Lawmakers introduce out-of-network, Medicaid bills during session’s first week
Georgia’s legislative session got underway on Monday, January 8, and 2018 is the second year of the biennium, which means that any bills that did not pass in 2017 are still in play – including two key ones (H.B. 71 and S.B. 8) that are related to out-of-network billing.
Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus) introduced H.B. 678 to address out-of-network billing. This bill would require physicians to provide patients with certain information before an elective procedure is performed, including their status with the health insurers’ 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. The measure would also subject hospitals and insurers to greater transparency requirements. Note, too, that H.B. 678 would require that initial bills be sent to the patient within 90 days – while the Georgia Department of Insurance would establish a patient arbitration process to resolve billing disputes.
Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) Government Relations Director Derek Norton explains that, “MAG supports greater transparency, but we also believe that a more comprehensive out-of-network billing solution is a better option – one that is not overly-burdensome for physicians, and one that addresses the payment mechanism for out-of-network emergency care and unanticipated care during an elective procedure.”
H.B. 678 has not yet been assigned to a committee.
Rep. Clay Cox (R-Lilburn) introduced a bill (H.B. 675) that would provide employers with an income tax credit for up to three years for each Medicaid-eligible employee they have who participates in the employer’s health insurance plan. MAG is reviewing this legislation, which has not yet been assigned to a committee.
Rep. Bob Trammel (D-Luthersville) introduced H.B. 669 – which would enable the state to appropriate the funds that are needed to expand its Medicaid program. This bill has been assigned to the House Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Michael “Doc” Rhett (D-Marietta) introduced S.B. 300, a bill that would request a Medicaid waiver from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to establish a “premium assistance” program to enable eligible individuals to obtain health care coverage through a federal health insurance exchange. S.B. 300 has been assigned to the Senate Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee.
One of MAG’s priorities for the 2018 legislative session is exploring a waiver option to access federal funds to expand the state’s Medicaid program. 
Sen. Rhett also introduced S.B. 318, a bill that allows for the execution of a physician's certificate for emergency examination of a person for involuntary evaluation and treatment for mental illness or alcohol or drug abuse based on consultation with an emergency medical technician or paramedic. MAG is monitoring this legislation, which has been assigned to the Senate HHS Committee.
Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, M.D. (R-Marietta) introduced S.B. 325 to include Georgia in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which would make it easier for physicians to obtain licenses in other participating states. MAG supports this legislation, which has not yet been assigned to a committee.
Lawmakers to consider FY 2018 & 2019 budget recommendations 
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal outlined his budget recommendations for AFY 2018 and FY 2019 during his State of the State address on January 11. 
“The state’s amended FY 2018 budget includes $23 million to ensure private hospitals benefit from the federal Disproportionate Share Hospital program and more than $20 million in new funding for baseline expense growth,” reports Medical Association of Georgia Government Relations Director Derek Norton. “It also includes about $53 million for the Georgia Trauma Care Network Commission for safety-net hospitals, about $580,000 for the state’s prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP), and about $2.4 million for crisis services and operational capacity for patients who are under 21 who are diagnosed as autistic.”
Meanwhile, the FY 2019 budget includes about $32 million to reinstate the “health insurance provider fee,” about $1.7 million for “direct graduate medical education (GME) expansion” programs, and a little more than $1.9 million for “additional GME slots.” 
The FY 2019 budget proposal for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities includes $3 million for a behavioral health crisis center to provide patients who have mental illness with emergency care and $5.9 million for crisis services for patients who are younger than 21 who are diagnosed as autistic. 
The FY 2019 budget also includes $20.6 million behavioral health services, as recommended by the Commission on Children’s Mental Health; this includes $10.4 million for crisis services, $4.3 million for Apex school-based mental health services, $3 million for supported employment and education, $1.1 million for suicide prevention, $1 million for provider training and telehealth, and about $791,000 for opioid prevention and intervention.
Finally, the Georgia Department of Public Health’s proposed FY 2019 budget includes about $627,000 for the PDMP, $355,000 to establish an office of cardiac care, and $100,000 to provide screening and therapy for children who are under 21 who are diagnosed as autistic.
Norton notes that, “The budgets will now go through the House and Senate appropriation committee process.” 
Rep. Carson holds press conference to unveil distracted driving bill 
Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) – the chairman of a House Study Committee on Distracted Driving – discussed the distracted driving bill that he will introduce during this year’s legislative session during a press conference that took place at the State Capitol on Wednesday. 
Rep. Carson explained that H.B. 673 would 1) increase the fine for distracted driving from $150 to $900 for repeat offenders and 2) increase the penalty from 1 point assessed against a driver’s license to up to 4 points for repeat offenders, while drivers who accumulate 15 points in a 24-month period would lose their license. H.B. 673 would allow drivers to make “one swipe” on their phones to make or answer a call. They would also be allowed to use map apps.
Highway fatalities in Georgia reportedly increased by more than 30 percent from 2014 to 2016. There has also been a sharp increase in traffic crashes in recent years, especially rear-end collisions, single-car crashes and crashes involving people age 15-25. Experts say distracted driving is a leading cause of crashes. In addition, Georgia led the nation in auto insurance premium increases in 2016. 
