Summary of Healthcare and Mental Healthcare Legislation From the First Session of the 156th Georgia General Assembly

The 156th Georgia General Assembly convened its first session on January 11, 2021 at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta.  Below is a summary of Healthcare and Mental Healthcare related legislation that passed from that first session.

Healthcare Legislation

  • HB 34: Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact Act (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/201674) – The Act enters Georgia into the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact (ASLP-IC), which allows professionals to practice across state lines without needing to obtain additional licenses. 11 states comprise the compact’s current membership, and an additional 11 states have pending legislation considering entry into the agreement.
  • HB 93: Health; eliminate duplicative state licensure and regulation of clinical laboratories (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/200264) – HB 93 removes duplicative state licensure and regulation of clinical laboratories. Under the new legislation, clinical laboratories must be certified by or operating under a certificate of waiver from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The bill struck the majority of Title 31, Chapter 22. Additionally, the bill updated references to clinical laboratory licensure found elsewhere in the O.C.G.A.
  • HB 128: Health; prohibit providers from discriminating against potential organ transplant recipients due solely to the physical or mental disability of the potential recipient (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202466) – The bill, titled Gracie’s Law, prohibits healthcare providers and other covered entities from using an individual’s disability as a basis to disqualify or deprioritize a candidate’s eligibility for organ transplantation or related services. The language of the statute allows an individual’s disability to be considered only where a physician finds the disability medically significant.
  • HB 141: Criminal procedure; requirements for awards made from Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund to medical service providers (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202443) – The Georgia Crime Victims Emergency Fund provides financial assistance to victims of some crimes. The new provision amends O.C.G.A. 17-15-8, addressing use of the fund for the payment of medical expenses. Medical service providers compensated under the statute will receive payment in accordance with the list of usual, customary, and reasonable charges published by the State Board of Workers’ Compensation unless a reasonable health care justification supports deviation from that list. Further, the amendment stipulates that acceptance of payment shall be considered payment in full.
  • HB 163: Community Health, Department of; submit state plan amendment to implement express lane enrollment in Medicaid (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/200268) – The bill instructs the Department of Community Health to submit a state plan amendment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services creating an express lane for enrolling eligible children in the state Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids Program.
  • HB 234: Self-funded Healthcare Plan Opt-in to the Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/201144) – The Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act, passed last year, requires healthcare plans licensed by the Georgia Office of the Commissioner of Insurance to pay for covered services where a covered person sees an out-of-network provider at an in-network facility. However, the Act cannot mandate compliance from self-funded plans under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). HB 234 allows otherwise exempt ERISA plans to voluntarily comply with the provisions of the Act and participate in the arbitration process.
  • HB 268: The Occupational Therapy Licensure Compact Act (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/201689) – The Act enters Georgia into the Occupational Therapy Licensing Compact, which allows professionals to practice across state lines without needing to obtain additional licenses. 4 states comprise the compact’s current membership, and an additional 11 states have pending legislation considering entry into the agreement.
  • HB 271: Community Health, Department of; assess one or more provider matching payments on ambulance services (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/201145) – The Act allows the Department of Community Health to assess provider matching payments on ambulance services as necessary to obtain federal funding through Medicaid.
  • HB 307: Georgia Telehealth Act (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202457) – HB 307 amends the Georgia Telehealth Act to expand the definition of telemedicine to include audio-only communications between a patient and provider. The amendment implements a series of restrictions on insurers, preventing actions that might limit access to telehealth services, such as vendor coverage restrictions, initial in-person visit requirements, or prescription restrictions that exceed applicable state or federal law.
  • HB 346: Jarom’s Act (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202461) – The Act authorizes emergency medical services personnel to administer hydrocortisone sodium succinate for patients with an adrenal insufficiency in adrenal crisis.
  • HB 454: Insurance; certain coverage requirements concerning providers that become out-of-network during a plan year (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202493) – HB 454 protects consumers who rely on a health insurer’s online provider directory during the open enrollment period. The Act requires an insurer to reimburse providers no longer in-network at their most recent contracted rate for up to 180 days after the provider’s contract terminates if the provider leaves the network after the enrollment period closes. The Act also prohibits insurers from terminating a provider from the insurer’s network during and up to 150 days after a public health emergency.
