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2020 Georgia General Assembly

Update: Friday, February 14, 2020

The General Assembly took time off this week to work on the state budget. Legislators wanted more time to consider the Governor’s budget and hold appropriations hearing. They will also be adjourned on Monday, Feb. 17 in observance of President’s Day. The General Assembly will reconvene on Tuesday, February 18th.
The Chapter’s Legislative Committee, chaired by Melinda Willingham, MD meets regularly via teleconference to discuss bills and issues at the Capitol. It’s open to all Chapter members. Contact Kathryn Autry (kautry@gaaap.org) at the Chapter office. And be sure to know who your state senator and state representative are. You can find that out by clicking on the button above.

The Chapter’s top state legislative priorities for this year are:

1. Support & strengthen Georgia’s childhood immunization system and strongly oppose any legislative attempts to weaken it, such as HB 416 and HR 648, which seek to spread misinformation and unwarranted concerns about the safety and benefits of immunizations.

2. Address the vaping/nicotine/e-cigarette crisis, including banning flavors including mint and menthol, and taxing vaping and e-cigarettes (which are not taxed at all now) at the same level as conventional cigarettes.

3. Strengthen the Georgia Medicaid program, so vitally important to the more than 500,000 children who live in rural Georgia. To accomplish this in part, increase primary care basic services codes from 2014 Medicare to 2018 Medicare levels.

4. Support early brain and early child development, including the findings and recommendations of the Dempsey House Study Committee on infant & toddler social-emotional health.

 

Below is a list of bills we will be following:

High Priority Issues — 2020 Blueprint for Action 2020 Goals

Immunizations

HB 615 by Rep. Teri Anulewicz (D-Smyrna) proposes to allow mature 16- and 17-year old to receive vaccinations without parental consent. Assigned to the House Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

HB 416 by Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) would provide for the creation of a State Vaccine Consumer Protection Office for the purpose of providing information to the public regarding assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of potential vaccine injuries. Included in the office’s responsibilities is the task of developing a State Vaccine Information Sheet that, among other things, must disclose that the patient may decline some or all vaccines. Assigned to the House Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

Tobacco, Nicotine & Vaping: Taxes

HB 864 by Rep. Bonnie Rich (R-Suwanee) would provide for a 7 percent state excise tax on vaping devices and consumable vaping products. It also requires licensure for persons dealing with vapor devices or consumable vapor products. It would also require only face-to-face sales of vapor devices or consumable products. Assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee: STATUS: Scheduled to be heard by W&M Subcommittee when the legislature reconvenes the week of Feb. 18.

HB 731 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) proposes increase the state excise tax on tobacco products, so as to increase the amount of such tax on cigarettes from .37₡ to $1.87 per pack and on cigars and smokeless tobacco from 10 to 42 percent of the wholesale cost price. Products. Assigned to the House Ways & Means Committee: STATUS: No Action

Tobacco, Nicotine & Vaping: Tobacco 21

SB 298 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) would update the state’s enforcement and education efforts on tobacco and vaping products. It defines vaping products to encompass both “vapor cartridges” and “vapor devices.” It also raises the minimum purchasing age for all tobacco and vaping products from 18 to 21 and creates a tiered punishment system for individuals who sell products to minors. It also requires that all vaping products include a list of ingredients and prohibits marketing practices that could be construed as marketing the products to children. Assigned to the Senate Regulated Industries Committee. STATUS: Approved by Committee and eligible to be considered by the full Senate

HB 909 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would change the age for purchasing tobacco products, including vapor products, to the age of 21. Assigned to the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care. STATUS: No action

State Budget

HB 792 by Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) is the AFY2020 Appropriations Bill – midyear adjustment budget. Assigned to the House Appropriations Committee. STATUS: Under Committee Review.

HB 793 by Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) is the FY2020 Appropriations Bill – effective 7/1/2020. Assigned to the House Appropriations Committee. STATUS: Under Committee Review.

Priority Issues: Track & Engage As Needed

Distracted Driving

HB 113 by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) specifies that anyone driving with a Class C learners permit, Class C license, or Motorcycle instruction permit is prohibited from using a stand-alone electronic device or wireless telecommunications device in a moving vehicle unless it is an emergency. Assigned to the House Public Safety Committee: STATUS: 2019 holdover bill; focus of current version under consideration is now putting more teeth into penalties for violations of the 2018 distracted driving legislation

Insurance: Surprise Billing

HB 789 by Rep. Mark Newton (R-Augusta) seeks to create a “surprise bill rating system” which is based upon the number of certain physician specialty groups contracted with a hospital within a health insurer’s network and that insurers would be required to include a hospital’s surprise bill ratings online and in print in provider directories. Assigned to the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care. STATUS: Substitute bill approved by House Committee on 2.4.2020

HB 888 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) is a companion bill to SB359 and is the House leadership and Governor’s proposal to provide for certain consumer protections against surprise billing and provides mechanisms to resolve payment disputes between insurers and out-of-network providers. STATUS: To be introduced on 2.18.2020

SB 359 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) is a companion bill to HB 888 and is the Senate leadership and Governor’s proposal to provide for certain consumer protections against surprise billing and provides mechanisms to resolve payment disputes between insurers and out-of-network providers. Assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: Expected to be heard in committee the week of Feb. 18.

