MAG delivers great results during 2017 General Assembly

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The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) enjoyed another exemplary state legislative session in 2017, according to MAG President Steven M. Walsh, M.D., and MAG Council on Legislation (COL) Chair W. Scott Bohlke, M.D.

“Our members should be proud of what MAG accomplished during this year’s General Assembly,” says Dr. Walsh. “I also believe that MAG further solidified its reputation as the leading advocate for physicians in Georgia.”

Dr. Bohlke adds that, “There is a strong relationship between the goals we, as physicians, established going into this year’s session and the results that MAG achieved. We should remember that we are talking about the creation of public policy that will affect our profession and the state’s practice environment and our patients in significant ways.”

State lawmakers considered a number of important bills during this year’s legislative session. Key legislation that passed included…

H.B. 165, which will prevent the state’s Medical Practice Act from being used to require Maintenance of Certification (MOC) as a condition of licensure or to require MOC to be employed by a state medical facility or for the purposes of licensure, insurance panels, or malpractice insurance.

H.B. 249, which will – along with other provisions – codify an executive order to make naloxone available on an over-the-counter basis, require prescription drug dispensers to update the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) every 24 hours, and require prescribers to check the PDMP every time they prescribe a Schedule II drug beginning in 2018.

S.B. 153, which will – with exceptions – allow optometrists to inject pharmaceutical agents around a patient’s eye once they complete the requisite training or are enrolled in such training and are under the direct supervision of a board certified ophthalmologist.

Among the key bills that did not pass were…

H.B. 71, which would have required physicians to participate in every health insurance plan that is offered by any hospital where they have privileges.

S.B. 8, which would have established an unsustainable payment system for physicians who provide care in emergency care settings on an out-of-network basis.

S.B. 277, which was model legislation that MAG and other physician groups developed to address the surprise health insurance coverage gap and end the need for balance billing for out-of-network care in emergency care settings. Unlike S.B. 8, this bill would have created a fair and sustainable solution (e.g., payment based on the 80th percentile of the ‘FAIR Health’ database) – and it is legislation that MAG will continue to promote. 

H.B. 163, which would have required drivers who make phone calls while operating a motor vehicle to do so on a hands-free basis – legislation MAG’s House of Delegates voted to support in 2016. Note, too, that MAG recently announced that it is making plans to sponsor a communications campaign to bring more attention to the issue.

“In addition to MAG staff and our contract lobbyists, I would like to thank and applaud Dr. Walsh, Dr. Bohlke, MAG’s Council on Legislation, the rest of MAG’s leadership team, and every physician who supported our advocacy efforts during this year’s legislative session,” says MAG Executive Director Donald J. Palmisano Jr. “I know that we asked a lot this year, but it made a huge difference in the legislation that did and did not pass during the session – and this was the best, most effective grassroots response that I have seen in the 12 years I have been with MAG.”

Palmisano also thanked the specialty society and county medical society lobbyists who worked “hand-in-hand” with MAG during this year’s session.

MAG Government Relations Director Derek Norton agrees, adding that, “We have really emphasized building and maintaining our relationships with key stakeholder groups, which paid big dividends during this year’s session.”

MAG tracked more than 150 bills in 2017. Gov. Nathan Deal will now determine the fate of the bills that passed. It is worth emphasizing that the bills that did not pass during this year’s session will be eligible for consideration in 2018 since 2017 was the first of the current two-year legislative cycle.

Contact Norton at dnorton@mag.org or 678.303.9280 with questions related to the 2017 legislative session.

MAG PRIORITY: OUT-OF-NETWORK BILLING & NETWORK ADEQUACY

H.B. 71 by Rep. Richard Smith (R-Columbus), which would have required physicians and health centers to disclose certain information to patients about the providers they expect to use and the fees they typically charge before any services are rendered. This bill would have also required physicians to participate in every health insurance plan that is offered by any hospital where they have privileges. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 8 (‘Surprise Billing and Consumer Protection Act’) by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which would have created a payment system for out-of-network care in emergency care settings and prohibited balance billing. This measure, in it’s final form, would have 1) established notification requirements for providers, health care facilities, and insurers regarding insurance coverage, scheduled providers, and cost information for elective procedures and 2) set payment for out-of-network emergency services at the greatest of either the median network rate paid by the health care plan or the rate of the health care plan in its standard formula for out-of-network reimbursement or the Medicare fee-for-service reimbursement. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.  

