The week’s other key legislative developments
Tuesday, February 7, the Senate Health & Human Services Committee is expected to consider a bill by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) – the ‘Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act’ (S.B. 8) – that would create a payment system for out-of-network care and prohibit balance billing. The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) is opposing this measure in its current form because it limits what a physician can charge for out-of-network care, and it places new administrative burdens on physicians/practices. MAG has offered some language to address these concerns.
The Senate passed a measure (S.B. 70) by Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) that would extend Georgia’s Medicaid Provider Fee – also known as the ‘bed tax’ – until June 30, 2020. MAG has not assumed a position on this bill, which will now move into the House.
Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) introduced H.B. 157, which would amend a bill (H.B. 1043) that passed in 2016 to allow physicians who are in a specialty or subspecialty to advertise a board certification that is similar in scope and complexity (i.e., training, documentation, and clinical requirements) to the certifications that are offered by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). This legislation would also require physicians to show evidence of their board certification upon the request of the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
MAG is opposing this bill because it has policy (Resolution 313C.15) that reads…
“MAG supports legislation that: 1) requires all health care professionals – physicians and non-physicians – to accurately and clearly disclose their training and qualifications to patients and 2) states that a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathic medicine may not hold oneself out to the public in any manner as being certified by a public or private board including, but not limited to, a multidisciplinary board or “board certified” unless all of the following criteria are satisfied: a) the advertisement states the full name of the certifying board and b) the board is either: 1) a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) or 2) requires successful completion of a postgraduate training program approved by the Accreditation Commission for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the AOA that provides complete training in the specialty or subspecialty certified, followed by prerequisite certification by the ABMS or AOA board for the training field and further successful completion of examination in the specialty or subspecialty certified and 2) MAG opposes any efforts to use or require the Federation of State Medical Board Maintenance of Licensure (MOL) program as a condition of licensure.
H.B. 157 is in the House HHS Committee.
Rep. Betty Price, M.D. (R-Roswell) introduced H.B 161, legislation that would allow harm reduction organizations – which are focused on “reducing the harm associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop” – to sell, lend, rent, lease, give, exchange or otherwise distribute a syringe or needle. In 2016, MAG’s HOD passed a resolution to support this legislation – which is in the House HHS Committee.
Rep. Price also introduced a bill (H.B 163) that would require drivers who make phone calls while operating a motor vehicle to do so on a hands-free basis, certain exceptions (e.g., 911 calls) notwithstanding. MAG supports this legislation, which is one of its patient safety priorities for the year. The bill is in the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
And Rep. Price introduced H.B. 165, which would eliminate the state’s maintenance of certification requirement for the purposes of licensure, insurance panels, or malpractice insurance. This legislation is one of MAG’s priorities for 2017. It has been assigned to the House HHS Committee.
Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) introduced S.B. 102, a bill that would create a three-tier cardiac care center designation framework – similar to the state’s stroke and trauma designation system for hospitals. MAG supports this bill, which is in the Senate HHS Committee.
Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) introduced S.B. 88, a comprehensive regulatory and licensing framework for narcotic treatment programs. MAG is analyzing this legislation, which has been assigned to the Senate Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee.
Sen. Mullis also introduced ‘The Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act’ (S.B. 103), which would authorize the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to investigate pharmacy benefits managers (PBM). This bill would also place certain restrictions on PBM, including prohibiting them from requiring patients to use mail order pharmacies. And it would allow pharmacists and pharmacies to have more freedom in their interactions with patients (e.g., the ability to deliver prescriptions). MAG is watching this bill, which is in the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee.
Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus) introduced S.B. 106, legislation that would allow certified registered nurse anesthetists to practice independently in pain management clinics. MAG opposes this bill because it undermines patient safety. The bill has been assigned to the Senate HHS Committee.
The Senate HHS Pharmacology Subcommittee heard S.B. 16, which was introduced by Sen. Ben Watson, M.D. This bill would lower the amount of THC that is allowed in medical cannabidiol, and it would add autism to the list of qualifying conditions. The subcommittee voted to send this measure to the full committee, though it amended the autism exception to be limited to patients who are 18 years or older.
The House Medical Cannabis Working Group met to discuss Rep. Allen Peake’s (R-Macon) H.B. 65, a bill that would add six conditions to the state’s ‘Low THC Oil Patient Registry’ – including Tourette’s syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, intractable pain (i.e., severe, debilitating pain that has not responded to previously prescribed medication or surgical measures for more than three months, post-traumatic stress disorder), Alzheimer’s disease, human immunodeficiency virus, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome. The committee is expected to modify the bill, which MAG is assessing.
Finally, Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville) introduced a measure (S.B. 121) that would 1) make naloxone available on an over-the-counter basis under a standing order by a state health officer and 2) reclassify naloxone as a Schedule V controlled substance. MAG supports the bill, which has not yet been assigned to a committee.