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Week 7 Highlights
By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
This week marked days 21-25 of the 40 day legislative session. The pace of the process has continued to crescendo toward the Crossover Day deadline (Day 28), with the Senate taking up 28 bills this week.
The Senate has heard the cries of our friends and neighbors loud and clear on healthcare cost, including health insurance premiums. Tuesday, five bills passed the Senate that attack this issue from various angles. Imagine being able to speak to a doctor via FaceTime on your cell phone or computer. How much time could you save if the doctor could give you instructions at home and assess whether you needed to visit a hospital at all? How much cheaper would this visit be? Senate Bills 115 and 118 employ telehealth (allowing doctors visits over internet connections) technologies and provide mechanisms for these visits to occur and be covered via health insurance plans. These bills passed the Senate unanimously.
What if you could avoid insurance companies altogether and contract directly with your doctor for care? Senate Bill 18 addresses this matter and clarifies that such contracts are NOT bound by insurance company regulations. It passed the Senate overwhelmingly.
What if the state could place work requirements on Medicaid benefits? Senate Bill 106 allows Governor Kemp to apply for two waivers from the federal government; one would allow Georgia to reform Medicaid by possibly including work requirements, incentives to visit primary care physicians instead of emergency rooms, and co-pays for doctors’ visits, among other reforms. The 2nd waiver would allow Georgia to develop a re-insurance or high risk pool program to drive down the monthly premium costs many of our citizens are paying for their private market individual health insurance plans. Right now we only have one insurance company selling individual health insurance plans in our area. If there were only one gas station in town, how high would the cost of gasoline be? Re-insurance and high risk pool programs encourage other private insurance companies to re-enter the Georgia market, driving down private market health insurance premium costs for all Georgians. Senate Bill 106 passed the Senate on a party-line vote 32-20.
With Crossover Day coming Thursday, bills must be out of committee before 10:00am on March 4th to be considered this year. Several major pieces of legislation have not yet cleared that hurdle. One is Senate Bill 2- allowing EMC’s to expand broadband. Years of hard work and compromise have gone into making this legislation as perfect as it can be and I would like to see it pass. Additionally, in both the Senate (SB 218) and the House (HB 481), legislation was introduce to protect our state’s most vulnerable population: our unborn children. This legislation essentially bans abortion, pending the overturn of Roe v. Wade by the U.S. Supreme Court. This a priority of the Governor, as he understands the sanctity of life begins at conception. These bills were filed late, so they may not make it over the Crossover deadline, but they are some of the measures I’ll be supporting throughout the course of the session. Should they not make the Crossover deadline, they will still be available next January.
Items getting a lot of attention this year that I don’t believe will make it through by the Crossover deadline include gambling, horse racing, and Certificate of Need reform. While the gambling and horseracing bills are being pushed as supporting rural Georgia, they include a requirement that one of the races be held “within 50 miles of a 5-runway airport.” The only 5-runway airport in Georgia is Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta. I’m not sure how an Atlanta horserace helps us in Southeast Georgia. I recently including an amended requiring the new business court be located in Macon instead of Atlanta. If the individuals advance horseracing really want it to benefit rural Georgia, let’s see them include similar language requiring all races occur “more than 100 miles outside of Atlanta.” I do not think they are willing to do that. As for Certificate of Need Reform, we’ll continue to look at this as an option to reduce healthcare cost for our state in the future.
So many other things are occurring right now, I feel this column is only beginning to scratch the surface. Revenue numbers for February will come in this week. If they are anything like the dismissal $300 million decrease we saw in January, there will be no additional money for any state endeavor, including education and healthcare. In fact, should this continue, those areas, like all others, will likely see cuts. As always, if you have any questions or concerns about legislation, please do not hesitate to let me know. I am more than happy to answer your questions via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 404-656-0089. Thanks for the opportunity to serve you.
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Sen. Blake Tillery represents the 19th Senate District, which includes Appling, Jeff Davis, Long, Montgomery, Telfair, Toombs, Treutlen, Wayne, and Wheeler counties and a portion of Liberty and Tattnall counties. He can be reached at 404.656.0089 or by email at email@example.com.