S.B. 277 by Sen. Michael Williams (R-Cumming), MAG’s model legislation that was designed to address the surprise health insurance coverage gap that results in the balance billing in emergency care settings. This legislation would have set the payment methodology for out-of-network emergency care at the 80th percentile of the ‘FAIR Health’ database. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.

MAG PRIORITY: MEDICAID PAYMENT PARITY

Lawmakers passed a FY 2018 budget that includes $38 million to increase pay for certain Medicaid primary care and OB-GYN codes. Of that, $6.5 million will be used to resolve physician “location” and “attestation” issues that MAG brought to the attention of the Georgia Department of Community Health.

MAG PRIORITY: MAINTENANCE OF CERTIFICATION

H.B. 165 by Rep. Betty Price, M.D. (R-Roswell), which will prevent the state’s Medical Practice Act from being used to require Maintenance of Certification (MOC) as a condition of licensure or to require MOC to be employed by a state medical facility or for the purposes of licensure, insurance panels, or malpractice insurance. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Passed.

MAG PRIORITY: PATIENT SAFETY

H.B. 249 by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), an omnibus bill that was designed to reduce prescription drug abuse in Georgia. MAG’s positions: MAG supported a provision that will codify the executive order that Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal issued in 2016 that made naloxone available on an over-the-counter basis (a similar measure, S.B. 121, also passed). MAG also supported a provision that will require prescription drug dispensers to update the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) every 24 hours, as opposed to the current seven-day requirement. MAG opposed provisions 1) requiring prescribers to check the PDMP every time they prescribe a Schedule II drug beginning in 2018 and 2) having to document the information in the patient’s medical record and 3) civil and criminal penalties for physicians. This bill will also establish a way for non-licensed practice staff (up to two per prescriber) to become authorized delegates to access the PDMP. And, it will require prescribers to provide their patients with information on the addictive risks associated with the drugs they prescribe – in either oral or written form. Outcome: Passed. A comparable bill – S.B. 81 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) – did not pass. The major difference is that S.B. 81 initially included serious civil and criminal penalties for physicians, which MAG was instrumental in having removed.

S.B. 153 by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan), which – after it was amended with a substitute by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) – will allow optometrists to inject pharmaceutical agents around a patient’s eye. Exceptions include sub-tenon, retrobulbar, peribulbar, facial nerve block, subconjunctival anesthetic, dermal filler, intravenous, intramuscular, intraorbital nerve block, intraocular, and botulinum toxin injections. The optometrist will have to obtain a certificate that shows that they have successfully completed an “injectables” training program of at least 30 hours that is sponsored by a school or college of optometry that is credentialed by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation or that they are enrolled in such a program and are under the direct supervision of a board-certified ophthalmologist. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Passed.

H.B. 163 by Rep. Betty Price, M.D. (R-Roswell), which would have required drivers who make phone calls while operating a motor vehicle to do so on a hands-free basis, certain exceptions (e.g., 911 calls) notwithstanding. This bill was the result of a resolution that MAG’s House of Delegates passed in 2016. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.R. 282 by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta), which will create a House study committee on distracted driving – keeping in mind that MAG promoted a bill (H.B. 163) that would require drivers who make phone calls while operating a motor vehicle to do so on a hands-free basis as one of its priority patient safety measures. MAG will ask to be included in the study committee, which will meet this summer.  MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Passed.

OTHER KEY SENATE BILLS

S.B. 4 (‘Enhancing Mental Health Treatment in Georgia Act’) by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which would have created the ‘Georgia Mental Health Treatment Task Force’ to recommend ways to improve the state’s mental health care system. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.  