Medicaid Postpartum Extension

HB 693 by Rep. Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur) would require DCH to allow mothers giving birth to newborns to retain Medicaid eligibility for one year following such birth. Assigned to the House Appropriations Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

SB 258 by Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) would also require DCH to allow mothers giving birth to newborns to retain Medicaid eligibility for one year following such birth. Assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

SB 324 by Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) also proposes to extend Medicaid coverage for pregnant women for 12 months after childbirth. Assigned to the Senate Appropriations Committee. STATUS: No action

Non-emergency Health Care Services

SB 303 by Sen. Ben Watson (R-Savannah) would create a new law to provide greater transparency of prices for non-emergency health care services and require that insurers make available on their publicly accessible websites an interactive mechanism and a toll free number so that the public may access (and compare) the payment amounts accepted by in-network providers from such insurer for the provision of a particular health care service within the previous year and more. Assigned to the Insurance & Labor Committee. STATUS: Substitute bill approved by Committee now before Rules Committee.

PBMs

SB 313 by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) proposes regulations for pharmacy benefits managers, including proscribes PBMs from contracting with physicians for step therapy or prior authorizations unless the physician is licensed by the Georgia Composite Medical Board, actively sees patients, and engages with the medical practice that focuses on the condition for which they are providing advisement. The bill includes reporting requirements for PBMs for any case where a patient’s health outcome is adversely affected by a prior authorization and PBMs are required to use the national average drug acquisition price as a benchmark for ingredient drug pricing, and more. Assigned to the Insurance & Labor Committee. STATUS: Expected to be up in Committee the week of Feb. 18.

Recess

HB 843 by Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) would requires each elementary school to schedule recess for all students from K-5 grades every school day. Each school is encouraged to include an average of 30 minutes per day of supervised unstructured activity time, preferably outdoors. Assigned to the House Education Committee. STATUS: Similar bill passed the 2019 General Assembly, but Governor vetoed the bill; bill has been re-written and reintroduced

Scope of Practice: APRN

SB 321 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) seeks to revise current law relating to the number of physician assistants and advanced practice registered nurses a physician can authorize and supervise at any one time from four to six (combined full time equivalent). Assigned to the Senate Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: No action yet

Scope of Practice: Pharmacists

HB 791 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) would allow a pharmacist to dispense (exercising his/her professional judgment and in consultation with the patient) up to a 90 day supply of a maintenance medication (unless the prescriber has specified on the prescription that dispensing a maintenance medication in an initial amount followed by periodic refills is medically necessary – this authorization does not apply to Schedules II, III, IV or V controlled substances). Assigned to the House Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: No action

 

Watch List Issues

Conversion Therapy

HB 580 by Rep. Matt Wilson (D-Brookhaven) would prohibit the practice of conversion therapy. Assigned to the Regulated Industries Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action likely

Dextromethorphan

HB 112 by Rep. John LaHood (R-Valdosta) would prohibit the retail sale of dextromethorphan to minors. Assigned to the Juvenile Justice Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action so far

SB 272 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Columbus) would prohibit the retail sale of dextromethorphan to minors. Assigned to the Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action so far

DNR

SB 104 by Sen. Chuck Payne (R-Dalton) proposes to revise the persons authorized to issue a DNR order for a child. Passed Senate but failed to receive floor vote in the House. Assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. STATUS: In 2019 session, bill passed Senate and was approved by House Committee but was never made it to the House floor for a vote; bill is now back in the House Judiciary Committee

Emergency Medical Coverage

HB 677 Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs) would create the Consumer Coverage and Protection for Out-of-Network Medical Care Act. Specifically, the bill would establish standards for insurers and health care providers regarding payment under a health benefit plan in the provision of emergency medical services. Assigned to the House Insurance Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

Guns/Assault Weapons

SB 224 by Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla) would eliminate the exception in current law for allowing places of worship to determine if they want to allow the carrying of weapons or long guns by license holders on their premises. It also would limit the carry of weapons in courthouses to only include superior court proceedings. The bill would also allow persons convicted of any misdemeanor involving the use or possession of a controlled substance to apply for a weapons license. Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