The state already bans anyone who is under 18 and has a learner’s permit from using a wireless device while driving. The state also prohibits adults from texting while driving. But Georgia police have said that the texting ban is unenforceable because it’s hard to tell whether a driver is dialing their phone – which is permitted under current law – or texting. 
Fifteen states have enacted laws requiring drivers to use hands-free technology. Of those, 12 saw decreased traffic fatalities in the two years following adoption of the laws – and six of them saw a drop of more than 20 percent. 
The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) supports H.B. 673, which is one of its patient safety priorities for 2018. 
In a related development, Smyrna recently became the first city in Georgia to pass a “hands-free” driving law. The ordinance was introduced by City Councilman Derek Norton, who also serves as MAG’s director of Government Relations.   
It is also worth noting that the MAG Foundation is working with the Medical Association of Atlanta and the MAG Alliance and other stakeholders to highlight the dangers associated with distracted driving with a new ‘Make Georgia Hands-Free’ campaign. Contact Lori Cassity Murphy at or 678.303.9282 to support this effort with a donation or for additional information.  
On hand for Wednesday’s press conference were, from the left, Kingsley Sackey, MAG Alliance member Mal Hollander, MAG Alliance President Dave Street, MAG Alliance Immediate Past-President Merrilee Gober, Rep. Eddie Lumsden, Rep. John Carson, Medical Association of Atlanta President-elect Charles Wilmer, M.D., MAG Foundation Director of Program Development Lori Cassity Murphy, and MAG Alliance Past-President Eve Tidwell. The poster highlights one of the new ‘Make Georgia Hands-Free’ campaign social media graphics. Photo credit: Property Casualty Insurers Association of America
MAG reminding physicians to register for ‘Physicians’ Day at Capitol’ 
The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) is reminding its members to register for the 2018 Georgia ‘Physicians' Day at the Capitol,’ which will take place at the State Capitol in Atlanta from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday, January 31. 
“This event is a great experience, and it is an effective way for physicians across specialties and practice settings to have meaningful, face-to-face conversations with the state lawmakers who will be considering important health care legislation that will affect our patients and our profession during this year’s legislative session,” says MAG President Frank McDonald, M.D., M.B.A.      
A continental breakfast will be available in Room 230 at the Capitol beginning at 8 a.m. The formal program will get underway with a briefing at 8:30 a.m. Physicians will then meet with legislators. A group photo with Gov. Nathan Deal is scheduled to take place in the Capitol rotunda at 10 a.m. And physicians and legislators will enjoy lunch in the Floyd Room on the 20th floor of the Sloppy Floyd Building as soon as the General Assembly adjourns. 
In addition to MAG, the event is being sponsored by Resurgens Orthopaedics, the Georgia Society of Ophthalmology, the Georgia Society of the American College of Surgeons, the Georgia Psychiatric Physicians Association, the American College of Cardiology, the Georgia Orthopaedic Society, Hall County Medical Society, the Georgia Society of Ambulatory Surgery Centers, the Georgia Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, and the Georgia Society of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery. 
Contact Bethany Sherrer at or 404.354.1863 with questions. 
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 run through the end of March.  
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. 
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. Physicians 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 Christiana Craddock at You can also simply call Craddock at 678.303.9273.
Go to for additional information on the MAG ‘Doctor of the Day’ program, including logistical details and FAQ summary. 
Early bird discount available for MAG’s annual legislative seminar
The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) is encouraging member physicians to reserve a room for MAG's 2018 ‘Legislative Education Seminar’ meeting, which will take place at the Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris on June 1-3. 
Call 800.201.3205 and mention the “MAG Legislative Education Seminar” or click here to receive a discounted room rate of $189 per night plus taxes and fees. The discount will be available until May 2 or until MAG’s block of rooms sells out. Contact Anita Amin at with questions related to lodging. 
Monitor MAG’s communications and for additional details, and contact Derek Norton at or 678.303.9280 with any other questions related to the seminar.  
MAG’s 2018 state legislative priorities 
The Medical Association of Georgia’s (MAG) priorities for the 2018 state legislative session include…
Health Insurance
– Developing a solution for the “surprise health insurance coverage gap.”
– Streamlining and improving the prior authorization process.
– Promoting more and better health insurance coverage options for pain therapy.
– Ensuring that patients have access to every physician insurers advertise as “in-network” for the duration of the contract year to ensure the continuity of care.
– Requiring insurers to be transparent about how they develop their networks, their standards of participation, and the process they use to select and de-select physicians for their networks.
– Allowing patients to make their own health care decisions based on the best treatment options, their medical history, and the advice they receive from their physician rather than an insurer’s step therapy protocols.
Patient Safety
– Working with allied stakeholders (e.g., MagMutual) on key patient safety initiatives, including distracted driving.
– 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 2018. 
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 – Associate, Legal Counsel & GAMPAC Manager or 404.354.1863  
Christiana Craddock – Administrative Assistant or 678.303.9271
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