S.B. 11 by Sen. Michael Rhett (D-Marietta), which would have expanded the civil and criminal immunity protection that is place in the state for emergency and involuntary mental health examinations to emergency medical technicians (EMT) and cardiac technicians. This bill also sought to expand the list of the types of examinations physicians can rely on when they issue a certificate for emergency admission or for emergency involuntary treatment to those performed by EMT and cardiac technicians. And it would have expanded the kinds of examinations a physician could use to determine whether a mental health patient should be involuntarily admitted or treated. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.  

S.B. 12 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which would have allowed dental hygienists to provide certain services to patients in certain settings under the general supervision of a dentist. The bill would have also established definitions for direct and general supervision. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.  

S.B. 14 by Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge), which will clarify which business types can claim an exemption of up to $10,000 under the state Rural Hospital Income Tax Credit. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.  

S.B. 16 by Sen. Ben Watson, M.D. (R-Savannah), which will modify the state’s medical cannabis law. The original version of this bill would have reduced the amount of THC that would be allowed in the cannabinoid oil, and it would have added autism to the list of qualifying conditions. A House/Senate compromise left the THC at the current 5.0 percent level and added six qualifying conditions, including 1) "severe" autism for people who are under the age of 18 and 2) autism for people who are 18 or older and 3) severe or end-stage cases of Alzheimer's disease and 4) AIDS or peripheral neuropathy and 5) severe Tourette's syndrome and 6) any case of epidermolysis bullosa. S.B. 16 would also make the low THC cannabinoid oil available to people who are in hospice programs. MAG's position: MAG policy does not support expanding the number of conditions that are covered by state law. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 40 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which would have allowed emergency medical services personnel in the state to transport a person exhibiting signs of mental illness directly to the emergency department rather than waiting for a crime to occur and taking the person to jail. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 41 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which will create a state licensure system for durable medical equipment suppliers and will give the Georgia Board of Pharmacy authority over these licensees. Health care practitioners and others will be exempt. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 47 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), which will allow a visiting sports team’s physicians and trainers to provide care in Georgia without the need to be licensed in Georgia. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Passed.   

S.B. 50 (‘Direct Primary Care Act’) by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), which would have allowed physicians to enter into direct primary care agreements without being subject to insurance regulations. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.   

S.B. 52 by Sen. P.K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville), which will remove the sunset provision from the state law that allows licensed professional counselors to be authorized to conduct emergency examinations on individuals who are mentally ill or drug- or alcohol-dependent. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.   

S.B 55 by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), which would have allowed a competent adult or their agent to execute a psychiatric advance directive that includes their mental health care information and care preferences. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.   

S.B. 56 (‘Accuracy and Transparency in Physician/Provider Profiling Act’) by Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), which would have established standards, criteria, and disclosure requirements for profiling programs that compare, rate, rank, measure, tier, or classify a physician’s or a physician group’s performance, quality, or cost of care against objective or subjective standards or the practice of other physicians. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.   

S.B. 70 by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), a bill that will extend Georgia’s Medicaid provider fee – also known as the “bed tax” – until June 30, 2020. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Signed into law.   

S.B. 88 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), which is a comprehensive regulatory and licensing framework for narcotic treatment programs. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.   

