MAG celebrates ‘great’ 2020 legislative session

The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) solidified its reputation as the leading advocate for physicians in the state during this year’s legislative session, which ended on June 26 – having been suspended from March 13 until June 15 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“MAG had a great legislative session, and what really stands out to me is that we enjoyed so much success on so many fronts under some really trying circumstances,” says MAG President Andrew Reisman, M.D. “First and foremost is that every Georgian is going to enjoy budget certainty and additional peace of mind knowing that lawmakers passed a legislative solution for surprise medical bills – after a sustained, multi-year effort.”

Dr. Reisman is quick to give credit to MAG’s government relations team, which includes Derek Norton, Bethany Sherrer and Christiana Craddock. He notes that, “They have been focused and tireless and relentless in their efforts to advance MAG’s legislative agenda – and those efforts paid off.”

MAG Council on Legislation Chair W. Scott Bohlke, M.D., agrees, emphasizing that, “I can assure you that every MAG member has strong and effective advocates working on their behalf at the State Capitol. To get these kinds of results under these circumstances is remarkable.”

A few of the key bills that MAG supported that passed during this year’s session include…

S.B. 359 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), which would create liability protections for physicians, other health care providers, health care entities, businesses, and sports venues for claims related to COVID-19.

H.B. 888 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville), which would set the price that should be paid for out-of-network emergency care and unanticipated out-of-network non-emergency care.

H.B. 1114 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta), which would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to six months and require Medicaid to cover lactation care and services.

S.B. 313 (and H.B. 946) by Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge), which would address pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) practices – including “steering” (i.e., forcing patients to use PBM-owned pharmacies) and pharmaceutical manufacturers’ rebates.

S.B. 375 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), which would 1) make the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products, tobacco related objects, alternative nicotine products, or vapor products to individuals under the age of 21 illegal and 2) create a regulatory structure and licensure fee for businesses that sell alternative nicotine products and consumable vapor products and 3) set a rate for the taxation of consumable vapor products.

One key bill that MAG opposed that did not pass this year was H.B. 910 by Rep. Karen Mathiak (R-Griffin), legislation that would have established a license for certified professional midwives.

“This was one of the best sessions we have had in years,” says MAG Executive Director Donald J. Palmisano Jr. “I am especially proud of MAG’s staff and our member physicians and allied stakeholders for crossing the finish line and convincing lawmakers to pass the surprise billing legislation after five years. This was a crucial victory for physicians and patients and our health care system in general.”

In addition to MAG’s staff and contract lobbyists, Palmisano is thanking and applauding Dr. Reisman, Dr. Bohlke, MAG’s Council on Legislation, MAG’s Executive Committee and Board of Directors, and “every physician who supported our advocacy efforts” in 2020.

And MAG Government Relations Director Derek Norton is expressing special thanks to all of the medical specialties and societies who worked together to pass the surprise billing legislation, stating that, “They were great and effective teammates throughout this year’s session.”

MAG tracked about 125 bills in 2020. Gov. Brian Kemp will now determine the fate of the legislation that passed.

Contact Norton at dnorton@mag.org or 678.303.9280 with questions related to the 2020 legislative session.

The following is a summary of the key health care legislation that MAG tracked during the 2020 General Assembly…

MAG PRIORITY: TORT REFORM

S.B. 359 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) would create liability protections for physicians, other health care providers, health care entities, businesses, and sports venues for claims related to COVID-19. Physicians, health care providers, and health care entities would be protected from liability for the injury or death of a patient for COVID-19 or where the response to COVID-19 reasonably interfered with the arranging for or the providing of the health care services or medical care at issue and for the transmission, infection, exposure, or potential exposure of COVID-19 to an individual. These protections would not apply in cases of gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm. MAG’s PositionSupportedOutcomePassed.

S.B. 415 by Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega) would have 1) eliminated “phantom damages” (the difference between what a patient is billed and what they pay for their care, which can translate into much higher medical malpractice awards) and 2) changed the state’s ‘Civil Practice Act’ to improve and streamline the process for physicians and small businesses that are involved in lawsuits and 3) established guidelines for what a judge needs to consider when they decide whether to bifurcate a trial. It also included other legal reforms (e.g., premises liability reform and seat belt admissibility). MAG’s PositionSupportedOutcomeDid not pass.

