Legislators introduce, take action on key health care bills
During the week of February 11…
Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) introduced H.B. 214, a bill that would remove the geographic restrictions on physicians who have vaccine protocol agreements with pharmacists. MAG is reviewing this legislation, which has been assigned to the House Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee.
Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) introduced Gov. Brian Kemp’s health care legislation. S.B. 106 would authorize the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to submit a Section 1115 waiver to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to expand the number of Georgians who are insured by Georgia’s Medicaid program. The bill would also enable Gov. Kemp to submit a Section 1332 waiver to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services to get permission to “pursue innovative strategies for providing their residents with access to high quality, affordable health insurance.” MAG policy calls for MAG to support 1) “a Medicaid waiver to close the coverage gap in Georgia in a fiscally responsible and sustainable way that meets the needs of patients and physicians which includes, but is not limited to, the following: a) that patients receive proven, cost effective care that is not impeded by unnecessary barriers to enrollment or unaffordable cost-sharing and b) that such a waiver eliminate regulatory barriers to providing proven, cost effective care, and seek parity for all physician services with the Medicare fee schedule and 2) a waiver from HHS to allow Georgia to use the Medicaid expansion funds to buy private insurance in the state health insurance exchange for eligible Georgia citizens at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level.” This legislation has been referred to the Senate HHS Committee.
Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry) introduced a bill (S.B. 109) that would expand the number of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) that a physician can oversee under a protocol agreement from four to eight – and it would allow physicians to supervise up to four of these APRNs at any one time. This measure would also allow APRNs to order radiographic imaging. MAG opposes this legislation, which has been assigned to the Senate HHS Committee.
The House HHS passed a bill (H.B. 160) by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) that would extend the bariatric surgery pilot program for State Health Benefit Plan enrollees until 2024. MAG supports this bill, which is now in the House Rules Committee.
Without hearing any testimony, the House Insurance Life and Health Subcommittee passed H.B. 84 by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus). This bill would 1) require physicians to provide patients with certain information before elective procedures, including the physician’s status with the patient’s health insurer’s network, the names and other information related to other physicians who will provide services during the procedure, and an estimate of the bill that the patient will receive after the procedure and 2) subject hospitals and insurers to greater transparency requirements and 3) require physicians and hospitals to send initial bills to patients within 90 days – while the Georgia Department of Insurance would establish a patient arbitration process to resolve any billing disputes. MAG and other physician and patient advocacy organizations are opposing H.B. 84 because it wouldn’t result in a comprehensive solution for “surprise medical bills” (i.e., it is limited to transparency and elective procedures, physician pay would be based on the median network rate paid by a health plan or the rate of the health plan in its standard formula for out-of-network reimbursement or Medicare fee-for-service reimbursement, and it does not address emergency settings). This bill will now go to the full House Insurance Committee.
The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee is scheduled to hear testimony on a bill (S.B. 56) by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) that would 1) result in greater transparency for elective procedures and 2) establish a patient/physician mediation process for bills that are related to “unexpected events” that take place during elective medical procedures and 3) establish a standard physician payment model for out-of-network emergency care. MAG supports this legislation, which would eliminate surprise medical bills.
The Senate HHS Committee passed the “Direct Primary Care Act” (S.B. 18) by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Atlanta), which would clear the way for physicians to enter into direct primary care agreements with their patients without being subject to health insurance regulations. MAG supports this legislation, which has been sent to the Senate Rules Committee.
Finally, a House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care held a hearing on H.B. 198 by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) – the House version of a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s certificate of need (CON) program. The Senate Regulated Industries Committee is expected to get the Senate version of the bill sometime next week.