Lawmakers made progress in a variety of legislative areas this year, but the session was dominated by a handful of high-profile issues: transportation, medical marijuana (both of which passed), and SB 129, the “Religious Freedom” Bill (which did not). Despite disapproval from organizations like Georgia’s Chamber of Commerce, SB 129 looked like it was making progress this year, but it was ultimately tabled in committee after being amended with anti-discrimination language. A national spotlight was put on Indiana and other states when they passed similar legislation this year, and it seems such negative press was, in part, responsible for the Georgia version of this legislation failing. But there is strong interest among some members of the Legislature to bring this issue back in 2016, so it will continue to be a contentious issue yet again.
Medical Marijuana: What you need to know
Regarding HB 1, we would like to point out a few key provisions of the version that was passed and consequently signed into law: HIV and glaucoma were removed from the list of conditions eligible to be treated with low-THC oil, and it is NOT lawful for low-THC oil to be possessed or controlled by anyone who is not specifically involved in a clinical research program OR who is not registered with the Department of Public Health as being eligible to possess low-THC Oil.
Good News from the 2015 Session
The Senate passed a resolution formally recognizing the Georgia AIDS Coalition (SR 585). The legislature also appropriated more funds for the viral hepatitis program in public health this year: $150,000 for one epidemiologist and hepatitis C testing. These funds are in addition to last year’s $85,000, which was for data entry personnel.
On the federal level, the United States House of Representatives passed HR 2, repealing the Medicare provision that has long threatened cuts in doctors’ fees and extends CHIP for two more years. HR 2 also included a two-year extension for the Special Diabetes Program (SDP).
Keep reading to see how other relevant bills fared in the state legislature this session:
SENT TO GOVERNOR FOR SIGNATURE INTO LAW
HB 1: Medical Marijuana – Passed & signed. Allows for the use of cannabis oil in treatment of specific medical conditions.
HB 72: Protection of Disabled Adults and Elder Persons – Expands and clarifies. Amended to include HB 119 regarding disclosure of confidential AIDS information.
HB 131: End to Cyberbullying Act
HB 177: Child Abuse Reports from Schools – Requires child protective services to notify school personnel who report child abuse upon report receipt and close of investigation.
HB 385: Medical Records – Responsibility for calculating annual cost adjustment moved from the Governor’s OPB to the Department of Community Health.
HB 429: Health Insurance Restrictions – Stipulates that no health benefit plan can restrict coverage due to terminal diagnosis. Includes language from SB 1, the Autism Insurance Coverage Mandate.
HB 436: Requires offering of HIV & syphilis tests to pregnant women in third trimester – Amended to incorporate intent of HB 53, removing pre-counseling requirement before HIV test. Also amended to add SB 114, removing cap on number of APRNs supervised by a physician in public mental health clinics (Community Service Boards).
HB 504: Pharmacists under a physician’s protocol order can administer meningococcal, pneumococcal, and shingles vaccines. The pharmacy must also meet other requirements. Also requires a meningococcal vaccine for college students.
HB 511: Pharmacy Technicians authorized to refill remote automated medication systems in skilled nursing facilities and hospices.
HR 640: Joint Study Committee on Health, Education, and School-Based Health Centers
HR 641: Study Committee on Children’s Mental Health
HR 765: Study Committee on School Counselors
HR 766: Study Committee on Bullying in Schools
SB 8: Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Children’s Fund – Funded by fees paid by the adult entertainment industry, and from fines and forfeitures for criminal acts against children.
SB 51: Biosimilars – Provides for substitutions of interchangeable biological products by pharmacists and pharmacies. Amended to include language from house version (HB 195).
SB 109: Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment Forms – Provides alternate terminology for DNR orders.
SR 487: Study Committee on Preventing Youth Substance Abuse Disorders
SR 560: Senate Women’s Adequate Healthcare Study Committee
SR 585: A resolution recognizing the Georgia AIDS Coalition, Inc.
DID NOT PASS THIS YEAR BUT REMAIN VIABLE FOR 2016 SESSION
HB 28: Opioid Education for Controlled Substances
HB 34: Georgia Right to Try Act – Provides for use of investigational drugs, biological products, and devices for patients with advanced illnesses.
HB 53: HIV Testing – Person consenting to provision of medical care by a health care provider operates as consent for such provider to perform an HIV test.
HB 212: Pain Mgmt. Clinics – Did not pass. Would allow for CRNA to administer medications on-site at a PMC without a physician present.
HB 216: Occupational Diseases – General provisions relative to compensation for occupational diseases; provides certain medical conditions suffered by firefighters are occupational disease.
HB 321: Health Records Requests & Fees – Revises provisions regarding imposition of costs for providing copies.
HB 349: PAs & Schedule II Drugs – Authorizes a physician to delegate to a physician assistant the authority to prescribe Schedule II controlled substances under certain conditions.
HB 359: Professional Counselors – To change certain provisions relating to separate standards committees for the professional counseling specialty, the social work specialty, and the marriage and family therapy specialty.
HB 395: Psychological Testing – Defines ‘psychological tests’ and who can administer and interpret such tests.
HB 406: Sexual Abuse and Assault Awareness and Prevention – To provide for age-appropriate education in sexual abuse and assault for K-12 students.
HB 486: Disclosure of AIDS Confidential Information – Changes “shall” to a “may” for parent notification.
HB 498: Redefine Professional Counselors
HB 501: Health Care Data System
HB 537: Single administrator for dental services for Medicaid recipients and PeachCare for Kids participants.
HB 564: Physician CME for Prescribing Controlled Substances
HB 588: Pseudoephedrine Registry
HR 745: A resolution encouraging the United States Congress to provide for the continuation of Ryan White CARE Act funding at levels appropriate to meet the needs of Georgia citizens.
SB 3: Supporting and Strengthening Families Act – Power of attorney from parent to another person for temporary delegation of care for a minor child.
SB 86: Jackson Healthcare Tort Reform
SB 87: Physician Board Certification – Truth in advertising bill relating to use of specialty designation on signage and in advertising.
SB 115: PAs & Schedule II Drugs
SB 143: State Health Benefit Plan – Insurance plans covering state employees must include access to all Level 1 Trauma Centers located in the plans’ service areas.
SB 158: Consumer & Provider Protection Act – Reforms patient and provider contracting in health insurance. A study committee is expected to meet over the summer.