H.B. 167 by Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville) would have made physicians, other health care providers, and health care facilities immune from civil liability where they were arranging for the provision of COVID-19 health care services or where the arrangement or provision of services were impacted decisions or activities in response to or as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These protections would not have applied in cases of gross negligence, willful or wanton misconduct, or intentional infliction of harm. The legislation also included language that stated that there is “no civil liability for [the] transmission of, contraction of, or exposure to COVID-19 unless it was caused by willful or wanton misconduct or an intentional infliction of harm.” MAG’s PositionSupportedOutcomeDid not pass.

H.B. 1089 byRep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton) was identical to S.B. 415 (see above). MAG’s PositionSupportedOutcomeDid not pass.

H.B. 1101 by Rep. Martin Momtahan (R-Dallas) would have required health insurers to disclose certain information prior to or contemporaneously with a claim settlement offer. This included the limits of coverage in the policy and information about the case. This legislation also called for insurers to provide claimants with notice of Georgia law pertaining to claims and claimant’s rights. MAG’s position: OpposedOutcome: Did not pass.

MAG PRIORITY: TAX CREDITS FOR UNCOMPENSATED CARE

Due to state budget constraints, legislation addressing this issue was not introduced during the 2020 legislative session.

MAG PRIORITY: MEDICAID

S.B. 324 by Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) would have extended Medicaid coverage for eligible pregnant women from 60 days to 12 months after the birth of their childMAG’s position:SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 1114 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would extend postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to six months and require Medicaid to cover lactation care and servicesMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Passed.

MAG PRIORITY: SCOPE OF PRACTICE

S.B. 306 by Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) would create a licensure and telemedicine compact for audiologists and speech language pathologistsMAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Passed.

S.B. 321 by Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome) would 1) increase the physician PA supervision ratio from 4-to-1 in a group practice and 2-to-1 in a solo practice to 4-to-1 for all and 2) allow APRNs to order radiographic imaging in non-life-threatening situations if it is included in their protocol agreementMAG’s position: OpposedOutcome: Passed.

S.B. 334 by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) would have required certified community midwives to be licensed and regulatedMAG’s position: OpposedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 391 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, M.D. (R-Marietta) would allow pharmacists to fill a 30-day supply of a prescription medication early when a state of emergency has been declared or when a hurricane warning has been issued – Schedule II medications notwithstanding. This would only apply when a pharmacist determines that the prescription is 1) essential to the maintenance of life or the continuation of therapy for a chronic condition and 2) the interruption of such therapy might reasonably produce undesirable health consequences or cause physical or mental discomfort. The pharmacist would have to let the prescriber know about the early prescription request within 48 hours. And insurers would be required to cover these early prescriptions. MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Passed.

H.B. 739 by Rep. Rick Jasperse (R-Jasper) would have prevented hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers from hiring or retaining surgical technicians who don’t have a “certified surgical technologist” credential – as defined by the legislation. It also included continuing education requirements for affected technicians. MAG’s position: OpposedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 791 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) would allow pharmacists to convert a maintenance medication prescription from a 30-day supply to a 90-day supply up to the quantities that have been authorized through refills by the physician – although this would not be permitted on the initial prescription or whenever the physician specifies that the refills should not be combined. This bill was amended to include S.B. 391’s provisions (see above). MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Passed.

H.B. 816 by Rep. Karen Mathiak (R-Griffin) would have allowed physicians and chiropractors to jointly own a professional corporationMAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 910 by Rep. Karen Mathiak (R-Griffin) would have established a license for certified professional midwivesMAG’s position: OpposedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 932 by Rep. Houston Gaines (R-Athens) would allow physicians and podiatrists to form professional corporations togetherMAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Passed.

H.B. 1092 by Rep. Alan Powell (R-Hartwell) would have 1) allowed APRNs who are working under a protocol agreement with a physician to order radiographic imaging in non-life-threatening situations and 2) increased the APRN-to-physician ratio from 4:1 to 6:1MAG’s position: OpposedOutcome: Did not pass.

MAG PRIORITY: HEALTH INSURANCE

S.B. 28 by Sen. Lester Jackson (D-Savannah) would require health insurance copays to be “reasonable in relation to covered benefits to which they apply” and would “require that copays be used as an incentive rather than a barrier to accessing appropriate care.” MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Passed.

