Keeping Current @ The Capitol: Week of February 6, 2018

Author: Advocacy Committee

Keeping Current @ the Capitol:

The Advocacy Bulletin for Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia

Legislative Calendar 2018
The schedule for the remainder of the legislative session has been set. Crossover day – the day that legislation must move from one chamber to the other in order to be considered in 2018 – will fall on February 28. Sine Die – the last day of session – will fall on March 29. The legislature will be in session Monday-Thursday until crossover day, with the remaining 12 legislative days being broken up through March. The full calendar can be viewed online.

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 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 was passed out of the HHS committee with a unanimous vote and has now moved to the Rules committee.

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.

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.

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.


HB 669 – Medicaid Expansion
New House Minority Leader, Representative Bob Trammell (D-Luthersville), introduced a bill that would require Georgia to authorize state dollars to draw down additional federal dollars to expand Medicaid. The one-page bill can be found here.

Leader Trammel and other Democrats held a press conference on Thursday to announce more details of their proposal, emphasizing the support it would lend to rural communities as well as creating and attracting jobs. 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. NO UPDATE.

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. NO UPDATE.

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. NO UPDATE.

SB 334 – Georgia Board of Nursing
Senator Unterman (R-Buford) has introduced SB 334 which would transfer the Georgia Board of Nursing from the Secretary of State’s office to the Department of Community Health. NO UPDATE.

SB 351 – Independent Practice Authority for APRNs
This bill, filed by Senator Unterman (R-Buford), would make any 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. NO UPDATE.


CHIP Renewed; Home Visiting Funds Still Uncertain

While CHIP was re-authorized after last month’s federal government shut down, the vital funding that supports The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program has not yet been approved. The MIECHV program supports families with millions of home visits that strengthen families and communities across the United States. Without reauthorization, these necessary services will be cut for families in need and programs will be unable to reach more families. See how Georgia utilizes MIECHV funds through the Department of Public Health to support better birth outcomes across the State.

Advocates of the home visiting program are calling on Congress to extend the MIECHV program for five years with incremental funding increases until the program reaches the funding level of $800 million per year to ensure stability for families, effectiveness of programs, and expansion of resources.

In a statement, Colleen Kraft, MD, FAAP, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, applauded the bipartisan action of renewing CHIP “after 114 days of worry” and called for additional action on maternal and child health. “Now that Congress has acted on CHIP, we urge a similar bipartisan approach to the other pressing child health issues that remain unresolved, such as the Maternal Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV), which serves at-risk pregnant women and parents with young children.”

Pediatric Flu Death Count Up to 53

This year’s flu season has been particularly terrible across America. Sixteen pediatric flu-related deaths were reported Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bringing the total number of pediatric flu-related deaths to 53 for the season.

“Our latest tracking data indicate that flu activity is still high and widespread across most of the nation and increasing overall,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting CDC director. “So far this year, the cumulative rate of hospitalizations is the highest since we’ve been tracking in this way, which goes back to 2010.”

As of Friday, there were 51 confirmed deaths (adults and children) due to the flu in Georgia. “We have not hit our peak yet, unfortunately,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said. “Really, the bottom line is, there is still likely many more weeks to go.”

From HMHB’s Legislative Agenda:
Influenza vaccination in pregnancy has been associated with a significant reduction in the risk of stillbirth, reduced numbers of preterm and low birthweight babies and significant decreases (81-91%) in the risk of infant influenza hospitalization during the first six months of life. To incentivize obstetrical clinicians to give in-office inoculations to pregnant women, we recommend a $15.89 increase in reimbursement rate for influenza vaccine to reach parity with the Medicare reimbursement rates. See full agenda here.


INFANT MORTALITY AWARENESS DAY – FEBRUARY 21, 2018: Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia, along with Heart of Georgia Healthy Start, Enterprise Community Healthy Start, Atlanta Healthy Start Initiative, Clayton County Healthy Start and March of Dimes Georgia, invites you to join us for a day of awareness raising and advocacy on February 21, 2018. We will be displaying approximately 900 infant onesies to raise awareness around Georgia’s very poor infant mortality ranking and speaking with legislators regarding policies and budget priorities that will move the needle on maternal and infant health in Georgia. We had 962 infant deaths in Georgia during 2016.