Keeping Current @ the Capitol – 2021 Session
The 2021 Legislative Session is Here!
The 2021 Georgia General Assembly commenced yesterday, January 11. As always, we will be monitoring legislation that has the potential to impact maternal and infant health outcomes for Georgia families and providers. Every week, we will send out our signature newsletter, Keeping Current @ The Capitol, with updates on legislation, appropriations and other big news from the Gold Dome!
Making your voice heard as a constituent is very important and we encourage you to get involved at any point during the legislative session. You can find your Georgia State legislators here. To learn more about how to get involved directly with HMHBGA this session, email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Support the extension of pregnancy Medicaid from six months to one year postpartum.
During the 2019 legislative session, the Georgia General Assembly extended the coverage of Pregnancy Medicaid from 60 days to six months postpartum. While this is a great step in improving maternal health, women are at risk for pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity throughout the first year after delivery and Georgia ranks among the worst states in the nation for maternal mortality. Pregnancy Medicaid covers a range of necessary and important medical services for eligible women. When new mothers lose this needed medical coverage after six months, they are no longer able to receive care for conditions that may have arisen during their pregnancy, leaving them at risk for mortality or morbidity in the postpartum period. In fact, 67% of Georgia’s pregnancy-related deaths that occur between 6 months and one year postpartum were determined to be preventable. We support extending pregnancy Medicaid from six months to one year postpartum.
Ensure adequate funding to the Department of Public Health’s Maternal & Child Health Section.
The Maternal & Child Health Section, under the Georgia Department of Public Health, is the state agency responsible for administering vital maternal and child health programs. Some of these programs include newborn screening, group prenatal care, family planning, neonatal abstinence syndrome prevention, and resource access. The agency also oversees the Maternal Mortality Review Committee and convenes the Georgia Perinatal Quality Collaborative (GaPQC). The current COVID-19 pandemic coupled with Georgia’s maternal mortality crisis has brought a range of concerns highlighting the need for continued access to medical care in the perinatal period. Vital programs from the Department of Public Health help to address Georgia’s abysmal ranking across maternal and infant health indicators: infant mortality (6th), prematurity (6th), and low birthweight (4th). We support any effort to ensure adequate funding to the Department of Public Health’s Maternal & Child Health Section.
Support legislation to protect pregnant and postpartum employees in the workplace and provide appropriate workplace accommodations.
About 70% of Georgia women of childbearing age are in the workforce. Yet, there are no state-level laws in Georgia that govern workplace protections and accommodations for employees during the full pregnancy and the postpartum period. Currently, 30 states nationwide, including eight southern states, have instituted legislation to ensure pregnant and postpartum employees are protected from discrimination. Reasonable, low-cost accommodations such as adequate water and food-breaks, or access to a seat during the workday, help women stay on the job and support healthy pregnancies. Workplace accommodations help businesses by increasing employee retention and morale as well as reducing turnover. Establishing protections for pregnant and postpartum employees also helps employers avoid costly litigation by giving explicit standards around discrimination. We support legislation that affords employees reasonable accommodations for a safe and healthy pregnancy and postpartum period.
Support increasing the state tobacco product excise tax on both tobacco and tobacco alternative products.
Smoking during pregnancy puts moms and babies at higher risk for medical complications including placental hemorrhage, fetal growth restriction, and preterm birth. Maternal smoking during pregnancy and second hand smoke exposure after birth are also significant risk factors for sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which accounts for 11% of infant deaths in Georgia. Raising the cost of tobacco can lower tobacco usage and improve health. Yet, Georgia has one of the lowest tobacco tax rates in the nation, ranking 48th of 50 states. Currently, the Georgia tobacco tax is only 37 cents per pack, whereas the national average is $1.81 per pack. Raising the tobacco tax to the national average is estimated to generate about $500 million in additional revenue, which is needed given the strain COVID-19 has put on Georgia’s healthcare system and rural communities. We support an increase to the state tobacco product excise tax on both tobacco and tobacco alternative products.
During the 2020 legislative session we collaborated with partners and stakeholders, in the midst of the pandemic, to successfully advocate for the following:
- HB 1114 – Allows the Department of Community Health to apply for an 1115 Waiver to extend Pregnancy Medicaid to six months after delivery.
- HB 1090 – Requires employers to provide reasonable break time to an employee who needs breast milk for their nursing child.
- SB 375 –Adds a 7% tax on vaping products and provides penalties for the sale and distribution of vaping and nicotine products for people under the age of 21.
- SB 408 –Extends the sunset date of the Family Care Act, which allows employees use of sick leave for care of immediate family members, to 2023. Also updated to include provisions and benefits to the unemployment insurance program.
- $3.61 million retained in the state budget for maternal health program funding that was originally up for budget cuts.
Coming Soon: Project 236
HMHBGA is excited to launch Project 236, an advocacy tool that can be used to understand the state of maternal and infant health in your legislative district! Outcomes include rates of preterm birth, low birthweight, infant mortality, and prenatal care inadequacy. In this age of virtual advocacy, we hope that this can be used as a way to advocate for improved maternal and infant health in your own backyard.
How does your district compare to the state of Georgia overall? Is there an area where your Senate district is performing lower? Speak with your Senator about how comprehensive policies can address negative outcomes. Does your House district have outcomes that are better than the state of Georgia? Talk with your Representative about what they can do to make sure it stays that way or even improves. Fact sheets for all 236 of Georgia’s legislative districts will be available next week and information on where to find them will be included in the next Keeping Current @ the Capitol® issue!
Save the Date: Advocating in A Virtual World and Beyond
|Save the date for February 18, 2021 from 11:00AM to 12:30PM. HMHBGA, in partnership with the March of Dimes, will hold an educational session (via Zoom) on how to advocate for maternal and infant health policies in a virtual age. A video will be included describing how Georgia’s legislative leaders plan to address maternal and infant healthcare issues in 2021 and how these issues may impact Georgia’s families. More information to come!|