S.B. 96 by Sen. Ben Watson, M.D. (R-Savannah), which will allow physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and registered nurses to pronounce an organ donor’s death in hospice settings. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 102 by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), which will create a three-tier cardiac care center designation framework – similar to the state’s stroke and trauma designation system for hospitals. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 103 (‘Pharmacy Patient Fair Practices Act’) by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), which will authorize the Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health to investigate pharmacy benefits managers (PBM). This measure will also place certain restrictions on PBM, including prohibiting them from requiring patients to use mail order pharmacies. And it will allow pharmacists and pharmacies to have more freedom in their interactions with patients (e.g., the ability to deliver prescriptions). MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 106 by Sen. Greg Kirk (R-Americus), which will define when certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) can provide medical treatment and services in a licensed pain management clinic when a licensed provider – who is authorized to prescribe controlled substances – is not physically present. This measure will also require the supervising physician to examine the patient before the CRNA is allowed to write any orders for treatment. There are also patient notification and consent requirements (i.e., addressing the nature of the treatment, the risk associated with the treatment, and that a physician might not be on-site). MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 109 by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), which will create a three-tier cardiac care center designation system that is similar to the one that’s used for stroke and trauma hospitals in the state. This measure was also amended to include the provisions of the ‘Nurse Licensure Compact’ (S.B. 166), which will allow registered nurses and licensed practical nurses to be licensed in more than one state – though the scope of the care they will be allowed to provide will be determined by the state where the patient receives the care. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 121 by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), which will 1) make naloxone available on an over-the-counter basis under a standing order by the state health officer and 2) reclassify naloxone as a Schedule V controlled substance. It will also require the state health officer to be licensed to practice medicine in Georgia. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 123 by Sen. Hunter Hill (R-Atlanta), which would have changed destination cancer hospital regulations by 1) eliminating the “bed cap” and 2) eliminating the cap on the number of in-state patients they can treat and 3) subjecting these facilities to the same certificate of need (CON) process as other comparably-sized hospitals in the state. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 125 by Sen. Rick Jeffares (R-McDonough), which will allow physician assistants to write hydrocodone prescriptions of up to five days if this prescriptive authority is included in their job description. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 138 (‘Patient Compensation Act’) by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta), which would have replaced the state’s medical malpractice litigation system with a patient compensation system and a patient compensation board. MAG opposed this legislation because it would increase the number of claims that are filed, it would increase costs for physicians and other health care providers, and it would repeal the remaining provisions of the tort reform bill (S.B. 3) that passed in Georgia in 2005. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 157 by Sen. Ben Watson, M.D. (R-Savannah), which would have exempted multi-specialty ambulatory surgery centers (ASC) that aren’t in “rural restriction areas” and that meet several requirements – including being the sole ASC owned by a multi-specialty group practice or a practice with 25 members or more that has been operating for more than five years and cares for Medicaid patients – from the state’s certificate of need (CON) requirements. MAG’s Position: Neutral; MAG policy supports the state’s current law, and MAG will continue to develop and promote legislation that will protect patients from deceptive advertising. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 158 by Sen. Ben Watson, M.D. (R-Savannah), which would have allowed one freestanding emergency service in every county in the state. The measure also included certificate of need (CON) exemptions for “expenditures related to the increase of more than 10 percent in the number of inpatient beds and certain multi-specialty ambulatory surgical centers not located in rural restriction areas.” MAG policy supports the full repeal of the certificate of need law in Georgia. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 164 by Fran Millar (R-Atlanta), which would have limited copays, coinsurance, and deductibles for physical therapy, occupational therapy, and chiropractic visits to what patients pay for primary care visits. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 166 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which would have created an interstate licensure compact for nurses who meet certain qualifications and who have not been convicted of certain crimes. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 180 Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge), which will 1) require rural hospitals to report payments to consultants to qualify for the state’s tax credit for rural hospitals and 2) increase the amount of tax-deductible donations individuals and married couples can make to rural hospitals and 3) allow IRS “S” corporation-eligible members to make tax-deductible donations to rural hospitals. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 193 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which will eliminate a requirement for women to be “medically indigent” to receive services from the state’s ‘Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program.’ The measure will also prohibit the program’s contract management agencies from “referring, encouraging or affirmatively counseling” a person to have an abortion unless their physician diagnoses them with a condition that makes the procedure necessary to prevent the person’s death. MAG’s Position: Neutral, although it did support an amendment by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), H.B. 360, which will allow antibiotic drugs to be prescribed or dispensed to the sexual partner or partners of a patient who is diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea without the need for a physical examination. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 200 by Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), which will require insurers to cover prescriptions that are written for less than 30 days at a “prorated daily cost-sharing rate” when it is in the best interest of the patient or when it is for the purpose of synchronizing the insured patient's medications for chronic conditions. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 201 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which will require employers to allow employees to use sick leave to care for immediate family members. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

S.B. 206 by Sen. P. K. Martin (R-Lawrenceville), which will require health insurers to cover billed charges of up to one hearing aid per impaired ear not to exceed $3,000 per hearing aid every 48 months for covered patients who are 18 or younger. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed. 

