The Georgia General Assembly declared “Sine Die” and the end of the first of a two-year legislative session on March 29. Many of the GAFP’s legislative priorities were accomplished which included a significant increase in payment for Medicaid for primary care physicians, and the renewal of the community preceptor tax credit.
The Legislative Session Working Group, including many members of the Legislative Committee met on a weekly basis to provide staff and leadership to ongoing recommendations and guidance. The key priorities that the group worked on were the following:
- Support higher payment for Medicaid codes on par with Medicare through the Georgia Medicaid budget.
- Support the renewal of the Community Physician Preceptor Tax Credit teaching medical students, physician assistant and nurses.
- Protect physicians’ conversations with patients and oppose any criminalization or penalties for providing medically approved care.
- Oppose any changes of non-physician scope of practice that will diminish quality of care to our Georgia patients.
Success – Medicaid Budget Increases
The Georgia General Assembly has sent a budget to the Governor’s desk with an increase of $18 million to pay primary care and OB/GYN physicians for certain codes from the current Georgia Medicaid rate to the 2021 Medicare rate. (Note that this will occur after the Department of Community Health has received a state plan amendment approval from CMS.)
The code that are to be increased include the following:
|Code||Current Rate||2021 Medicare|
Other Key Bills:
Did Not Cross Over. Eligible in 2024.
House Bill 37 – Medicaid Support. A bill to provide support to the Department of Community Health to mitigate the potential loss of Medicaid coverage caused by the discontinuation of the continuous enrollment of Medicaid during COVID. Current Status: Assigned to House Public Health Committee.
House Bill 38 – Increase Medicaid Coverage up to 136 percent of the federal poverty level. Current Status: Assigned to House Public Health Committee.
House Bill 82 – Renewal of Rural Physician Tax Credit and increase eligible clinicians to include dentists. Current Status: Crossed over on March 6, 2023. Assigned to Senate Finance Committee. Passed out of the Senate Finance Committee on March 16 – amended to sunset in 2026. Was tabled on the last day of the session in the Senate. Those eligible for the Rural Physician Tax Credit will not be affected by this delay, but dentists will not be able to utilize this tax credit until current bill is passed next year.
House Bills 191 and 192 – Increasing the tobacco tax on cigarettes (HB 91) and vaping products (HB 192). Current Status: Received a hearing on a Ways and Means Subcommittee on February 22, and the GAFP testified in support of both measures. With measured opposition from several legislators, and lukewarm support from other advocates seeking an increase of at least $1 – this bill is unlikely to receive a second hearing during the 2022 session.
House Bill 308 – Renewing the Community Physician Tax Credit which expires in December 2023. Current Status: GAFP testified in support of this renewal in Subcommittee. Passed both Chambers. Awaiting Governor’s review/signature.
House Bill 343 – Will lower RX drug costs via minimizing rebates that the pharmacy benefit managers currently receive. Current Status: The bill has passed out of House Health and Human Services Committee and Rules recommitted it BACK to the Health and Services Committee. On Wednesday, the Health and Services Committee once again voted out HB 343. The version adopted lowers the pass through of rebates to 50 percent and includes some additional reporting requirements on insurers and PBMs. It now heads back to the Rules Committee. Crossed over 168-3 – Pending in Senate Health and Human Services Committee – did not get out of Senate HHS Committee – will be available next legislative session (2024)
Did Not Cross Over. Eligible in 2024.
House Bill 214 – Allowing APRN/PA to Write Schedule II’s without Physician Supervision and allow APRN/PAs to approve handicapped parking sticker. Current Status: Pending in House Health and Human Service Committee.
House Bill 557 – Allowing APRN/PA to write Schedule II’s without physician supervision for “emergency” 5-day supply for adults only. Current Status: Passed both houses in the General Assembly but failed to get a final “agree” in both chambers when an amendment to loosen noncompete agreements between physicians and hospitals was added to the current version of the bill.
Did Not Cross Over
House Bill 455 – CRNA Independent Practice. Last Action: A hearing was held on March 1 in the House Health and Human Services Committee. The bill was defeated.
Senate Bill 47 – Banning Vaping Under the Indoor Smoking Act. Last Action: Passed out of Senate on February 15th. Now pending in House Public Health Committee. Passed out of House Public Health Committee on March 15 (GAFP testified in support). Passed the House on March 23.
Senate Bill 197 – Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency in Advertising. Requires anyone marketing or advertising their health care services utilize the title that they are licensed for in the State of Georgia. It will also require anyone with a doctorate degree to introduce themselves as their clinical licensure in patient interactions. Current Status: This bill passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee on Monday, February 27 and is pending in the Senate Rules Committee. Crossed over on March 6 (54-2) – Pending in House Health and Human Services Committee. Passed out of the House HHS Committee on March 14. Passed House on March 23, Senate agreed to House Substitute.
Senate Bill 1 – Extension of COVID Vaccine Exemptions. Last Action: Passed out of the Senate on February 7, now pending in House Public Health Committee. Passed out of House Public Health Committee on March 15. Passed House on March 23 – 99-69.
Senate Bill 102 – CRNA Independent Practice (Did Not Cross). Last Action: A hearing was held on February 23 in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. The GAFP submitted a letter in opposition that stated, in part:
The Georgia Academy opposes any legislation that will dimmish the quality, care, and safety of our patients. This bill will put patients under anesthesia at great risk with less skilled and educated clinicians to oversee surgical procedures that require the patient to receive anesthesia. We believe this bill will not expand health care access, it will do the opposite, as it removes highly trained health care professionals (the physician) from overseeing anesthesia care of our patients.
The bill received a vote to move it to the Senate Rules Committee, and the motion was defeated.
Senate Bill 140 – Transgender Care to Minors
Passed the House (96-75) on March 16. The GAFP changed its position from neutral to opposed when the House removed language to protect physicians/hospitals liability. Now allows criminal and civil charges to be brought to clinicians and health care facilities. GAFP is working with a coalition to oppose this current version. Bill has been “immediately” transmitted back to the Senate. If the Senate approves the bill as amended by the House – it could go directly to the Governor for his signature. Working with outside legal counsel and other physician groups for potential Governor letter seeking veto based on the vagueness of the bill and the concern over criminalization / civil litigation to physicians/hospitals. Last Action: Veto letter was delivered to Governor Kemp’s office – and he signed into law on Friday, March 24.