Lawmakers working through budget process  
State lawmakers focused on the budget process this week, and numerous joint House/Senate budget hearings took place. Legislators heard presentations from a range of state boards and agencies, including the Department of Public Health, the Department of Community Health, the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD), the Department of Insurance, and the Board for Health Care Workforce. 
“The presentations addressed budget cuts that have been proposed by the governor’s office,” reports Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) Government Relations Director Derek Norton. “There were no cuts proposed for Medicaid or the State Health Benefit Plan, but lawmakers are considering cutting the DBHDD.”
Norton adds that, “The proposed budget includes about $3 million in cuts to the Morehouse School of Medicine, $2.4 million in cuts to the Mercer University School of Medicine, and $318,000 in outreach funding for the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in South Georgia did not make it into the proposed budget.”
And he notes that, “The Georgia Board for Health Care Workforce faces a $1 million decrease in funding for loan repayment for physicians, dentists, advanced practice registered nurses, and physician assistants.” 
M.D. lawmakers introduce cost transparency & surprise bills legislation  
Sen. Ben Watson, M.D. (R-Savannah) introduced a bill (S.B. 303) that would require health insurers to make certain patient cost comparison information available on an interactive and publicly accessible website. This website would allow patients to 1) see how much in-network physicians are paid by insurers and 2) see the average amount that in-network physicians actually accept to be paid by insurers and 3) get an estimate for how much out-of-pocket money they will owe their physicians/providers and 4) compare quality metrics for the providers that are available in their insurer’s network in major diagnostic categories, adjusted for risk and severity. MAG is evaluating this bill, which has not yet been assigned to a committee. 
Meanwhile, Rep. Mark Newton, M.D. (R-Augusta) introduced a measure to address “surprise bills” (H.B. 789) that would create a “star” rating system to highlight which health insurance plans include both certain medical specialties (i.e., emergency medicine, radiology, anesthesiology, and pathology) and hospitals in the same networks. This measure would require health insurers to make this information available on their websites and in their printed directories. MAG is evaluating this bill, which is also pending a committee assignment. 
Rep. Carson to pursue legislation to ‘further reduce distracted driving’
Georgia Rep. John Carson distributed the following press release on January 23…
State Representative John Carson (R-Marietta) today announced that traffic fatalities in Georgia have decreased since passage of the Hands-Free law, and he will pursue legislation during the 2020 legislative session to further reduce distracted driving in our state.
After the Hands-Free Georgia Act was enacted on July 1, 2018, Georgia began to experience a significant reduction in year-over-year traffic fatalities for the first time in more than 10 years. These decreases were achieved despite increasing population, economic activity, and a growing number of fatalities from the rise of electric scooters. In 2018, traffic fatalities decreased by 2.25 percent, and preliminary reports show that traffic fatalities have decreased by an additional four percent in 2019. Furthermore, fatalities from the following categories have decreased from 2018 to 2019: pedestrian, nine percent; bicycles, 30 percent; and drivers/passengers ages 15 to 24, 10 percent.
“We have made tremendous strides in our state to curb the number of traffic accidents and fatalities that are a result of distracted driving,” said Rep. Carson. “While statistics prove that hands-free driving has significantly improved driver safety, House Bill 113 would further our efforts to help save countless lives, bringing us one step closer to ending distracted driving in Georgia.”
During the 2020 legislative session, Rep. Carson will continue his work on H.B. 113, which was introduced during the 2019 session and would change current penalties for distracted driving. H.B. 113 would impose higher fines for distracted driving offenses. The fines for a first-time distracted driving offense would range from $50 to $100, fines for a second offense would range from $100 to $200, and fines for a third offense would range from $150 to $300. Additionally, H.B. 113 would increase fines for distracted driving offenses committed within school or construction zones, and it would remove the state’s first-time offense waiver.
“We have made significant progress over the past two years, not just in legislation, but also in changing the culture in our state to reduce distracted driving,” said Rep. Carson. “However, we all still see distracted drivers on our roads. I look forward to continuing to make this behavior unacceptable and to making our roads even safer.”
MAG thanks & applauds this week's ‘Doctor of the Day’ volunteers
MAG is thanking and applauding its ‘Doctor of the Day’ volunteers for the week of January 20, which include…
Randy Rizor, M.D.
Paul Mefferd, D.O.
Chris Meduri, M.D.
MAG Doctor of the Day volunteers work in the Medical Aid Station at the state Capitol, where they provide free minor medical care to legislators and their staff members.
Go to for additional information on the MAG ‘Doctor of the Day’ program, including logistical details and FAQ. 
It’s time to register for ‘Physicians' Day at the Capitol’
The Medical Association of Georgia is encouraging its members to register for the 2020 'Physicians’ Day at the Capitol,' which will take place at the State Capitol in Atlanta from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, February 19.
Physicians and legislators will be invited to attend a lunch that will be served at a venue that is at or within walking distance of the Capitol as soon as the General Assembly adjourns.
Contact Christiana Craddock at or 678.303.9271 with questions.
Register for ‘Physicians' Day at the Capitol’
MAG’s 2020 state legislative priorities 
The Medical Association of Georgia’s (MAG) priorities for the 2020 state legislative session include… 
Tort Reform
– Addressing the state's declining tort environment
Tax Credits for Uncompensated Care
– Creating tax credits for physicians who provide uncompensated care
– Continuing to support the waiver process to ensure Georgians have access to health insurance
Scope of Practice
– Addressing issues that undermine patient safety
Health Insurance
– Developing a solution for “surprise medical bills”        
– Streamlining and improving the prior authorization process
– Promoting insurance coverage for non-narcotic alternative therapies        
– Ensuring patients have access to every physician who is advertised as “in-network” for the duration of a contract year to ensure the continuity of care and requiring insurers to be transparent about how they develop their networks, their standards of participation, and the process they employ to select/de-select physicians for their networks
Contact MAG Government Relations Director Derek Norton at or 678.303.9280 with questions related to MAG’s legislative priorities for 2020.
MAG encouraging members to register/reserve room for legislative seminar
The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) is encouraging its members to register and reserve a room for MAG's 2020 ‘Legislative Education Seminar’ meeting, which will take place at the Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa in Young Harris on May 15-17. 
Call 800.201.3205 and mention the “MAG Legislative Education Seminar” to receive a discounted room rate of $199 per night plus taxes and fees. The discount will be available until May 10 or until MAG’s block of rooms sells out. 
Contact Christiana Craddock at with questions related to lodging or registration.
Monitor MAG’s communications and for additional details, and contact Derek Norton at or 678.303.9280 with any questions related to the seminar.  
Follow MAG at the Capitol 24/7 
Whether you are using a laptop or a tablet or a handheld device, you can always get the latest state legislative news in Georgia by following MAG on Twitter at, on Facebook at, or by visiting
MAG’s Government Relations Team 
Derek Norton – Director or 404.274.4210  
Bethany Sherrer – Legal Counsel & GAMPAC Manager or 404.354.1863  
Christiana Craddock – Legislative Assistant or 678.303.9271
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