S.B. 303 by Sen. Ben Watson, M.D. (R-Savannah) would require health insurers to make certain patient cost comparison information available on an interactive and publicly accessible website. Doing so would allow patients to 1) see how much in-network physicians are paid by insurers and 2) see the average amount that in-network physicians actually agree to be paid by insurers and 3) get an estimate for how much out-of-pocket money they will owe their physicians/providers and 4) compare quality metrics for the physicians/providers that are in their network in major diagnostic categories, adjusted for risk and severity. MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Passed.

S.B. 313 by Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge) addresses pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) practices – such as “steering” (i.e., forcing patients to use PBM-owned pharmacies) and pharmaceutical manufacturers’ rebates. This measure includes language from a MAG 2019 House of Delegates resolution that calls for establishing requirements for physicians who are involved with prior authorization and step therapy determinations, formulary development, and formulary management (i.e., they would have to be seeing or having seen patients in the last five years and be practicing or having practiced in the last five years in the same specialty for which they are providing advice). Under this legislation, the Georgia Department of Community Health would be encouraged to require the use of Georgia-licensed physicians for prior authorization or step therapy appeals or determinations in its future contracts with PBMs. This bill was identical to H.B. 946 (see below). MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Passed.

S.B. 348 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, M.D. (R-Marietta) would have 1) required insurers to cover physician/provider charges at in-network rates for 90 days after a physician/provider’s departure from a network during an enrollee’s contract year if the provider was advertised as in-network in the insurer’s physician/provider directory when the enrollee selected their plan and 2) set network adequacy standards for insurance networksMAG’s position:SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 352 by Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge) would have required insurers to cover physician/other health care provider charges at in-network rates for the duration of the patient’s contract year if a physician/provider departs the network during the contract year and were advertised as in-network in the insurer’s provider directory when the patient selected their planMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 360 by Sen. Donzella James (D-Atlanta) would have required diagnostic examinations for breast cancer to be treated “no less favorably” than screening examinations for breast cancer with respect to cost-sharing requirements and treatment limitationsMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 376, a bill by Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) would have capped the cost sharing amount that an insured person is required to pay for a covered insulin drug prescription at $100 for a 30-day supply, regardless of the amount or type of insulin that’s needed. MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 427 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) called for the state to conduct a study to determine how much money the state could save if it carved the pharmacy benefits out of the state’s care management organizations – action that would kick in if the savings were placed at more than $20 million. MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 433 by Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson) would have required the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH), pharmaceutical manufacturers, pharmacy benefit managers, insurers, and pharmacists to report information about the price of insulin products. DCH would have then been responsible for compiling this information and posting it on its website. Non-profit organizations that advocate for patients who have diabetes would have been required to report any payments, donations, or subsidies that they receive from pharmaceutical manufacturers. This bill would have limited the cost-sharing amount that a covered person is required to pay for a covered prescription insulin drug to $150 per 30-day supply, regardless of the amount or type needed to fill the covered person’s prescription. MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 482 by Sen. Dean Burke, M.D. (R-Bainbridge) would create a ‘Georgia All Payer Claims Database’ (GAPCD) to collect claims data from insurance companies, the Georgia Department of Community Health, Medicaid care management organizations, Medicare plans, entities that contract with institutions of the Georgia Department of Corrections to provide medical, dental, or pharmaceutical care to inmates, the State Board of Workers’ Compensation, and the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission. This measure would also establish a GAPCD Advisory Committee to make recommendations about the GAPCD framework and develop a plan to facilitate the “reporting of health care and health quality data resulting in transparent and public reporting of safety, quality, cost, and efficiency information at all levels of health care.” MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome:Passed.

H.B. 789 by Rep. Mark Newton, M.D. (R-Augusta) would 1) address “surprise bills” by creating a “star” rating system to highlight which health insurance plans include both certain medical specialties (i.e., emergency medicine, radiology, anesthesiology, and pathology) and hospitals in the same networks and 2) require health insurers to make this information available on their websites and in their printed directoriesMAG’s position:NeutralOutcome: Passed.

