MAG prepared for unprecedented 2021 legislative session
Dear MAG members,
I am honored and excited to represent you and your patients during Georgia’s 2021 state legislative session – which will begin next Monday, January 11. This is my fifth legislative session as MAG’s chief lobbyist, and you should have great peace of mind knowing that MAG continues to be recognized as the leading advocate for physicians in the state.
The legislative process is the most important way to improve Georgia’s practice environment, to protect and preserve your autonomy as a physician, and to maintain your relationships with your patients – keeping in mind that health care will continue to be at the forefront of key issues under the Gold Dome in 2021.
MAG’s Government Relations team has been actively involved in the political process and with state agencies since the legislative session ended in June 2020, and we have been working our way through the COVID environment to achieve the best possible conditions for you and your patients.
Given our strength and strategic relationships, MAG has a great opportunity to enhance Georgia’s heath care system in 2021 – a session that will be unlike any other as we continue to work out way through the pandemic.
Based on the direction that we received from MAG’s Council on Legislation, MAG’s Board of Directors, and MAG’s House of Delegates, the legislative priorities that will serve as our roadmap for 2021 include…
– Providing relief and assistance for Georgia’s physicians and patients during the COVID-19 pandemic
– Health insurance reform, including improving and streamlining the prior authorization process
– Securing tax credits for uncompensated care
– Increasing Georgia’s tobacco tax to improve public health
– Improving health care in rural areas
– Addressing Georgia’s declining tort environment
– Continuing to support the process to ensure that all Georgians have access to health insurance
Of course, we will also be ready to address any scope of practice issues that arise in 2021.
MAG has enjoyed great success in the legislative arena in recent years. For example, MAG led the successful effort to pass surprise billing legislation (H.B. 888 by Rep. Lee Hawkins) in 2020, which I believe is one of the nation’s best solutions for surprise out-of-network medical bills. This is going to help and protect you and your patients in significant ways.
In 2020, MAG also played a key role in passing…
– S.B. 359 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), which created liability protections for physicians, other health care providers, health care entities, businesses, and sports venues for claims related to COVID-19.
– S.B. 313 by Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge), which addressed pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) practices – including “steering” (i.e., forcing patients to use PBM-owned pharmacies) and pharmaceutical manufacturers’ rebates.
– H.B. 1114 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), which extended postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to six months and requires Medicaid to cover lactation care and services.
– S.B. 375 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), which 1) made the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products, tobacco related objects, alternative nicotine products, or vapor products to individuals under the age of 21 illegal and 2) created a regulatory structure and licensure fee for businesses that sell alternative nicotine products and consumable vapor products and 3) set a rate for the taxation of consumable vapor products.
MAG also opposed a key bill (H.B. 910) that did not pass in 2020, which was legislation by Rep. Karen Mathiak (R-Griffin) that would have established a license for certified professional midwives.
And it is worth noting that MAG played a key role in securing additional pay for Medicaid primary care and OB-GYN physicians in Georgia in FY 2016, FY 2017, FY 2018, FY 2019, and FY 2020.
Given the ongoing issues associated with the pandemic, I believe that this year’s legislative session will be unlike any we have ever seen. The first session of a biennial that follows an election typically features a heavy legislative agenda, and 2021 will likely be normal in that regard. But the legislative process in 2021 will be challenging (e.g., the number of days legislators can meet), and it will almost certainly limit the number of bills that lawmakers can consider as a practical matter. We will nevertheless push MAG’s agenda while defending you against any legislation that would harm your patients or the practice environment.
Despite the pandemic, MAG’s political action committee, GAMPAC, remains strong – and I cannot overstate its importance. I encourage you to join GAMPAC in 2021 to increase MAG’s influence under the Gold Dome. This is an easy and effective way to help ensure that Georgia’s legislative environment is favorable for physicians and patients.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to the members of MAG’s Council on Legislation, including its chair, W. Scott Bohlke, M.D., as well as our legislative allies – including Georgia's county medical societies and state specialty societies – for their ongoing support.
I would also like to thank the individual physicians who support MAG’s advocacy efforts, whether that is making a phone call, sending an email, attending an event, or meeting with legislators. Our grassroots efforts are always a huge part of our success under the Gold Dome.
I encourage you to read this e-News from the Capitol report throughout the legislative session, and I encourage you to share it with your colleagues and applicable practice staff.
Finally, I encourage you to reach out to me at email@example.com or any member of MAG’s Government Relations team if you have any comments or questions during this year’s legislative session.
We sincerely value your perspective – and please remember that we are here to serve you.
Director, Government Relations
Medical Association of Georgia