House IC passes bill to make physicians accept hospital’s insurance   
The House Insurance Committee passed a bill (H.B. 71) by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) that would require physicians to accept the same insurance plans as any hospital where they provide care as a condition of medical staff participation. A number of MAG members had contacted the committee members to urge them to oppose the measure, which would… 
– Give hospitals the “power to contract for the network participation of its providers (both employed and private practice) with health benefit plans of such insurers, provided that such health care providers shall be responsible for negotiating all other terms, conditions and prices”
– Undermine a physician’s ability to negotiate their own contracts despite the insurers’ promise to negotiate in “good faith”  
– Present serious constitutional and antitrust concerns
– Create new administrative burdens for physicians and hospitals
MAG believes the bill could also reduce the accessibility of care in Georgia, especially in rural areas.
MAG Director of Government Relations Derek Norton stresses that, “MAG is not aware of any state in the country that requires a physician to contract with any specific payer to practice at a hospital.” 
He also promises that, “MAG will continue to work with members of the House to explain the negative implications and legal concerns it has with this legislation.”
H.B. 71 will now go to the House Rules Committee.
MAG continues work on measure to eliminate balance billing 
The Senate HHS passed an amended version of a bill (S.B. 8) that Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) introduced that is designed to end balance billing for out-of-network care in emergency care settings. The amendment – by Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge) – would increase the payment for out-of-network services from the 60th percentile to the 80th percentile of the FAIR Health data base (i.e., the average billing costs in a given area), which is an integral part of the model legislation that MAG and other physician advocacy groups developed. MAG continues to work with lawmakers to improve the legislation, which will move into Senate Rules Committee.  
Legislators introduce CON bills
Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs) introduced a certificate of need (CON) bill (H.B. 299) that would 1) remove certain equipment from the CON review process and 2) add freestanding emergency departments to the list facilities that are exempt from the CON process and 3) delete references to the “Health Strategies Council” and 4) exempt capital expenditures from the CON process. MAG is analyzing how this measure would affect physician-owned ambulatory surgery centers (ASC). The bill is in the House Governmental Affairs Committee.
Sen. Ben Watson, M.D. (R-Savannah) introduced S.B. 157, a measure that would exempt multi-specialty ASC that aren’t in "rural restriction areas" that meet several requirements – including being the sole ASC owned by a multi-specialty group practice or a practice with 25 members or more that has been operating for more than five years and cares for Medicaid patients – from the state’s CON requirements. This bill is in the Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee. 
Sen. Watson also introduced S.B. 158, a measure that would allow one freestanding emergency service in every county in the state. The measure also includes CON exemptions for “expenditures related to the increase of more than 10 percent in the number of inpatient beds and certain multi-specialty ambulatory surgical centers not located in rural restriction areas.” This bill is in the Senate HHS Committee as well.  
“MAG policy supports the full repeal of the certificate of need law in Georgia,” says MAG Government Relations Director Derek Norton. “But MAG also recognizes that it is imperative to maintain adequate access to care.”
This week’s legislative highlights 
Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) introduced H.B. 360, a measure that would allow antibiotic drugs to be prescribed or dispensed to the sexual partner or partners of a patient who is diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea without conducting a physical examination of them. MAG supports this legislation, which has been assigned to the House Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee. 
Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) introduced the ‘Nurse Licensure Compact’ (S.B. 166), which would create an interstate licensure compact for nurses who meet certain qualifications and who have not been convicted of certain crimes. MAG is analyzing this legislation, which is in the Senate HHS Committee. It is also worth noting that Rep Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) has introduced a similar bill (H.B. 402) in the House.
The House HHS Committee passed a maintenance of certification (MOC) bill (H.B. 165) that would prevent the state’s Medical Practice Act from being used to require MOC as a condition of licensure or to be employed by a state medical facility or for the purposes of licensure, insurance panels, or malpractice insurance. This is one of MAG’s legislative priorities for 2017. The measure is now eligible for a vote by the full House. 
Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) introduced H.R. 282, a resolution that would create a House study committee on distracted driving – keeping in mind that MAG has been promoting one of its priority patient safety bills (H.B. 163) during this year’s legislative session, a measure that would require drivers who make phone calls while operating a motor vehicle to do so on a hands-free basis. H.B. 163 has not yet been heard by a committee. MAG will ask to be included in any H.R. 282 study committee, which would meet during the summer months. 
Finally, the Senate is expected to vote on several measures next Tuesday that could have significant implications for physicians. This includes…
– A bill (S.B. 50) by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta) that would allow physicians to enter into direct primary care agreements without being subject to insurance regulations. MAG supports this legislation. 
– A bill (S.B. 106) by Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus) that would allow certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) to practice in a pain clinic without direct supervision. MAG opposes this legislation. 
– A bill (S.B. 125) by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough) that would allow a PA to write five-day hydrocodone prescriptions if the supervising physician includes this authority in the PA’s written job description. MAG is neutral on this legislation.  
‘Top Docs’ show on ‘surprise coverage gap’ now online
A recording of a February 14 Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) ‘Top Docs Radio’ show that featured two of the state’s leading advocates for ensuring that patients have access to fair health insurance coverage in emergency care settings is now online. 
Matthew Keadey, M.D., an emergency physician and the president-elect of the Georgia College of Emergency Physicians, and Mark Bernardy, M.D., a private practice general/interventional radiologist who is a member of the Georgia Radiological Society’s Board of Directors, discussed ways to put an end to the surprise coverage gap and balance billing, including model legislation that MAG and other physician advocacy organizations developed and are promoting.
MAG sponsors the ‘Top Docs’ program at 12 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. Between downloads and live listeners, MAG's ‘Top Docs’ show has reached more than 8,500 listeners – which includes people in all 50 states and 84 countries.
MAG’s ‘Top Docs Radio’ show is supported with a grant from Health Care Research, a subsidiary of Alliant Health Solutions. 
Thanking this week’s ‘Doctor of the Day’ volunteers
MAG is thanking and applauding its ‘Doctor of the Day’ volunteers for the week of February 13, which include…
Kelly DeGraffenreid, M.D.
Dana Neacsu, M.D.
John S. Oester, M.D. (via telemedicine link)
Eddie Richardson Jr., M.D.
Jason M. NeSmith, 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. 
Save June 23-25 for MAG’s ‘Legislative Education Seminar’
MAG is encouraging member physicians to save June 23-25 for its 2017 ‘Legislative Education Seminar’ meeting, which will take place at Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris. 
More than 50 physicians and 25 state leaders attended the event in 2016. 
Monitor for details, and contact Derek Norton at or 678.303.9280 with any questions related to MAG’s 2017 ‘Legislative Education Seminar.’
MAG’s 2017 state legislative priorities 
The Medical Association of Georgia’s priorities for the 2017 state legislative session include…
Out-of-Network Billing & Network Adequacy
MAG will 1) support reforms that will require appropriate network adequacy standards for health insurers and 2) call for health insurers to be more transparent in their contracts with physicians’ practices and 3) support legislation that will result in physician payment methodologies that are adequate and sustainable for out-of-network emergency care.  
Medicaid Payment Parity
MAG will be an advocate for the General Assembly to continue to fund the Medicaid parity payment program for all areas of primary care.
Maintenance of Certification (MOC)
MAG will 1) work to ensure that Maintenance of Certification is not a condition of licensure or a condition of hospital credentialing and 2) support efforts that will alleviate the costly and burdensome aspects of MOC for physicians.
Patient Safety
MAG will be an advocate for legislation that improves patient safety.
Contact MAG Government Relations director Derek Norton at or 678.303.9280 with questions related to MAG’s legislative priorities for 2017.
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