Key bills pending as session scheduled to end on March 29
Keeping in mind that the last day of the legislative session (i.e., Sine Die) is scheduled to take place on March 29, the pace of activities at the General Assembly is expected to pick up next week.
Legislators did not take action on several key bills this week, including…
H.B. 678 by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), which would 1) require physicians to provide patients with certain information before elective procedures (i.e., their status with the insurer’s network, the names and other information related to other physicians providing services during the procedure, and an estimate of the patient’s bill) 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.
S.B. 359 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), which would 1) result in greater transparency for elective procedures and 2) establish a patient/physician arbitration process for “unexpected events” that take place during elective medical procedures and 3) establish a standard physician payment model for out-of-network emergency care – the 80th percentile of the independent/neutral ‘FAIR Health’ database. 
H.B. 673 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.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is expected to consider H.B. 673 as early as next Wednesday, while hearings are also expected to take place on H.B. 678 (Senate Health and Human Service Committee) and S.B. 359 (House Insurance Committee) sometime next week.
It is also worth noting that an important step therapy bill – H.B. 519 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) – is still pending in the Senate HHS Committee. 
Lawmakers continue to work through FY 2019 budget process
The Georgia House of Representatives passed its FY 2019 budget recommendations, which include…
– $1.42 million for the development of a mental health crisis services and suicide prevention mobile application, which would be done in coordination with the Georgia Crisis and Access hotline
– $500,000 for federally-qualified health center start-up grants for a primary care center in Bryan County and a behavioral health center in Emanuel County
– $250,000 to establish a rural health systems innovation center
– $404,000 to increase the triage payment rate by $10 for urban hospitals and $20 for rural hospitals; federal funds would bring this total to $1.26 million
– $1.73 million for 99 new residency slots in primary care
– $150,000 for two rural surgical fellowships at St. Joseph's/Candler Hospital
– $750,000 for new fellowship positions at Augusta University in vision (retinal and glaucoma), cancer (gynecological oncology), and neurology (Alzheimer’s, stroke/vascular and aging)
– $120,000 for Gateway Behavioral Health for the second year of a psychiatry residency program
– $180,000 in funds from the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce’s ‘Physicians for Rural Areas Program’ for the ‘Memorial Accelerated Track Program’
– $40,000 for a statewide residency recruitment fair, as recommended by the House Rural Development Council
– $130,000 for insurance premium assistance for physicians who practice counties that have one or less physicians
– $2 million to address maternal mortality in Georgia
– $150,000 for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia for outreach offices to improve access to care and reduce unnecessary emergency room costs
– $888,000 for the Georgia Cancer Control Consortium to fund the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (CORE) and the five regional cancer coalitions
– $75,000 to implement diabetes prevention programs in the five counties with the highest need
– $50,000 for the Grady Infectious Disease Program to support retention in care efforts for patients with HIV/AIDS
– $216,000 to improve perinatal hepatitis C surveillance, linkage to care and testing to address the increase of the hepatitis C virus in the state that has been attributed to the opioid abuse epidemic
The committee also added language requiring the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to include a provision in its contracts with managed care plans and the State Health Benefit Plan requiring plan sponsor to report the following information on an annual basis: all pharmacy claims; the amount paid to the pharmacy provider per claim, including but not limited to the cost of drug reimbursement; dispensing fees; copayments; and the amount charged to the plan sponsor for each claim by its pharmacy benefit manager (if there is a difference between these amounts, the plan sponsor shall report an itemization of all administrative fees, rebates, or processing charges associated with the claim). DCH would also be asked to submit a report that is based on the aggregate data that addresses the initiative’s implementation and its impact on program expenditures to the chairs of the House Appropriations and Senate Appropriations committees by December 31 of each year.
The House version of the FY 2019 budget must now go through an extensive Senate reconciliation process. 
Other news and notes from the Capitol    
The House HHS Committee passed S.B. 357, a bill by Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge) that would create a health coordination and innovation council. The committee amended the bill to add a primary care physician, practicing dentist, and practicing pharmacist to the council. The House HHS also passed S.B. 382 by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville), a measure that would require the Georgia Department of Public Health to oversee any Georgia Board of Optometry-approved training programs that would allow optometrists to inject pharmaceutical agents. MAG is keeping a close eye on both bills, which will now go to the House Rules Committee. 
The Senate HHS Committee passed a bill (H.B. 769) by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) that would 1) “relax certain restrictions on remote order entries for hospital pharmacies” and 2) require the Georgia Department of Community Health 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. The Senate HHS also passed a bill (H.B. 909) by Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs) that would task the Georgia Department of Public Health with creating a state designation system – comparable to ones for strokes, trauma, and cardiac care – for perinatal facilities. MAG is watching both bills, which are headed to the Senate Rules Committee. 
GSO/AAO encouraging physicians to report rejected Anthem anesthesia claims
The Georgia Society of Ophthalmology (GSO) and the American Society of Ophthalmology (AAO) are encouraging physicians who are aware of cases of Anthem denying payment for anesthesia claims to email Cherie McNett at
The organizations report that in January “Anthem posted new guidance positing that monitored anesthesia during cataract surgery is not medically necessary and suggested it will no longer cover these anesthesia services. The guidance indicates that cataract surgery does not require monitored anesthesia care except in very specific, ‘medically necessary’ situations. The document indicates that local or regional anesthesia should suffice.”
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 March 5, which include… 
Matt Keadey, M.D.
Benjamin Lefkove, M.D.
James Tallman, 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. 
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 – Legislative Assistant or 678.303.9271
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