SB 357 by Sen. Bill Heath (R-Breman) proposes to change provisions related to carrying and possession of firearms in places of worship. Assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. STATUS: No action

Insurance: Drug Formularies

SB 195 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) would provide for consumer protections and freedom of information relating to prescription drug benefits in health policies, providing consistency and clarity in the disclosure of prescription drug formularies to allow consumers make informed decisions relating to their healthcare. Assigned to the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – Passed House and Senate in 2019 session but House gutted the bill to make it about travel insurance and Senate Disagreed to House Sub

Insurance: Network Adequacy

SB 348 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Marietta) creates the Consumer Right to Access Act. The bill is targeting the practice by health insurers to have narrow provider networks. It would require health insurers to maintain a network that is sufficient in numbers and types of health care providers to ensure that all health care services to covered person will be accessible without unreasonable delay. It would require insurers to report to the Insurance Commissioner the number of enrollees and number of in-network providers. The Commissioner is directed to assess the adequacy of the provider network for each health insurer. Assigned to the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee. STATUS: No action

Insurance: Provider Directories

SB 352 by Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) provides that when a health insurer’s provider directory includes a provider as a participating provider for a network plan when a prospective covered person selects the plan, the insurer shall cover the provider charges at in-network rates for the duration of the contract year for such covered person. Assigned to the Senate Insurance & Labor Committee. STATUS: No action

Safe Places for Newborns

HB 881 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) proposes to revise provisions relating to safe places for newborns to authorize a newborn child to be left with an ambulance service or in a newborn safety incubator. Assigned to the House Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: No action

Scope of Practice

HB 370 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would permit APRNs to order up to a 14-day supply of nonnarcotic drugs in an emergency situation. Assigned to the House Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

HB 409 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) would allow delegation by a physician for an APRN to order radiographic imaging tests in non-life-threatening situations. It also increases the number of APRNs that a physician can enter into a nurse protocol agreement with from four to eight. Both bills failed to win passage but both the House and Senate approved study committees on evaluating and simplifying physician oversight of midlevel providers. Assigned to the Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

SB 109 by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry) would allow delegation by a physician for an APRN to order radiographic imaging tests in non-life-threatening situations. It also increases the number of APRNs that a physician can enter into a nurse protocol agreement with from four to eight. Both bills failed to win passage but both the House and Senate approved study committees on evaluating and simplifying physician oversight of midlevel providers. Assigned to the Health & Human Services Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – HHS favorably reported by Sub in 2019; bill put on Senate Rules Calendar for vote, but bill was tabled; bill recommitted to HHS.

Smoking in Cars

HB 17 by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) would prohibit smoking in vehicles when a person under 13 years of age is present. Assigned to the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

Swimming Pool Inspections

HB 477 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) would exempt pools located in condominium complexes from being required to obtain a permit for operation from the Department of Public Health. Assigned to the State Planning Committee. STATUS: Holdover from 2019 session – no action

 

Day at the Capitol!
Finally, the Georgia AAP Day at the Capitol will be held Thursday, March 5, 2020 at the Georgia Railroad Depot and State Capitol, 8:30am to 2pm. We’re joined at this annual event by our colleagues in primary care from the societies of family physicians, internal medicine, OB-Gyn, and DO’s. We hope to see you there. Register by February 20th.

House Appropriations Committee Leadership

Terry England, Auburn
404-463-2247 Cap
terry.england@house.ga.gov

Rep. Butch Parrish, Swainsboro
Chair, Sub-committee on Community Health/Medicaid

House Leadership
Rep. David Ralston, Blue Ridge
Speaker of the House

Rep. Jan Jones, Milton
Speaker Pro Tem
404-656-5072
jan.jones@house.ga.gov

Rep. Jon Burns, Statesboro
404-656-5052
jon.burns@house.ga.gov

Senate Appropriations Committee

Sen. Jack Hill, Reidsville, Chair
404-656-5038
jack.hill@senate.ga.gov

Sen. Ben Watson, MD, Savannah

Chair, Senate Health & Human Services
ben.watson@senate.ga.gov

Senate Leadership
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, Alpharetta
404-656-5030
https://ltgov.georgia.gov/  

Sen. Mike Dugan, Carrollton
Senate Majority Leader 
404-463-2478
mike.dugan@senate.ga.gov

Sen. Butch Miller, Gainesville
Senate President Pro Tem
404-656-0048
butch.miller@senate.ga.gov

 

Further Information

For a complete text of any these bills you can visit the Georgia General Assembly website:  www.legis.state.ga.us.   For more information on these or other bills, contact Rick Ward, at the Chapter office, at jrice@gaaap.org. Thanks to the members of the Legislative Committee for their efforts during the session and to all our members who contacted their legislators about our issues.  Your support and participation in the legislative process is vitally important to our advocacy.