S.B. 220 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which would have repealed legislation that was enacted in 2016 that limited a physician’s ability to advertise and publicize their medical specialty certification to specific certification boards. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 221 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which would have expanded 1) the number of medications that optometrists are allowed to prescribe and 2) the pharmaceutical agents optometrists are allowed to administer around the eye – exceptions notwithstanding. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 241 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which would have moved the administration of the Georgia Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) from the Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency to the Georgia Department of Public Health. The bill had also been amended to create a disposal program for controlled substances in hospice programs. MAG remained focused on improving the PDMP’s use, reliability, and accessibility. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass, although the bill was attached to H.B. 249 – which did pass.

S.B. 242 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which will increase the number of advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) that a physician can delegate their authority to from four to eight – including no more than four at any single point in time. This measure will also add county and municipal emergency medical services that have a full-time medical director to the list of organizations that are exempt from limiting the number of APRN their physicians can supervise. MAG’s Position: Opposed, although it did support a provision that will require the patient and the patient’s primary care physician to be provided with the name of the APRN’s supervising physician. Outcome: Passed.

S.R. 13 by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), which recognized Dallas Gay, the MAG Foundation ‘Think About It’ campaign community co-chair, for his “acts of public service” to reduce prescription drug abuse in the state. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Adopted.

S.R. 18 by Sen. Butch Miller (R-Gainesville), which recognized January 12 as ‘Addiction Recovery Awareness Day’ in Georgia. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Adopted.

S.R. 188 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), which will form a Senate study committee to evaluate at barriers to access to adequate health care in Georgia, with an emphasis on the role of advanced practice registered nurses. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

OTHER KEY HOUSE BILLS

H.B. 7 by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), which would have, with exceptions, required drivers who make phone calls to do so on a hands-free basis. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 8 by Rep. Keisha Waites (D-Atlanta), a bill that would have prohibited the use of mechanical restraints on an inmate during labor, delivery, or post-delivery recovery unless it was deemed necessary to protect the inmate or others. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 18 by Rep. Sandra Scott (R-Rex), a bill that would prohibit smoking in a motor vehicle when a minor (i.e., younger than 18) is present. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 30 by Rep. Kevin Tanner (R-Dawsonville), a bill that would have re-classified the synthetic opioid known as ‘U-4770’ [3,4-dichloro-N-(2-(dimethylamino)cyclohexyl)-N-methylbenzamide] as a Schedule I drug. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 35 by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), which would have required pharmacy benefit managers to confirm their receipt of prior approval requests for prescription drugs within 48 hours. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 36 by Rep. Earl Earhardt (R-Powder Springs), which would have allowed optometrists to make injections and perform other delicate procedures in and around a patient’s eye or eyelid. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 54 by Rep. Geoff Duncan (R-Cumming), which would have required “rural hospitals to report payments made to third parties to solicit, administer, or manage the donations [they receive]” to qualify for the state’s rural hospital tax credit. It would have also changed the amount that can be claimed as a deduction in certain cases. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 55 by Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville), which would have limited the number of consecutive years an individual can serve on a professional licensing board. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass. 

