Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition of Georgia
Keeping Current @ the Capitol
Final 2012 Session Summary
July 10, 2012
The 2012 session of the Georgia General Assembly ended at midnight on Thursday, March 29. It has been more than 10 years since the session ended in March. This was the second year of the two year session, so legislation that did not pass is dead. 2012 is an election year. The 40 days Governor Deal had to sign or veto legislation ended May 8.
Some of the hottest issues of the 2012 session were settled in the final moments of the 40th day, including HB 954 (Rep. Doug McKillip, 115th) which shortens the period for when abortions can be performed from 26 weeks of pregnancy to 20 weeks post fertilization. Details of the final version of HB 954 are provided below.
UPDATE ON HMHB LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
- Support state licensure for qualified breastfeeding consultants. In response to the U.S. Surgeon General’s “Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding” as well as overwhelming evidence of the health benefits to both mothers and babies, HMHB supports the Surgeon General’s request for the licensing of lactation consultants in Georgia. Currently less than 10% of Georgia’s babies are being exclusively breastfed at six months of age, although nearly 70% of babies leave the hospital being exclusively breastfed. These numbers indicate that Georgia’s moms want to breastfeed their babies, but they lack the support, know-how or resources to make it happen long term. HMHB supports increasing the public’s access to appropriately trained, credentialed and licensed lactation consultants with the ultimate goal of improving breastfeeding rates in Georgia.
HMHB worked during the 2012 session to begin educating legislators about this issue. We met with key legislators, including the bi-partisan Women’s Legislative Caucus. We plan to introduce legislation during the 2013 session.
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the Affordable Care Act, the provisions that support breastfeeding will be implemented, including the requirement that health plans cover preventive services for women including breastfeeding support.
- Improve access to prenatal care for all women in Georgia, including low income women who do not qualify for Medicaid. Access to prenatal care has been impacted by the loss of the Babies Born Healthy (BBH) program, which was shut down in 2010. BBH served pregnant women who did not qualify for Medicaid. Finding prenatal care for this population remains a problem. HMHB is working in coalition with other organizations to find resources to provide affordable, accessible prenatal care for all pregnant women.
- Monitor legislation and policy changes that impact services for Medicaid and PeachCare clients. In recent years legislation that would reduce benefits for PeachCare has been introduced and the economic downturn continues to threaten adequate funding for the Medicaid program as well. HMHB opposes changes to Medicaid and PeachCare that have a negative impact on accessibility and service to clients.
HMHB supported a Department of Community Health (DCH) policy change that would move from 6 month to 12 month reviews for Medicaid clients. Thousands of people, mainly children, lose their Medicaid at the 6 month review because of paperwork. Although most still meet eligibility requirements, these interruptions in coverage compromise medical care and cause problems for providers and CMOs. This policy change was not adopted due to concerns raised by DCH about the cost of such a policy change.
DCH is currently in the middle of a Medicaid redesign effort as the state considers alternatives to the current system that could enroll more Medicaid members in managed care plans. HMHB has monitored the redesign process giving particular attention to care for pregnant women and infants.
- Oppose legislation that threatens health insurance benefits such as mammograms, pap smears, and childhood immunizations. Many of the current state mandates are for services that ensure prevention and early detection of disease. Bills have been introduced in recent years that would allow health insurance to be sold in Georgia without covering such services.
Passage of the federal Affordable Care Act has changed the terms of the debate on this issue as part of the new law is the issuance of a list of Essential Health Benefits that must be included in health insurance policies. Most of the state mandates are now required as part of the new federal law which was recently upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
- Support an increase in the tobacco tax. In the final days of the session, legislators passed an omnibus tax bill HB 386 (Rep. Mickey Channell, 116th). Some new taxes were included, including one on online sales. Although HMHB and other advocates continued to push for an increase in the tobacco tax, it was not included in the bill that passed. Increasing the tobacco tax would save lives and reduce teen smoking. Currently the Georgia tobacco tax is only 37 cents a pack compared to the national average of $1.46.
As with other legislation, Gov. Deal had 40 days to sign the budget but he also has the authority to veto line items or language. Governor Deal vetoed only 8 items in the FY 2013 budget and none were related to HMHB’s legislative issues or priorities.
- In the Department of Community Health (DCH), funds were included to remove the .5% provider rate cuts initially included in the FY 2012 budget; funds were also included to round Medicaid and PeachCare co-pays down to the nearest whole or half dollar.
- Also in DCH, start- up funds were included for Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC) in Butts, Randolph and Whitfield counties ($250,000 each).
- In the Department of Public Health (DPH), $2.2 million was used to restore lost TANF funding for Children 1st, $2.5 million was added to hold harmless counties who would otherwise lose funding as the second year of the revised Grant-in-Aid county distribution formula is implemented.
Bills that passed:
HB 845 (Rep. Ben Watson, 163rd) requires early care and education programs to provide information about flu vaccines to parents each fall.
HB 954 (Rep. Doug McKillip, 115th) abortions after the 20th week of fertilization are banned, with exemptions for fetal conditions defined as “profoundly irremediable” when it is determined medically that life cannot be sustained following birth. (NOTE: 20 weeks after fertilization is what obstetricians and other healthcare providers generally call “22 weeks” of pregnancy since they use the first day of the last menstrual period, two weeks before conception, for dating the pregnancy.)
HB 1166 (Rep. Alex Atwood, 179th) requires insurers to again begin offering child-only health insurance policies in Georgia.
HR 1151 (Rep. Buzz Brockway, 101st) creates the Joint Human Trafficking Study Commission.
Bills that did not pass:
HB 745 (Rep. Andrew Welch, 110th) would have required the Department of Public Health to study whether pulse oximetry screening should be a standard test for all newborns for detection of congenital heart defects. In our 4/1/12 newsletter, we reported that this bill passed. On the final night of the session, the Senate made minor changes about the reporting of the findings and the House did not agree to the Senate changes; thus, the bill died.
HB 132 (Rep. Ben Watson, 163rd) would have required that insurance policies cover any “medical food” required for the treatment of metabolic and genetic disorders when a physician prescribes special dietary foods or formulas that are medically necessary. HB 132 was introduced in 2011 and was not acted upon in 2012.
HB 1159 (Rep. Jimmy Pruett,144th) would have established a Joint Commission on Education for Parents with Newborn Children, which would be required to determine how best to gather information and create or purchase one or more informational videos to assist parents in raising safe and healthy children. HB 1159 did not get out of the House & Human Services Committee.
SB 517 (Sen. Lester Jackson, 2nd) would have provided that the act of a mother breast feeding her child could not be considered indecent or unlawful conduct. It proposed to ban any person or entity from causing a breast feeding mother to leave a place because of such activity. SB 517 was introduced late in the session and did not get out of Senate Health & Human Services Committee.
Prepared for HMHB by Mary Frances Williams