Legislative Update- Wrap Up 2016 Session

Family Physicians Score Increases to Key Primary Care Codes for Medicaid!

Budget: The Governor signed a budget for 2017 fiscal year with a spending plan of $24 billion starting in July. It includes 32 key primary care codes that will be increased to the 2014 Medicare rate. These codes will be increased from between 11 percent to a high of 135 percent. This is a major victory for family physicians, our primary care physician and obstetrical/gynecologist colleagues. Increases for Amerigroup, WellCare and PeachState/Centene will begin on July 1, 2016. Increases for Fee for Service will begin after the Department of Community Health receives approval from CMS (6-8 month delay).

Tax Credit for Rural Hospitals SB 258

The General Assembly passed a bill that will allow an individual or corporation to get a state tax credit for donating money to a rural health care organization. The tax credit could help 39 rural hospitals that fit the criteria listed in the legislation. Four rural hospitals have closed in Georgia since the beginning of 2013. A fifth, Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe, briefly closed in December before reopening in a downsized format.

The amount of tax credits available was lowered from $100 million annually to $50 million in the first year, 2017. The amount for the second year will be $60 million, and for the third year, $70 million.

The receiving organization must be a nonprofit, must treat patients who are indigent or on Medical or Medicare, and must be located in a rural county.

Continued Support for New Family Medicine Residency Programs: $1.14 million added for 72 new residency slots in primary care medicine. Many of these slots will include family medicine residencies in hospitals that are creating new programs.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program House Bill 900will make it easier for family physicians and other clinicians to appropriately use the Georgia Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This bill will allow the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to be fully utilized by clinicians and to allow for physicians and their designated clinical staff to identify patients who may have an addiction to prescription pain medications. This was one of the Georgia Academy’s key legislative initiatives!

Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act HB 649creates an advisory committee and process for licensure for lactation consultants. This will allow for licensed lactation consultants to be certified by the state and paid by Medicaid for their services. This has been a five year initiative that the Georgia Academy has continuously supported.

Savings Accounts for Disabled Citizens HB 768: The General Assembly also approved saving accounts for people with disabilities to help them live independently and not lose their Medicaid health insurance or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The savings could pay for qualified expenses such as housing, transportation, education and personal support services.

Fireworks HB 727: This bill limits the usage of fireworks after a certain time. Prior to this people could use fireworks up until 2 am on New Year’s and July 4th, and 12 midnight on all other days. With this law the cut off time is 1 am for New Years and July 4th, and 9 pm for all other days. Revises provisions around fireworks in the state, including prohibiting use near electric plants, water and wastewater treatment plants, hospitals, nursing homes, other health care facilities, property owned or operated for counties and cities, and at public gatherings when a law enforcement agency or local fire department determines that the use of fireworks is not in the interest of public safety.

The Georgia Academy has continued to express concern about child safety related to use of fireworks.

Minors and HIV HB 1058: Allows a minor who is or professes to be at risk for HIV to consent to medical or surgical care or services by a hospital, public clinic, or physician. The bill also eliminates the requirement that the Department of Public Health develop AIDS and HIV counseling brochures, revises a provision relating to exposure of  a health care provider to a potentially HIV-infected person, and makes disclosure to a parent or legal guardian of a minor’s AIDS confidential information permissive rather than mandatory.

Medicaid Expansion

State Senate Creates a Study Committee on Premium Assistance Programs

Senator Michael Rhett (Marietta) sponsored Senate Resolution 1056 to create a Study Committee and have the Senate Research Office look into premium assistance programs that could be an alternative to Medicaid expansion. This Study Committee, if appointed by the President of the Senate, will designate up to six members of the Senate. This Committee will have completed its work and submitted its report by the end of the year.

Georgia Chamber of Commerce Access to Health Care Task Force

The Georgia Academy is supporting the Chamber’s Health Care Task Force that has brought business and the health care community to look at alternative solutions to Medicaid expansion. Dr. Rick Wherry, GAFP Past President and Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee, is serving on this Task Force. Alternative solutions to Medicaid expansion will be brought forward for review and discussion by the end of the year, for potential implementation in 2018.

Vetoed Legislation

Campus Carry HB 859: This bill would have permitted the concealed carrying of guns on college campuses. It would have allowed anyone 21 and older to carry guns anywhere on campus except for athletic facilities, sorority and fraternity houses, and dormitories. The Governor vetoed this legislation and it will not become state law.

Religious Liberty HB 757: This bill established provisions around the exercise of religion. The legislation was extremely controversial. Interpretations of the bill’s language and intent vary. The Georgia Academy remained opposed to the legislation over concerns about patients being denied access to care based on perceived lifestyle choices.

Bills that did not pass:

Changing Preceptor Tax Deduction to Tax Credit HB 997

The current PTIP program was implemented in July 2014 and offers up to a $10,000 deduction for precepting medical/osteopathic, APRN, or PA students. Eligible recipients are licensed physicians in the state of Georgia. The efforts to change this program from a tax deduction to tax credit did not receive a hearing in the House Ways & Means Committee and therefore died on Crossover Day.

Expedited Therapy for Sexually Transmitted Diseases HB 813: Sexual partners of patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea may receive ‘expedited partner therapy’ (a prescription for the sexual partner or partners for antibiotic drugs) without a physical examination.

Medical Marijuana HB 722: This bill would have legalized the use of medical marijuana for certain diseases and disorders. It passed the House, but did not receive a hearing in the Senate. It would have legalized medical marijuana usage for conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, AIDs, seizure-related disorders, autism, and Tourette’s syndrome. The Georgia Academy recommends the use of medical marijuana only for the medical conditions where evidence based research has been proven that cannabis improves a specific condition.