H.B. 65 by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), which would have added six conditions to the state’s ‘Low THC Oil Patient Registry’ – including Tourette’s syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, intractable pain (i.e., severe, debilitating pain that has not responded to previously prescribed medication or surgical measures for more than three months, post-traumatic stress disorder), Alzheimer’s disease, human immunodeficiency virus, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 149 by Alan Powell (R-Hartwell), which would have established regulations for trauma scene cleanup services. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 154 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), which will authorize dental hygienists to provide certain services under general supervision to patients in certain settings, such as in schools, nursing homes, rural health clinics, and long-term care facilities. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

H.B. 157 by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), which will amend a law (H.B. 1043) that was passed in 2016 that allows physicians who are in a specialty or subspecialty to advertise a board certification that is similar in scope and complexity (i.e., training, documentation, and clinical requirements) to the certifications that are offered by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and the Bureau of Osteopathic Specialists of the American Osteopathic Association (AOA). H.B. 157 will also require physicians to show evidence of their board certification upon the request of the Georgia Composite Medical Board. MAG’s position: MAG opposed this bill because it has policy (Resolution 313C.15) that reads…“MAG supports legislation that: 1) requires all health care professionals – physicians and non-physicians – to accurately and clearly disclose their training and qualifications to patients and 2) states that a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathic medicine may not hold oneself out to the public in any manner as being certified by a public or private board including, but not limited to, a multidisciplinary board or ‘board certified’ unless all of the following criteria are satisfied: a) the advertisement states the full name of the certifying board and b) the board is either: 1) a member of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) or 2) requires successful completion of a postgraduate training program approved by the Accreditation Commission for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the AOA that provides complete training in the specialty or subspecialty certified, followed by prerequisite certification by the ABMS or AOA board for the training field and further successful completion of examination in the specialty or subspecialty certified and 2) MAG opposes any efforts to use or require the Federation of State Medical Board Maintenance of Licensure (MOL) program as a condition of licensure.” Outcome: Passed.

H.B. 161 by Rep. Betty Price, M.D. (R-Roswell), which would have allowed harm reduction organizations – which are focused on “reducing the harm associated with the use of psychoactive drugs in people unable or unwilling to stop” – to sell, lend, rent, lease, give, exchange or otherwise distribute a syringe or needle. MAG’s Position: In 2016, MAG’s HOD passed a resolution to support this legislation. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 206 (‘Pharmacy Audit Bill of Rights Act’) by Rep. Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown), which will prevent scrivener (i.e., a person who writes a document for another person) errors from being deemed fraud or as a basis to recoup payment for medical assistance provided. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Passed.

H.B. 210 by Jodi Lott (R-Evans), which will exempt blood banks or specimen collections stations from being classified as clinical laboratories when the blood or specimens are intended to be used as source material for biological products. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

H.B 213 by Rep. Rick Golick (R-Smyrna), which would have made the sale, manufacture, delivery or possession of more than four grams of fentanyl a “felony offense of trafficking in illegal drugs.” MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 231 by Rep. Bruce Broadrick (R-Dalton), the annual update to ensure that the state’s drug schedule is aligned with the federal government’s drug schedule. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

H.B. 276 by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin), which will allow the commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health to promulgate rules that are related to the oversight of pharmacy benefit managers (PBM) and investigate them for violations. This measure will also prevent a PBM/insurer from requiring the use of a mail-order pharmacy or from requiring a covered individual to pay a different copay for using their pharmacy of choice, it will prohibit PBM from prohibiting pharmacies from disseminating information about prescription drug alternatives or delivery services, and it will place other limits on PBM that are related to “financial maneuvers.” MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Passed.

H.B. 299 by Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), which was a certificate of need (CON) bill that would have 1) removed certain equipment from the CON review process and 2) added freestanding emergency departments to the list facilities that are exempt from the CON process and 3) deleted references to the “Health Strategies Council” and 4) exempted capital expenditures from the CON process. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 360 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), which would have allowed antibiotic drugs to be prescribed or dispensed to the sexual partner or partners of a patient who is diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea without the need for a physical examination. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass, though the bill was attached to S.B. 193 – which did pass.

