House passes telehealth, SHBP obesity pilot, needle exchange & compact bills
During the week of February 25, Georgia’s House of Representatives passed…
H.B. 26, a bill by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) that would “facilitate telehealth and temporary in-person, face-to-face [care] across jurisdictional boundaries.” MAG will keep a close eye on this legislation, which has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee.
H.B. 31, which is the FY 2020 budget by Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge). It includes several important provisions that are related to the accessibility of primary health care and the recruitment and retention of physicians in Georgia (e.g., 112 new residency slots in primary care, funds for 54 slots in OB/GYN residency programs, and funds for Augusta University's Rural Surgery Initiative). H.B. 31 will now go to the Senate Appropriations Committee, and MAG will track this legislation and weigh in on it as needed as the process unfolds.
H.B. 187, a bill by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) that would create a pilot program to treat obesity for patients who are enrolled in the State Health Benefit Plan. MAG is watching this measure, which has been assigned to the Senate HHS Committee.
H.B. 217, a bill by Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) that would create a needle exchange program within the Georgia Department of Public Health. MAG Government Relations Director Derek Norton explains that, “MAG believes that physicians should be able to prescribe syringes and needles to patients who have an injection drug addiction in conjunction with addiction counseling to help prevent the transmission of contagious diseases.” This legislation has been assigned to the Senate HHS Committee.
H.B. 39, a bill by Rep. Belton that would make it easier for physical therapists from other states who participate in the Physical Therapy Licensure Compact to get a license to practice in Georgia. MAG is watching this legislation, which has not yet been assigned to a committee in the Senate.
Senate passes bills on insurance, Medicaid, telemedicine & mammograms 
This week, the Georgia Senate passed…
S.B. 18, a bill by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, M.D. (R-Marietta) that 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 assigned to the House Insurance Committee. 
S.B. 106, a bill by Sen. Blake Tillery (R-Vidalia) that would authorize the Georgia Department of Community Health to submit a Section 1115 waiver to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to expand the number of Georgians who are insured by Georgia’s Medicaid program. This bill would also enable Gov. Brian Kemp to submit a Section 1332 waiver to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) 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 assigned to the House Special Committee on Access to Quality Health Care.
S.B. 115, a bill by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) that would establish a Georgia telemedicine license for physicians in other states. MAG is reviewing this bill, which has gone to the House HHS Committee.
S.B. 118, a bill by Sen. Unterman that would amend portions of the ‘Georgia Telemedicine Act’ – including prohibiting insurers from requiring their customers to use telemedicine and providing pay equity for health care providers using telemedicine. MAG is reviewing this bill, which now resides in the House Insurance Committee. 
H.B. 62, a bill by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) that would require health care facilities to notify a patient whenever dense breast tissue is detected in a mammogram. The bill includes specific language that must be included in the notification. MAG supports this legislation, which will now be sent to Gov. Kemp. 
CON bill fails on Senate side, while another passes House committee
A certificate of need (CON) bill that was introduced by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan)  S.B. 74 – failed to pass the Senate Regulated Industries Committee this week. However, the House Access to Quality Health Care Special Committee passed a CON bill (H.B. 198) by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) that includes exemptions for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and Legacy Sports Institute and calls for greater transparency for hospitals and other health care facilities – though the measure would not change the rules for ambulatory surgery centers. H.B. 198 will now move into the House Rules Committee. 
Lawmakers unveil bills addressing array of heath care issues
Lawmakers introduced some new health care bills this week…
Sen. Jennifer Jordan (D-Atlanta) introduced a bill (S.B. 206) that would limit the definition of a “pre-existing condition” that can be used in a short-term health benefit policy. MAG supports this legislation, which has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee.
Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge) introduced a bill (S.B. 207) that would change the name of the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce (GBPW) to the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce. This measure would also change the GBPW’s composition to include eight physicians and seven physicians or other health care providers. MAG is watching this legislation, which has been referred to the Senate HHS Committee. 
House & Senate committees pass, consider mix of health care bills
The House HHS passed a bill (H.B. 233) by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) that is designed to preserve patient choice by restricting Pharmacy Benefit Managers and insurers from steering patients to the pharmacies they own and from sharing patient information with affiliated entities for commercial purposes. MAG is reviewing this legislation, which is in the House Rules Committee.
The House HHS also passed a bill (H.R. 261) by Rep. Mark Newton (R-Augusta) that would create a study committee to look for ways to simplify the physician oversight process for physician assistants and advance practice registered nurses (APRNs). MAG supports this legislation, which has been sent to the House Rules Committee.
The House Insurance passed a bill (H.B. 84) by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) that 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 remain opposed to H.B. 84 because it does not represent 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). H.B. 84 is now in the House Rules Committee.
In a related development, MAG continues to work with a number of stakeholders to advance a bill (S.B. 56) by Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) that passed the Senate Insurance Committee last week that would address the out-of-network billing issue in a comprehensive way. MAG Government Relations Director Derek Norton emphasizes that, “MAG remains focused on finding a solution for surprise medical bills that will get patients out of the middle of the process.” S.B. 56 currently resides in the Senate Rules Committee. 
The Senate HHS passed a bill (S.B. 121) by Sen. Larry Walker (R-Perry) that would 1) increase how long prescription information remains in the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) data base from two years to five years and 2) authorize the State Attorney General's Medicaid Fraud Control Unit to access the PDMP data base for enforcement purposes. MAG is reviewing this legislation, which will now go to the Senate Rules Committee.
The Senate HHS passed a bill (S.B. 109) by Sen. Walker that would allow APRNs to order radiographic imaging pursuant to a protocol agreement after five years of experience. MAG is opposing this legislation, which is in the Senate Rules Committee.
The Senate HHS passed a bill (S.B. 195) by Sen. Hufstetler that would 1) establish transparency standards for formularies and 2) streamline the prior authorization process by requiring the use of a standard form, setting timelines for insurers to respond to the form, and ensuring the continuity of care when a patient switches health insurance plans. This measure – which is one of MAG’s legislative priorities for 2019 – will now move into the Senate Rules Committee.
And the Senate HHS heard a bill (S.B. 189) by Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-Athens) that would establish penalties for physicians who do not respond to requests for medical records within 30 days and cap how much a physician can charge to produce those records. MAG is opposing this legislation.
The House Access to Quality Health Care Special Committee heard testimony on a bill (H.B. 409) by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) that would allow APRNs who have five years of experience to order radiographic imaging. MAG opposed this measure in its testimony. 
A Senate Judiciary Committee subcommittee heard testimony on a bill (S.B. 155) by Sen. Cowsert that would limit actions to recover damages from death or injury to the actual amounts that are paid for health care services or treatment. MAG testified in support of this legislation during the hearing.
Finally, the Senate Rules Committee passed a resolution (S.R. 202) by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) that would create a study committee to evaluate and simplify the physician oversight process for mid-level providers. MAG supports this measure, which will go to the Senate floor as a next step.
MAG thanks & applauds this week's ‘Doctor of the Day’ volunteers
MAG is thanking and applauding its ‘Doctor of the Day’ volunteers for the week of February 25, which include…
John Tumeh, M.D.
Stephen Holbrooke, M.D.
Margaret Wong, M.D.
Rod Duraski, M.D.
Donald Siegel, 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.
Go to for additional information on the MAG ‘Doctor of the Day’ program, including logistical details and FAQ.
Don’t forget to register and get early bird discount for MAG’s legislative seminar 
The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) is reminding members to register and reserve a room for MAG's 2019 ‘Legislative Education Seminar’ meeting, which will take place at the Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa in Young Harris on May 31-June 2. 
Call 800.201.3205 and mention the “MAG Legislative Education Seminar” or click here to receive a discounted room rate of $199 per night plus taxes and fees. The discount will be available until May 10 or until MAG’s block of rooms sells out. 
Monitor MAG’s communications and for additional details, and contact Derek Norton at or 678.303.9280 with any questions related to the seminar.  
MAG’s 2019 state legislative priorities 