H.B. 800 by Rep. Sandra Scott (D-Rex) would have defined a health care provider who provides obstetrical/gynecological services within 50 miles of Georgia’s border as an “in-state provider of medical assistance” for Medicaid reimbursement purposesMAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 888 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) would set the price that should be paid for out-of-network emergency care and unanticipated out-of-network non-emergency care at 1) the previously contracted rate between the provider and the insurer or 2) the 2017 median contracted rate, adjusted annually according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – whichever is greater – and paid without the need for prior authorization and without any retrospective payment denials and allow a patient to choose out-of-network elective care by consenting in writing and orally at least 48 hours in advance with an estimate of the charges and require an insurer to use the most recent in-network contract rates as the initial payment for a physician/provider when a contract is terminated without cause by the insurer or with cause by a physician/provider within one year of the effective date of the legislation and establish a “baseball-style” arbitration system (i.e., the insurer and physician/provider would each submit a payment amount and an arbitrator would choose one of the numbers and the “loser” would pay the arbitration costs and the bundling or batching of claims would be allowed, with no thresholds). MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Passed.

H.B. 918 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would change PBMs licensure requirements and prohibit “steering” (i.e., when PBMs force patients to use the pharmacies they own) and reform the process for auditing pharmacies – which are currently conducted by PBMs, insurers, etc. MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Passed.

H.B. 946 by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) would address PBMs practices – such as “steering” (i.e., forcing patients to use PBM-owned pharmacies) and pharmaceutical manufacturers’ rebates. This measure includes language from a MAG 2019 House of Delegates resolutionthat calls for establishing requirements for physicians who are involved with prior authorization and step therapy determinations, formulary development, and formulary management (i.e., they would have to be seeing or having seen patients in the last five years and be practicing or having practiced in the last five years in the same specialty for which they are providing advice). Under this legislation, the Georgia Department of Community Health would be encouraged to require the use of Georgia-licensed physicians for prior authorization or step therapy appeals or determinations in its future contracts with PBMs. This bill was identical to S.B. 313 (see above). MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Passed.

H.B. 947 by Rep. David Knight (R-Griffin) called for the state to conduct a study to determine how much money it could save if it carved the pharmacy benefits out of the state’s care management organizations – action that would kick in if the savings were placed at more than $20 million. MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass – although the study will be conducted without the need for legislation.

H.B. 961 by Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) would have required the state to identify high-cost prescription drugs that represent a “significant expenditure” for the state that have increased in price by more than 50 percent or more over the past five years or 15 percent or more over the past 12 months. It would have also authorized the state Attorney General to require the applicable drug manufacturer to justify the increase in the wholesale acquisition cost of the drug. MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 991 by Rep. Matt Hatchett (R-Dublin) would create a ‘Healthcare Transparency and Accountability Oversight Committee’ that would have the authority to review the performance and conduct of all state health care plan contractors, their affiliate subcontractors, and their subcontractor pharmacy benefits managers. MAG’s position:SupportedOutcome: Passed.

H.B. 1027 by Rep. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville) would have required PBMs to calculate an enrollee’s defined cost sharing for each prescription drug at the point of sale based on a price that is reduced by an amount equal to at least 80 percent of all rebates received or that will be received in connection with the dispensing or administration of the prescription drugMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 1125 by Trey Kelley (R-Cedartown) would require the Department of Community Health and Georgia Composite Medical Board (GCMB) to compile information on factors and pertinent history to identify individuals with a high risk for breast cancer. GCMB would be tasked with distributing this information to physicians annually. And the State Health Benefit Plan would be required to cover breast cancer screening for individuals with a high risk for breast cancer who are 30 years of age or older. MAG’s PositionNeutralOutcomePassed.

OTHER

S.B. 101 by Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) would have required volunteer coaches with youth athletic associations to undergo training to reduce the likelihood of injuries to youth athletes engaged in high risk athleticsMAG’s Position: SupportedStatus: Did not pass.

S.B. 272 by Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula) would have prohibited the sale to and by minors of drug products containing dextromethorphanMAG’s Position: SupportedStatus: Did not pass.

