MAG CEO reflects on week’s key developments
Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) Executive Director Donald J. Palmisano Jr. reflected on several key developments that took place during this week’s state legislative session.  
“We had a great grassroots response to oppose a really bad scope of practice bill (H.B. 36) that would have allowed optometrists to make injections in or near the patient’s eye,” Palmisano says. “The bill isn’t necessarily dead, but this was a big win for organized medicine – and I want to thank the physicians who testified, including Drs. Baker Hubbard, Brian Kim, Sid Moore, Steve Walsh, and John Harvey.”
Palmisano also thanked Dr. Hubbard and Julian Nussbaum, M.D., for writing letters on behalf of the Emory Eye Center and Augusta University.
And Palmisano applauded the Georgia Society of Ophthalmology for the key role it played in opposing H.B. 36, which failed to pass the House HHS Committee. 
Meanwhile, the ‘Surprise Insurance Gap Bill’ (S.B. 8) was removed from the Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee calendar on Thursday – though it is expected to vote on the measure sometime next week. Palmisano says that MAG is addressing the problematic provisions of the bill (e.g., the system/database that would serve as the basis for physician pay), which is designed to end balanced billing for out-of-network care in emergency care settings.   
MAG also continues to take steps to address the concerns that physicians have with S.B. 81 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which passed the Senate HHS Committee in a 7-to-6 vote. This measure would modify Georgia’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) in significant ways. 
Palmisano explains that, “This bill has been amended, but it still requires physicians to check the PDMP the first time they prescribe benzodiazepines, opiates, opioids, opioid analgesics, and opioid derivatives for a patient and at least every 90 days thereafter, and it still has physician penalties – including a graduated series of fines and imprisonment – that we do not believe are reasonable or appropriate.” 
He emphasizes that, “MAG is most concerned about the penalties for physicians who ‘knowingly and intentionally fail to register and review the PDMP information or who knowingly and intentionally disregard the prescription information.’ This would include a misdemeanor for the first offense, and it would progress to a fine of up to $50,000 and a felony of up to five years in prison for a fourth offense.”
He notes that, “The bill does have exemptions for the requirement to check the PDMP for hospice care, palliative care, and addiction treatment – as well as for prescriptions for three days or less with no refills.”
And Palmisano stresses that, “The bill would prohibit a physician from writing a first-time prescription for benzodiazepines, opiates, opioids, opioid analgesics, or opioid derivatives for more than five days.”
S.B. 81 will now move into the Senate Rules Committee. 
This week’s legislative highlights 
Rep. Rick Golick (R-Smyrna) introduced H.B. 213, a bill that would make the sale, manufacture, delivery or possession of more than four grams of fentanyl a “felony offense of trafficking in illegal drugs.” MAG is watching this legislation, which is in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. 
Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton) introduced H.B. 231, a measure that would reclassify non-prescription fentanyl as a Schedule I drug. MAG is assessing the bill, which has been assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. 
Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville) introduced H.B. 249, which is designed to address the state’s opioid abuse epidemic. This omnibus bill would require prescription drug dispensers to update the PDMP every 24 hours, as opposed to the current requirement of every seven days, a provision that MAG supports. 
H.B. 249 would also establish a way for non-licensed practice staff to become authorized delegates to access the PDMP. Each prescriber would be able to have up to two such delegates under this legislation. This could include licensed physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, or registered nurses who submit to a one-time registration process. It could also include unlicensed practice staff who submit to an annual registration process. Under H.B. 249, the delegating prescriber or dispenser could be held civilly liable and criminally responsible for “the misuse of prescription information obtained by his/her delegates.” MAG supports this provision, too. 
MAG also supports an H.B. 249 provision that would codify the executive order that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued in 2016 that made naloxone – which counteracts the effects of prescription drug overdoses – available on an over-the-counter basis. (Sen. Butch Miller has introduced a similar measure, the ‘Jeffrey Dallas Gay Jr. Act’ (S.B. 121), which is in the Senate HHS Committee).
One H.B. 249 provision that MAG is opposing would require prescribers to check the PDMP every time they prescribe a Schedule II drug beginning on January 1, 2018. The prescriber would also have to document the information in the patient’s medical record. Prescriptions of three days or 26 pills or less would be exempt, as would prescriptions for patients in certain “settings” (e.g., hospice care). The penalties associated with this provision would be administered by state regulatory boards, and it would not include any civil liability. 
It is also worth noting that H.B. 249 would require the state to track the number of individuals who die from apparent drug overdoses. 
H.B. 249 has been assigned to the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.  
Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta) introduced S.B. 123, which would change destination cancer hospitals regulations by 1) eliminating the “bed cap” and 2) eliminating the cap on the number of in-state patients they can treat and 3) subjecting these facilities to the same certificate of need (CON) process as other comparably-sized hospitals in the state. MAG will monitor this legislation, which is in the Senate HHS Committee. 
Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough) introduced S.B. 125, a measure that would allow physician assistants to write hydrocodone prescriptions of up to five days if that prescriptive authority is included in their job description. MAG is analyzing this legislation, which is in the Senate HHS Committee. 
Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) introduced S.B. 138, the ‘Patient Compensation Act,’ which would replace the state’s medical malpractice litigation system with a patient compensation system and a patient compensation board. MAG is opposing this legislation because it would increase the number of claims that are filed, it would increase costs for physicians and other health care providers, and it would repeal the remaining provisions of the tort reform bill (S.B. 3) that passed in Georgia in 2005. The bill is in the Senate HHS Committee. 
The Senate HHS Committee passed a bill (S.B. 47) by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-41) that would allow a visiting sports team’s physicians to provide care in Georgia without the need to be licensed in Georgia. The committee amended the bill to allow visiting athletic trainers to practice in the state without a Georgia license as well. MAG supports this measure, which is now eligible for a vote by the full Senate.  
MAG supports a bill (S.B. 102) that was introduced by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) that was passed by the Senate HHS Committee that would create a three-tier rating system for cardiac care centers. This measure is also now eligible for a vote by the full Senate.  
Finally, the House passed a bill (S.B. 70) by Rep. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) that extends the hospital provider fee – also known as the “bed tax” – until June 30, 2020. MAG did not take a position on this bill, which Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to sign into law. 
Gov. announces dates for special election to replace Rep. Price
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has announced the dates for the special election that will take place to fill the 6th U.S. Congressional District seat that was vacated by Rep. Tom Price, M.D., when he was nominated (and confirmed on February 10) to become the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. This includes…
February 13-15 – Qualifying Period 
April 18 – Special Election
June 20 – Runoff Election (if needed)
Dr. Michelle Zeanah makes the case for GAMPAC (video)
GAMPAC Chair Michelle Zeanah, M.D., recently recorded a video to appeal to her fellow physicians in Georgia to join GAMPAC, which is the Medical Association of Georgia’s non-partisan political action committee that elects pro-physician candidates at the state level…
“It has never been more important for physicians in Georgia to be united in their advocacy efforts – keeping in mind state legislators consider important issues that affect our profession in significant ways,” Dr. Zeanah says. “In 2017, this includes narrowing health insurance networks, the surprise health insurance coverage gap in ER settings, patient safety, scope of practice, Medicaid pay, and the Georgia’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.”
The Statesboro pediatrician also stresses that, “We need to support legislators who are strong and effective advocates for the medical profession and patient-centered health care – which is why I urge you to join GAMPAC today.”
Finally, Dr. Zeanah explains that, “You can join GAMPAC at the membership level that suits your needs – whether that’s the Chairman’s Circle at $2,500 or the Capitol Club at $1,000 or the general membership level at $250.”
Click here or call 770.312.5288 to join GAMPAC.
Contact Bethany Sherrer at or 678.303.9273 with any questions related to GAMPAC.
Make a difference as MAG's ‘Doctor of the Day’
The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) is encouraging physicians in the state to serve as a MAG ‘Doctor of the Day’ program volunteer during this year’s legislative session, which is expected to last until the middle of April. 
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. 
As a MAG Doctor of the Day, you will…
– Be introduced in the House and Senate chambers by your state representative and senator
– Have your photo taken with the Gov. Nathan Deal (contingent on his availability)
– Have a reserved parking place
– Be assisted by a nurse
– Be protected by the state’s ‘Good Samaritan Law’
The MAG Doctor of the Day program is a non-political service. Volunteers do not serve as lobbyists when they serve as a MAG Doctor of the Day volunteer.
If you are interested in serving as a MAG Doctor of the Day volunteer, click here for a form that you can print, complete and submit to Liz Bullock at or you can simply can call her at 678.303.9271.
Go to for additional information on the MAG ‘Doctor of the Day’ program, including logistical details and FAQ. 
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 6, which includes…
Ammar Divan, M.D.
Thomas L. Haltom, M.D.
D. Kay Kirkpatrick, M.D.
Reginald D. Mason, M.D.
Anna Skold, M.D.
Physicians who are interested in serving as a MAG ‘Doctor of the Day’ volunteer can click here to complete an application or they can contact Liz Bullock at or 678.303.9271.
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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Whether you're 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
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