  • HB 458: Georgia Composite Medical Board; require certain training relating to sexual misconduct for members (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202496) – HB 458 requires training related to sexual misconduct and professional boundaries for healthcare providers and mandates such trainings for medical students as part of the curriculum. The Act further implements mandatory reporting requirements for providers with actual knowledge of another provider’s sexual misconduct. The Act also allows the Georgia Composite Medical Board to refuse licensure to a physician found guilty of sexual assault on a patient or to summarily suspend the license of a physician during the investigation of an alleged sexual assault on a patient.
  • HB 509: Insurance; require certain insurers to make at least one reasonably priced comprehensive major medical health insurance policy available (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202044) – Since its passing in 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has faced numerous obstacles, including extensive litigation and attempted legislative repeal. One of the hallmark protections of the PPACA includes a prohibition of eligibility rules that discriminate based on preexisting conditions or other health status-related factors. HB 509 anticipates the effect on consumers of a successful legislative or judicial repeal of the preexisting condition protection, requiring insurers to provide at least one reasonably priced policy with the same protections within 30 days of such repeal.
  • HB 567: Newborn Screening and Genetics Advisory Committee (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202512) – The Act establishes the Newborn Screening and Genetics Advisory Committee, charging the committee to consider and evaluate disorders added to the federal Recommended Uniform Screening Panel each year for inclusion in the newborn screening system. At the recommendation of the committee, the Department of Public Health may include these disorders in the screening system.
  • HB 653: Georgia Pharmacy Practice Act; pharmacy care (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202408) – The Act expands the definition of ‘Pharmacy care’ within the Georgia Pharmacy Practice Act to include ordering and administering viral and serology COVID-19 tests and other tests cleared or approved for home use by the FDA.
  • SB 4: Drug Abuse Treatment and Education Programs; patient brokering; prohibit; definitions; exceptions; penalties (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/201183) – SB 4 prohibits payment or the offer to pay any remuneration to induce the referral of a patient or patronage to or from a substance abuse provider. The Act excepts remuneration not prohibited by the federal Anti-Kickback Statute [42 U.S.C. 1320a-7b(b)] and the associated safe harbors.
  • SB 5: Professions and Businesses; patient protection measures for patients undergoing sedation in certain settings (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/201178) – SB 5 amends Title 43 to require board approved training in phlebotomy and other safety topics for individuals administering intravenous sedation during dental procedures at medispas.
  • SB 43: Noncovered Eye Care Services Act (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/201762) – SB 43 expands the list of enumerated unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices to prohibit insurers from requiring or stating or implying through explanation of benefit forms that an ophthalmologist or optometrist within its provider network must extend discounts to patients for noncovered eye care services.
  • SB 46: Health; certain medical personnel to administer vaccines during public health emergencies under certain conditions (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202495) – SB 46 allows emergency medical technicians and certified cardiac technicians to administer vaccines during a public health emergency. Additionally, the bill further allows anyone to opt out of the state-wide vaccine registry.
  • SB 80: Ensuring Transparency in Prior Authorization Act (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/201779) – The act aims to promote consumer protection by adding transparency to the prior authorization (PA) process. The Act requires insurers to provide current PA requirements on their website as well as aggregate statistics on approvals, denials, and appeals. An insurer must communicate an authorization or adverse determination within 15 days (reduced to 7 days in 2023) of receiving the information needed to make the decision. The Act imposes a prohibition on PA requirements for emergency services. Violations of these requirements result in an automatic authorization of the related healthcare service unless the insurer can demonstrate good cause, good faith, and no prejudice to the covered person.
  • SB 215: Regulation of Hospitals; certified medication aides to administer certain medications to nursing home residents (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202184) – SB 215 allows nursing home facilities to employ certified medication aides to assist with the administration of certain medications within the facility. The Act enumerates the tasks an aide can perform and establishes supervision and review requirements for the nursing facilities.
  • SB 235: Offenses Against Public Order; offense of wearing a mask, hood, or device which conceals the identity of the wearer (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202181) – The bill created a statutory exception to the statute for masks worn to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or other infectious diseases.

Mental Healthcare Legislation

  • HB 395: The Professional Counselors Licensure Compact Act (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/201317) – The Act enters Georgia into the Professional Counselors Licensure Compact, which allows Licensed Professional Counselors to practice across state lines without needing to obtain additional licenses. Georgia is the first state to enter the compact, and four states have pending legislation considering entry into the agreement.
  • HB 591: Mental health; marriage and family therapists to perform certain acts which physicians and others are authorized to perform (https://www.legis.ga.gov/api/legislation/document/20212022/202538) – The Act expands the list of mental health professionals allowed to perform certain services relating to emergency involuntary treatment to include marriage and family therapists. Additionally, the Act creates a facility and state level reporting requirement for these circumstances.

For more information on the Georgia General Assempbly and the 156th Session specifically, please click here.