S.B. 279 by Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta) would have required “informed consent” to perform a pelvic exam on an unconscious or sedated female patient – emergencies notwithstanding. These exams would have been required to be within the scope of care that is ordered for the patient and be medically necessary for diagnosis or treatment purposes or when a court has ordered a pelvic exam to collect evidence. MAG’s position:NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 298 by Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) would have 1) raised the age to purchase cigarettes, tobacco products, tobacco related objects, alternative nicotine products, consumable vapor products, or tobacco product samples from 18 to 21 and 2) made it illegal to distribute tobacco product samples on a public street, sidewalk, or park within 500 feet of a school or playground and 3) required the State Board of Education to set a minimum course of study on vaping and smoking for children in grades K-12 and 4) required anyone who is engaged in the business of manufacturing, importing, brokering, purchasing, selling, consigning, vending, dealing in, shipping, receiving, or distributing alternative nicotine products or consumable vapor products to obtain a license from the Georgia Department of RevenueMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 311 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, M.D. (R-Marietta) would have prohibited kickbacks, commissions, bribes, benefits, rebates, and bonuses by substance abuse providers or solicited by substance abuse providers to induce referral of a patient and outlaws fraudulent marketing techniques designed to deceive individuals into expensive long term recovery facilities. It would have also prohibited ‘high-tech drug testing’ (i.e., testing an individual’s specimen for numerous substances and billing and receiving payment separately for each substance that’s tested). MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 323 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, M.D. (R-Marietta) would have 1) required the Georgia Composite Medical Board to establish rules and regulations for the in-office use of sedation in “MediSpas” and 2) prohibited anyone who doesn’t have a license to practice dentistry to administer conscious sedation in a dental facility or during the practice of dentistry in a MediSpaMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 347 by Sen. Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain) would have required surgical smoke evacuation systems in operating rooms in ambulatory surgery centers and hospitals.MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 375 by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga) would 1) make the sale of cigarettes, tobacco products, tobacco related objects, alternative nicotine products, or vapor products to individuals under the age of 21 illegal and 2) create a regulatory structure and licensure fee for businesses that sell alternative nicotine products and consumable vapor products and 3) set a rate for the taxation of consumable vapor productsMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Passed.

S.B. 417 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, M.D. (R-Marietta) would address problematic language that is related to background checks in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact bill that passed last yearMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Passed in H.B. 752.

S.B. 484 by Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, M.D. (R-Marietta) called for Georgia to join a multistate compact that would “incentivize the development of cures for diseases through substantial financial awards.” The compact states will “pay a financial award to someone who developed a cure for a disease by utilizing the money the state saves by utilizing the cure.” MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

S.R. 981 by Rep. Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain) would create a Senate Study Committee on Surgical Smoke Evacuation SystemsMAG’s PositionNeutralOutcomePassed.

H.B. 113 by Rep. John Carson (R-Marietta) would have prohibited the use of cell phones by drivers who are under 18. Fines would have ranged from $25 to $100 per infraction – regardless of the number of times a person breaks this law, and keeping in mind that the state’s existing law includes fines of $50 for the first occurrence, $100 for the second occurrence, and $150 for the third occurrence. MAG’s position: Opposed as amendedOutcome: Did not pass.

S.B. 483 by Sen. Matt Brass (R-Newnan) would have provided for Medicaid reimbursement for patients who are treated by a hospital pursuant to a behavioral rehabilitation joint venture. The bill was amended to include language exempting facilities that were issued a letter of determination by the Department of Community Health prior to August 1, 2018, from requirements to have an operating room or operating room environment and would only be subject to any minimum physical plan and operational standards required for ambulatory surgery centers that do not perform procedures in an operating room with general anesthesia. This legislation also included language to modernize the state’s HIV laws. MAG’s PositionNeutralOutcomeDid not pass.