H.B. 400 (‘Opiate Abuse Prevention Act’) by Stacey Evans (R-Smyrna), which would have limited opioid prescriptions to seven days with no refills and would have required prescribers to accept unused medications. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 402 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), which would have created an interstate licensure compact for nurses (RN and LPN) who meet certain qualifications and who have not been convicted of certain crimes. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 416 by Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs), which would have allowed optometrists to administer pharmaceutical agents that are related to the diagnosis or treatment of diseases and conditions of the eye and adnexa oculi by injection – with exceptions. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 426 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), which would have increased the number of advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) a physician can delegate their authority to from four to eight – including no more than four at any single point in time. This measure would have also added county and municipal emergency medical services with a full-time medical director to the list of organizations that are exempt from limiting the number of APRN their physicians can supervise. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 427 (‘Physicians and Health Care Practitioners for Rural Areas Assistance Act’) by Rep. Mark Newton, M.D. (R-Augusta), which will add dentists, physician assistants, and APRN to the list of practitioners who are eligible for the service cancelable loan program that is administered by the Georgia Board for Physician Workforce. These funds are included in the FY 2018 budget. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

H.B. 464 by Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), which would have gradually reduced the “out-of-state” and “bed cap” requirements for destination cancer hospitals. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 486 by Rep. Tommy Benton (R-Jefferson), which will require proxy caregivers who are “employed or contracted to provide home and community based services, community residential alternative services, or community living services” to receive training that is approved by the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

H.B. 499 (‘Georgia Personal Data Security Act’) by Sheri Gilligan (R-Cumming), which will improve the system and procedures for providing and regulating data breach notifications that affect Georgians. The measure will also change the notification requirement when certain data security breaches occur, and it will require certain entities to maintain certain data security procedures. The state Attorney General will be responsible for enforcing this law, which will include civil penalties.  MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Passed.

H.B. 517 by Rep. Tom Taylor (R-Dunwoody), which would have required diagnostic imaging equipment to be registered with the Georgia Department of Community Health. MAG’s Position: Opposed. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 519 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), which would have required health benefits plans to use certain clinical review criteria to establish step therapy protocols – as well as establishing a step therapy override process. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 527 by Rep. Mark Newton, M.D. (R-Augusta), which would have allowed podiatrists to jointly own a professional corporation with physicians. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass. 

H.R. 11 by Rep. Betty Price, M.D. (R-Roswell), which recognized MAG President Steven M. Walsh, M.D., as MAG’s ‘Doctor of the Day’ at the Capitol on January 11 and thanked him for his contributions to the state. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Adopted.

H.R. 36 by Rep. Allen Peake (R-Macon), a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the growth and sale of medical cannabis in Georgia. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.R. 340 by Rep. Heath Clark (R-Warner Robins), which urges the U.S. Congress to consider passing legislation to address hemp and marijuana, including rescheduling. MAG Position: Neutral. Outcome: Adopted.

H.R. 431 by Rep. Scot Turner (R-Holly Springs), which would have created a House study committee to evaluate the effects of any new federal (i.e., the Trump administration’s) health care policies on Georgia. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass, but the House Health & Human Services Committee is expected to form a subcommittee to study this issue during the summer months.

H.R. 446 by Rep. William Boddie (D-East Point), which would have created a House study committee on heat-related injuries, cardiac injuries, and other sports-related injuries. MAG’s Position: neutral. Outcome: Did not pass. 

H.R. 464 by Rep. Betty Price, M.D. (R-Roswell), which would have created a House study committee to evaluate the state’s preparedness for infectious disease outbreaks (e.g., Zika) and develop legislation to increase the state’s readiness for any such outbreaks. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass. 

H.R. 627 by Rep. Paulette Rakestraw (R-Powder Springs), which would have created a House study committee on funding mechanisms for mental health and substance abuse treatment – with a focus on non-profit institutions. MAG’s Position: Neutral. Outcome: Did not pass.

H.R. 745 by Rep. Beth Beskin (R-Atlanta), which would have created a House study committee to address the surprise health insurance gap that leads to balance billing in emergency care settings. MAG’s Position: Supported. Outcome: Did not pass.