GHPCO Articles

SB 418 Language per House Health Committee

April 21, 2010 | GHPCO

After quite a bit of debate, the House Health and Human Services Committee on Monday passed SB 418 with important changes which reflect a difference of opinion between the House and Senate on how this legislation should look.  Assuming the bill makes it to the House floor for a full vote, the chances are that the House version will be rejected by the Senate and the bill will go to a conference committee to iron out any differences.  Given that the Legislature will meet next week on Tuesday and Thursday for the final two days of this year’s session, this process will be frantic.

Here is a link to read the version as passed by the House health committee.  As you read the bill, you will note that there continues to be a limited exemption for hospice pharmacies and there is a hospice representative to the 8-member advisory board.  The link is:  SB 418

This committee also decided to substitute the language in SB 367 (dealing with influenza shots) with language from a stalled bill dealing with medical consent.  This new language is something hospital groups have been working on for several years and basically expands the list of family members who can give consent to treatment when a patient cannot do so.  A new feature adds a family friend to the list of those who can consent.  The newly substituted bill can be read in its entirety here:  SB 367

New schedule for adjournment

April 15, 2010 | EDGE, GAC, GHPCO

The Legislature revised its previously announced calendar and now will finish the current session as follows:  April 20 will be legislative day 37; April 21 will be legislative day 38; April 27 will be legislative day 39; and April 29 will be legislative day 40, the last day of session.

Session nears end . . . almost

April 13, 2010 | EDGE, GAC, GHPCO

The House and Senate met on Monday, April 12 for the 34th legislative day.  By the afternoon, both bodies had passed a resolution schedule to convene on Tuesday for day 35, Wednesday for day 36, and next Monday for day 37.  They will determine on next Monday how the final three days of this year’s session will be scheduled.

Yesterday also was an explosive day in the Senate where Sen. Preston Smith (R-Rome) took the well to address what had happened to him earlier in the day — that the Senate leadership had stripped him of the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee.  In his comments, he exposed a critical schism within the Republican party between those refusing to vote for a tax increase and those who did vote for such an increase in the form of HB 307, the so-called hospital bed tax bill.  How this public attack on his party will play out remains to be seen, but the issues he touched on are salient ones for this session — how to balance a state budget with so many issues still unresolved and just a few days remaining.  This is the sort of script which may take the session into the very last days of the month.  Add to this equation that qualifying for state elections begins on April 22 and you have the makings of some more drama.

With the budget being the big gorilla in the middle of the room, it would seem other issues are being pushed aside.  Not so, claim House and Senate leaders.  We are being promised passage of ethics, transportation, property tax, water, and other very important legislation.  So, with the remaining days ahead, all we can do is monitor and hope for the best.

March 12 Update

March 12, 2010 | GHPCO

DM reports:

The General Assembly returned this past Monday, after taking two weeks off to deal with the state budget.  There was hope that February’s revenue report would give budget writers something to work with.  However,  this past week’s report showed that last month’s revenues marked 15 straight months of declining state income, a sober message that more cuts will be needed in the current adjustments for the FY 2010 and the upcoming budget for FY 2010.  (See detailed report on proposed budget cut affects on health facilities — 11Alive.)

In response to this news, legislators announced a tentative schedule of a three day work week to allow more more time to fine tune revenue laws as a way to respond to what is being called the Great Recession.  Subsequently, for the next few weeks, the Legislature will be in session Tuesday through Thursday, so that the constitutionally required maximum 40 legislative days can be extended as long as possible.  There are rumors that there will be another week (maybe even two) in early April and that the session may even end in May (I have been at the Capitol since 1978 and that has never occurred before in my history).

On direct issues of interest to GHPCO, there were two committee meetings this past week which handled the following bills:

HB 1040 — a change in the Nurse Practice Act to allow for unlicensed, non-family members to provide auxiliary services to persons with disabilities.  The original version would have included hospice patients, but the version which passed out of subcommittee this week includes an exemption for hospice.

HB 850 — would regulate assisted living facilities.  GHPCO worked with interested parties over the summer to include favorable language for hospice and this language is in the bill.  At a committee meeting yesterday, the bill was discussed but no vote was taken.  Strong opposition is developing (primarily from the nursing home industry).  The chairman of the House health committee urged all interested parties to meet with the bill’s author, Rep. Chuck Martin, to come up with acceptable language for the committee to vote on when it next meets on Wednesday.

HB 994 –– permits DCH to set fees for services and licenses within the Department’s jurisdiction.  The original version of this bill also included a long list of amendments to Georgia’s laws governing clinical laboratories.  This section was removed, so the bill now is just about DCH fee structure.  This bill passed the committee and now goes to the full House for another vote.

HB 361 — legalized a practice currently under protocol whereby a pharmacist can collaborate with a physician in a health facility (includes hospice in definition) to monitor/adjust patient medication.  Passed health committee and now on to full House for a vote.

SB 418 — establishes a program for the monitoring of prescribing/dispensing Schedule II, III, IV, or V.  Last year’s version of this bill exempted hospice but such language in current version.  Bill met with opposition by some Senators when it was brought up in committee this week.  Chairman directed the bill’s author, Sen. Buddy Carter, to work on language and return to committee next week for another hearing on the bill.

Lastly, I delivered GHPCO’s position paper on HB 1178 (changes in Georgia’s Advanced Directive for Healthcare) to Rep. Cooper, Speaker Ralston, and the Governor’s health policy representative.  I do not believe this bill has wide support, but I will monitor this and similar bills for the balance of the session.

Fees Increases Coming?

March 10, 2010 | GHPCO

DM reports:

Bills to raise fees on the way this week

House leaders are sponsoring legislation that would let state departments that currently collect user fees raise them without General Assembly approval.

Currently,many of the more than 1,700 state user and licensing fees are set by lawmakers.

House leaders in the next few days are also expected to file legislation hiking a host of user fees in hopes of raising about $100 million more next year.

House Appropriations Chairman Ben Harbin (R-Evans), said the bill to let agencies set fees would take some of the politics out of the process. Lawmakers fear a political backlash any time they raise fees. That’s what happened in the early 1990s when then-Gov. Zell Miller and lawmakers raised the price of hunting, fishing and driver’s licenses. When Miller ran for re-election in 1994, his critics blistered him for raising the fees.

“There is a certain cost of providing services,” Harbin said. “They need to get those costs and not come here every year and we say ‘it’s an election year, we don’t want to do that.’

“The general population should not have to subsidize services they aren’t receiving.”

However Senate Appropriations Vice Chairman Greg Goggans (R-Douglas), was initially skeptical of the idea.

“At first blush, we need to be extremely careful if we are going to give away any legislative control (over fees),” Goggans said. “I would take an extremely close look at that issue before I took any kind of vote on that.”