H.B. 715 by Rep. Shaw Blackmon (R-Bonaire) would have removed the cap on the occupation tax fee that a local government can levy on a physician or other practitionerMAG’s position: OpposedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 731 by Rep. Ron Stephens (R-Savannah) would have raised the state’s tobacco tax from 23 percent to 42 percent for wholesale cigars, from $.37 to $1.87 per pack of 20 cigarettes, and from 10 percent to 42 percent of the wholesale price for loose or smokeless tobaccoMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 744 by Rep. Mike Wilensky (D-Dunwoody) would have prohibited prescribers from 1) prescribing any combination of opioid medication that is an aggregate amount in excess of 100 morphine milligram equivalents of opioid medication per day and 2) writing a prescription for more than a 30-day supply of an opioid medication within 30 days for patients who are being treated for chronic pain and 3) writing an opioid prescription for a patient who is being treated for acute pain that is more than a seven-day supply within a seven-day period unless the medication has an FDA label that says it should only be dispensed in a stock bottle that exceeds a seven-day supply as prescribed, in which case the amount dispensed may not exceed a 14 day supply. These limits would not apply to opioid prescriptions that are for pain associated with active and aftercare cancer treatment; pain associated with a fracture or compound fracture; post-operative pain management resulting from a surgical procedure; palliative care for an advanced and progressive disease; hospice care if terminally ill; or medication assisted treatment for a substance abuse disorder. The limits would also not apply to 1) directly ordering or administering a benzodiazepine or opioid medication to a patient in an emergency room setting, an inpatient hospital setting, or a long-term care facility or 2) a surgical procedure. Under H.B. 744, prescribers would have been subject to a fine of $250 per violation – up to $5,000 per calendar year. MAG’s position: OpposedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 752 by Rep. Dave Belton (R-Buckhead) would address inadequate language that is in state law that is related to the background checks that are conducted before Georgia can operate as a “home state” for physicians wishing to gain licensure under the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact and physical therapists can gain licensure under the Physical Therapy CompactMAG’s PositionSupportedOutcomePassed.

H.B. 809 by Rep. Angelika Kausche (D-Johns Creek) would have regulated tobacco and tobacco-related products and raised the age required to purchase these products from 18 to 21MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 842 by Rep. Rick Williams (R-Milledgeville) would have prohibited physicians and other health care providers and health insurers from discriminating against potential organ transplant recipients based solely on a physical or mental disabilityMAG’s position:NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 864 by Rep. Bonnie Rich (R-Suwanee) would have taxed vaping devices and consumable vaping products and required retailers that sell vaping devices and consumable vaping products to be licensedMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 914 by Rep. Heath Clark (R-Warner Robbins) would allow military spouses to get a license (e.g., a medical license) “by endorsement” as long as the “potential licensee holds a current license to practice such occupation or profession issued by another state for which the training, experience, and testing are substantially similar in qualifications and scope to the requirements under this state to obtain a license, and that he or she is in good standing in such other state and he or she passes any examination that may only be required to demonstrate knowledge of the laws and rules and regulations of this state specific to the practice of the profession, business, or trade for which such expedited license by endorsement is being sought.” MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Passed.

H.B. 952 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would have prohibited corporations that own and operate multiple pharmacies from implementing policies and procedures that restrict the quantity of controlled substances that are dispensed or places a restriction on filling a prescription for a controlled substance that is issued by a specific prescriber. It would have allowed a pharmacist to decline to fill a prescription if they “reasonably believe” that it’s not for a legitimate medical purpose or it’s not in the patient’s best interest or it was written by a prescriber who has been the subject of an enforcement action resulting from controlled substance prescribing by any state or federal agency or entityMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 996 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would have expanded the definition of “cosmetic laser services” to include “energy based medical procedures using an ultrasound, cyolipolysis, microwave, or radio frequency device that is not expected or intended to remove, burn, or vaporize the live epidermal surface of the skin, but may damage underlying tissue, if used inappropriately and specifies that these services constitute the practice of medicine.” MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 1007 (‘Coach Safely Act’) by Rep. Demetrius Douglas (D-Stockbridge) would have required any association that sponsors or conducts sports training or high risk youth athletic activities for children age 14 and under to require all unpaid or volunteer coaches and athletics personnel to complete an online or residence course approved by the department which provides such coaches and personnel with information and awareness of actions and measures that may be used to decrease the likelihood that youth athletes will sustain serious injuries while engaged or participating in high risk youth athletic activitiesMAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 1024 by Rep. Mark Newton, M.D. (R-Augusta) would have provided for an exception to the certificate of need (CON) process for freestanding emergency departments and increases in bed capacity or use of unused beds of a private or public hospital, located in a rural county, provided that any such beds are used exclusively for the treatment of patients in need of behavioral health or developmental disabilities services and provided any such beds may also be leased to a behavioral health provider for treatment of such patientsMAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 1032 by Rep. Hatchett (R-Dublin) would have exempted certain facilities that perform medical procedures only in non-sterile procedure rooms from certificate of need (CON) requirements and would exempt those facilities from having to have an operating room or an operating room environment or from having to have any minimum physical plant and operational standards, as specified in the rules of the Georgia Department of Community Health for the purposes of CONMAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 1054 by Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) would have created the ‘Newborn Screening and Genetics Advisory Committee’ to review and make recommendations to the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) when a new disorder is added to the federal ‘Recommended Uniform Screening Panel’ about whether DPH should add the new disorder to the state’s newborn screening panel. MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 1060 by Rep. Ginny Ehrhart (R-Marietta) would have made it a felony for any licensed medical professional to provide a minor with treatments including use of puberty suppressants, hormone therapy, and enumerated surgical procedures (e.g., mastectomy, vasectomy, hysterectomy). Violating this law would have subjected the licensed physician or other treating provider to a prison term of one to 10 years and the revocation of their license. MAG’s position: OpposedOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 1076 by Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Atlanta) would have 1) created a statewide sexual assault kit tracking system and 2) required the Georgia Composite Medical Board (GCMB) to refuse to grant a license to an applicant or to suspend or revoke a physician’s license if it finds (following an investigation) that they have committed a sexual assault on a patient or have pleaded guilty to committing a sexual assault on a patient or have been found guilty by a court of law of committing a sexual assault on a patient. This legislation also called for health care professionals to report the name of a physician to GCMB if they have reasonable cause to believe that the physician has sexually assaulted a patient. Finally, it would have required GCMB to issue an annual report that addresses the number of physicians it has investigated for sexual assault, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, or the exploitation of a patient and the outcome of any investigations (i.e., whether it refuses, revokes, or suspends a physician’s license or issues a private or public disciplinary order). MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

