat, which is typically during the first six weeks of pregnancy. Bill makes exceptions for abortions in cases of rape, incest or if the life of the mother is in danger. Current Georgia law allows abortions up to 20 weeks without exception.

HB 514Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission
(Kevin Tanner, D-Dawsonville) Would create the Georgia Mental Health Reform and Innovation Commission, which would be responsible for conducting a comprehensive review of the mental health system in the state.

The following items were passed in the budget (HB 31):

Maternal Mortality
HB 31 includes $200,000 for additional nurse abstractors for the Maternal Mortality Review Committee. The General Assembly provided Morehouse School of Medicine $500,000 for a Center of Excellence on Maternal Mortality in order to advance maternal health in Georgia.

OB/GYN Residency Programs
The House and Senate agreed to provide $828,042 to fund 54 OB/GYN residency slots, bringing the total number of slots to 104, with 36 slots at Emory University School of Medicine, 20 slots at Medical College of Georgia, 16 slots at Memorial University Medical Center, 16 slots at Morehouse School of Medicine, and 16 slots at Navicent Health Care Macon.

HMHB Perinatal Support Satellites
HB 31 provides $600,000 for HMHB to establish three perinatal support satellites in Wilcox, Randolph, and Jenkins Counties. HMHB requested for funds to support satellites in six counties, one for each perinatal region. The counties selected have consistently poorer than state average outcomes for infant mortality, low birthweight, prematurity and inadequate prenatal care access and have no prenatal services or education in existence.

Perinatal Health
HB 31 also includes $152,826 to provide funds for DPH to implement perinatal facility designation pursuant to the passage of HB 909 (2018 session).

Maternal Mental Health
HB 31 includes additional support for maternal health by providing $1.05 million to screen, refer, and treat maternal depression and related behavioral disorders in rural and underserved areas.

Newborn Health
HB 31 includes $2,349,649 of funding for newborn screening to include four additional disorders that have been approved by the Georgia Newborn Screening Advisory Committee. The four conditions added are Pompe Disease, MPS 1, X-ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy), and SMA (spinal muscular atrophy).

Lactation Room at Capitol 
HB 31 includes $13,000 to convert space in either the Capitol Building or Coverdell Legislative Building to a lactation room.

The following did not move forward this legislative session:

SB 56 – Consumer Coverage & Protection for Out-of-Network Medical Care Act
(Chuck Hufstetler, R-Rome) Would establish standards for carriers and health care providers with regard to payment under a managed care plan in the provision of emergency medical care and increase transparency for consumers in said plans.

SB 4Establish Private Lactation Room at the State Capitol
(Jen Jordan, D-North Atlanta) would establish a private lactation room open to the public in either the Capitol Building or the Paul D. Coverdell Legislative Office Building.

SB 28 Establish Restrictions on Co-Payments and Co-Insurance
(Lester Jackson, D-Savannah) would prohibit certain insurers from imposing a copayment, coinsurance, or office visit charge in an amount greater than such charges imposed for physician or osteopath services to an insured for services rendered by a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or chiropractor.

SB 36Authorizes Funds for Medicaid Expansion
(Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain) would authorize the appropriations for the purposes of obtaining federal financial participation for medical assistance payments to providers of Medicaid expansion under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act.

SB 85Early Childcare Scholarship
(Steve Henson, D-Stone Mountain) Would establish an early childcare scholarship program to be managed by the Department of Education.

HB 577Working For Two Act
(Park Cannon, D – Atlanta) Would require certain accommodations in the workplace for pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions. Accomodations include, but are not limited to: more frequent or longer breaks, time off to recover from childbirth, acquisition or modification of equipment, seating, temporary transfer to a less strenuous or hazardous position, job restructuring, light duty, break time and private nonbathroom space for expressing breast milk, assistance with manual labor, or modified work schedules. HMHB strongly supports this legislation and looks forward to facilitating dialogue around the need to improve working conditions for pregnant and postpartum workers in Georgia.

SB 228Statute of Limitations on Childhood Sexual Abuse
(Burt Jones, R-Jackson) would extend the statute of limitations for actions for childhood sexual abuse in certain circumstances.

HB 8Tax Exemption for Menstrual Products
(Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City) Would exempt sales tax for the sale or use of products with the primary purpose of absorbing or capturing menstrual flow, including but not limited to tampons, menstrual pads and sanitary napkins, panty liners, menstrual sponges, and menstrual cups.

HB 10Education on Risks Associated with Tampon Use
(Debra Bazemore, D-Riverdale) Would require sex education and AIDS education instruction to include information on the risks associated with tampon use. Would also encourage physicians and nurses providing a tampon for use by any female patient under his or her care to recite and provide certain written information to such female patient regarding the best practices for and risks associated with the use of tampons.

HB 17Criminal Penalty for Smoking in Vehicle with Child Under 13
(Sandra Scott, D-Rex) Would make it a criminal offense to smoke inside a vehicle with any child under the age of 13.

HB 693Expanding Medicaid to Improve Health Outcomes for New Mothers
Would amend Title 49 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to social services, so as to require the Department of Community Health to allow mothers giving birth to newborns to retain Medicaid eligibility for one year following said birth.

HB 37Expand Medicaid Now Act
(Bob Trammell, D-Luthersville) Minority Leader, Representative Bob Trammell, introduced this legislation which would authorize appropriations to draw down federal dollars for Medicaid expansion in Georgia as defined under the Affordable Care Act. It would allow coverage for Georgians up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Level.

HB 80Child Support Cooperation Act of 2019
(Bill Werkheiser, R-Glennville) Would require individuals to cooperate with the child support enforcement program as a condition of eligibility for food stamps.

HB 133Quality Basic Education Act – Medically Accurate Sex Education
(Clark Jasmine, D-Tucker) Would require that any course of study in sex education and HIV, and AIDS prevention instruction is medically accurate for those grades and grades levels in public school systems which is determined by the State Board of Education.

HB 178Establish an Assisted Outpatient Treatment Program
(Don Hogan, R-St. Simon’s Island) Would create a unit within the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities to support the coordination of procedures for an assisted outpatient treatment program (court-mandated).

HB 188Rescind ‘Positive Alternatives’ Grant Program
(Renitta Shannon, D-Decatur) would repeal the Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program.

HB 198Certificate of Need for Healthcare Facilities
(Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin) Would eliminate certificate of need requirements for all health care facilities except certain long-term care facilities and services. Substitute version passed the Special Committee On Access to Quality Health Care.

HB 331Protective Orders and Intimate Partner Violence
(Mandy Ballinger, R-Canton) Would edit current code to allow for those who live together or have lived together, and/or have had a past or current pregnancy to be able to file for an order of protection in the case of family violence.

HB 521 Temporary Licensure – Dentists
(Houston Gaines, R-Athens) would allow dentists who are licensed in other states to receive a temporary license in Georgia to perform services on low-income patients.

HB 84Consumer Protections – Health Insurance
(Richard Smith, R-Columbus) Includes several provisions related to proactively informing consumers about out-of-network costs related to healthcare services. Lost House vote 77 to 78.

HB 158HIV/AIDS Program Access for Medicaid Recipients
(Debora Silcox, R-Sandy Springs) Would ensure that Medicaid recipients have the same access to antiretroviral regimens used to treat HIV and AIDS as to those included in the formulary established for the Georgia AIDS Drugs Assistance Programs.