With the 2015 General Assembly session ending last week, here’s a list of the health-care winners and losers during the 40 days of the Legislature.
Children’s health: Medical-cannabis use was legalized for children with seizure disorders, so Georgia families living in Colorado to get access to the medicine can return home. Legislation was approved to require insurers to cover applied behavior analysis for young children with autism.
Primary-care doctors and OB-GYNs: They got a long-delayed pay bump of $23 million in state funds for treating Medicaid patients, which will be matched by an even-higher amount from the feds.
The hospital industry: It lobbied hard and protected itself from changes to the state’s regulations for health-care facilities, known as certificate-of-need laws. (But hospitals got no legislative action on expanding Medicaid, a step that has buoyed the finances of struggling health-care facilities in other states.)
Child safety: A revamp of child-welfare laws was approved, and the governor will have direct oversight of the Department of Family and Children Services director. Child sex-trafficking victims will be helped by new state legislation. Public-school educators will receive suicide-prevention training. On the other hand, the General Assembly made sale of fireworks legal in the state.
Older Georgians: The Division of Aging Services was moved out of the Department of Human Services to become a separate agency, attached to Community Health. The budget provided funding for the addition of eight Georgia Bureau of Investigation agents to focus on fighting elder abuse and money to hire 11 Adult Protective Services caseworkers. And with House Bill 72, law enforcement and regulators will gain more tools to fight elder abuse.
Bicyclists (many of whom pedal for their health): The Atlanta BeltLine could call upon the private sector to help speed redevelopment of the corridor under legislation that gained passage in the General Assembly. And another bill allows riders to make their way through some intersections before a red light changes.
People with chronic health conditions: Not only will the medical-cannabis bill allow treatment for some adults, but Senate Bill 51 also creates a state structure for the prescribing of drugs similar to expensive “biologic” medications, potentially saving consumers money.
CTCA: Cancer Treatment Centers of America failed in its quest to lift state restrictions on the number of Georgia patients that it can treat at its Newnan facility. But experts predict another CTCA run next year.
Uninsured Georgians: Despite early rumblings among some lawmakers about the need for a hearing, no action was taken on expanding Medicaid, which would extend coverage to many of the state’s poor.
School-bus drivers, school-cafeteria workers and school systems: After discussion of ending health-insurance coverage for so-called “non-certificate” school workers, the money was finally appropriated in the state budget. But the funds now will come out of school-district appropriations, which will put a burden on poorer districts.
Tobacco opponents: Though a higher state cigarette tax was discussed, the proposal never gained much traction in the legislative session.
Health insurers: A conservative Georgia Legislature passed an insurance mandate — anathema to the industry — to require autism coverage for children 6 and younger. And another bill prohibits health-benefit plans from restricting coverage for treatment of a terminal condition when such treatment has been prescribed by a physician as medically appropriate.