Lawmakers addressing health care in rural areas, PDMP, insurance & more
Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) introduced H.B. 769, an omnibus bill that would 1) “relax certain restrictions on remote order entries for hospital pharmacies” and 2) require the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to streamline the billing and credentialing process for new physicians and 3) establish a rural center for health care innovation and sustainability under the umbrella of the existing Office of Rural Health to provide leadership training and health data analysis for rural hospitals and allow for the easier creation of micro-hospitals (i.e., those with two to seven beds that provide stabilization services 24/7) and 4) create a grant program to provide insurance premium assistance for physicians practicing in medically underserved areas. MAG is watching this legislation, which has been assigned to the House Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee.
Rep. Trey Rhodes (R-Greensboro) introduced H.B. 782, a bill that would eliminate a requirement for non-licensed Georgia Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) user delegates to register for the PDMP on an annual basis and allow the Georgia Department of Public Health to share data from the Georgia PDMP with other states. MAG supports this legislation, which has been assigned to the House HHS Committee.
Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) introduced S.B. 364, which would allow primary supervising physicians to have up to eight anesthesiology assistants licensed under them – though they would only be allowed to supervise two of them at a given time. MAG is tracking this legislation, which has been assigned to Senate HHS Committee.
The House Judiciary Non-Civil Subcommittee heard testimony on H.B. 673, a bill that was introduced by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) which would make it illegal for drivers to use a cell phone on anything other than a hands-free basis. In addition to Rep. Carson, the committee heard testimony from the director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, and a mother whose daughter was killed in a 2015 crash that was attributed to distracted driving. The committee did not vote on the measure, but it did schedule a second hearing for next Monday. This legislation is one of MAG’s patient safety priorities for the 2018 legislative session.
The House Insurance Life and Health Subcommittee held a hearing on a bill by Rep. Richard Smith that addresses “surprise” out-of-network bills. H.B. 678 would 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. In addition, the measure would subject hospitals and insurers to greater transparency requirements. H.B. 678 would also require that physicians and hospitals send initial bills to the patient within 90 days – while the Georgia Department of Insurance would establish a patient arbitration process to resolve any billing disputes. MAG testified that it supports Rep. Smith’s calls for greater transparency, but it also stressed that it is part of a coalition of physician advocacy organizations that would prefer a more comprehensive solution for surprise out-of-network bills. The subcommittee passed the legislation, which will now go to the full House Insurance Committee.
Senate HHS Committee passed two bills this week, including S.B. 357 by Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge) and S.B. 352 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford).
S.B. 357 would create a health coordination and innovation council, action that was recommended by Lt. Gov. Cagle’s Health Reform Task Force. MAG supports this bill.
Meanwhile, S.B. 352 would…
– Make it illegal for the “solicitation, acceptance of payment, or offer to pay a commission, benefit, bonus, rebate, kickback or bribe – directly or indirectly and on a cash or in kind basis – or to engage in any split-fee arrangement to induce the referral of a patient or for the acceptance or acknowledgment of treatment of a patient to another provider or health care facility for the purposes of obtaining mental health or substance abuse treatment.” It would also be illegal to aid, abet, advise, or otherwise participate in the conduct prohibited by this law.
– Create a director of Substance Abuse, Addiction, and Related Disorders who would report to the governor and lead a new Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery.
– Prohibit physicians from billing a patient or insurer for excessive, high-tech (i.e., “where billing for drug tests is not limited and tests are ordered for a number of different substances whereby the health benefit plan is billed separately for each substance tested”) or fraudulent drug testing in the treatment of the elderly, the disabled, or any individual affected by pain, substance abuse, addiction, or any related disorder. This would include, but not be limited to, upcoding that results in billing for more expensive services or procedures than were actually provided or performed, unbundling of such billing whereby drug tests from a single blood sample that detect a variety of narcotics is separated into multiple tests and billed separately, or billing an individual for multiple co-pay amounts or for services that are covered by such individual's health benefit plan.
MAG will work with Sen. Unterman on this bill throughout the legislative process.
In terms of next steps, S.B. 357 and S.B. 352 will go to the Senate Rules Committee.