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.