H.B. 1105 by Rep. Mark Newton, M.D. (R-Augusta) would have required hospitals to complete a survey to disclose whether they have the technological capability to share certain patient information with other hospitals on an electronic basis. As a condition of getting and maintaining a certificate of need (CON), this legislation would have required every hospital be a “meaningful electronic health records user of certified electronic health records technology” by July 1, 2022. MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

H.R. 1282 by Rep. Shelly Hutchinson (D-Snellville) would have created the ‘House Study Committee on Evaluating, Simplifying, and Eliminating Duplication of Regulatory Requirements for Mental Health and Social Services Providers’. MAG’s position: NeutralOutcome: Did not pass.

H.R. 1302 by Rep. Katie Dempsey (R-Rome) would have created the ‘Joint Study Committee on Chronic Weight Management and Type 2 Diabetes.’ MAG’s position: SupportedOutcome: Did not pass.

FY 2021 Budget

The state’s FY 2021 budget was cut by $2.2 billion (10 percent) given the projected tax/revenue deficit associated with COVID-19. The budget that lawmakers passed does include $19.7 million for six months of Medicaid postpartum coverage, and the Georgia Board of Health Care Workforce budget remains intact – which means that there will be no cuts to the medical schools’ operating grants. The budget also includes $12 million in additional funds for rural hospital stabilization grants. The Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities’ budget was reduced by $91 million, while the Georgia Department of Public Health’s budget was trimmed by $8.2 million – including a $2.3 million reduction in funding for trauma center readiness and uncompensated care. It is also worth noting that funding for local health departments was restored, and there was no reduction in the Georgia Maternal Mortality Review Board’s budget.

MAG tracked about 125 bills during the 2020 legislative session.

Contact Derek Norton at dnorton@mag.org or 678.303.9280 with questions related to the General Assembly.

Events

MAG cancels 2020 legislative seminar

The Medical Association of Georgia has canceled the ‘Legislative Education Seminar’ meeting that was scheduled to take place at the Brasstown Valley Resort & Spa in Young Harris on May 15-17 as a result of the COVID-19 health care threat.

Registrants’ room reservations will automatically be canceled and any fees that were charged to their credit cards will be refunded sometime this week.

Contact Christiana Craddock at ccraddock@mag.org with questions.

MAG’s Government Relations Team

Derek Norton
Director
dnorton@mag.org
678.303.9280

Bethany Sherrer
Legal Counsel, GAMPAC Manager & Government Relations Associate
bsherrer@mag.org
678.303.9273

Christiana Craddock
Legislative Assistant
ccraddock@mag.org
678.303.9271