Health Insurance

– Developing a solution for the “surprise health insurance coverage gap”

– Streamlining and improving the prior authorization process

– Promoting more and better coverage options for pain therapy

– Ensuring patients have access to every “in-network” physician for the duration of their contract year

– Requiring insurers to be transparent about their networks, standards of participation, and process for selecting/de-selecting physicians

– Allowing patients to make health care decisions based on the best treatment options, their medical history, and the advice they receive from their physicians vs. an insurers' step therapy protocols

– Continuing to oppose insurers' retrospective ER claims review policies

Rural Health Care

– Recruiting and retaining an adequate physician work force

– Improving the accessibility of health care in rural areas

Patient Safety

– Working with allied stakeholders (e.g., MagMutual) on key patient safety initiatives, including cancer screening and treatment for substance abuse (e.g., detoxification units and “Casey’s Law”)

– Exploring a waiver option to access federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program

Scope of Practice

– Addressing scope of practice issues that undermine patient safety

Contact MAG Government Relations Director Derek Norton at or 678.303.9280 with questions related to MAG’s legislative priorities for 2019.
Follow MAG at the Capitol 24/7 
Whether you are 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
MAG’s Government Relations Team 
Derek Norton – Director or 404.274.4210  
Bethany Sherrer – Legal Counsel & GAMPAC Manager or 404.354.1863  
Christiana Craddock – Legislative Assistant or 678.303.9271
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