Georgia Coalition Indivisible – State Legislative Update

Surprise Medical Billing, Protect Family Farms, Pharmacy Benefits Manager

SB 359 and HB 888 Surprise Medical Billing
Surprise medical bills occur when an insured patient encounters out-of-network providers at an in-network facility during the course of care. A few weeks later, the patient receives a bill for the portion of the charges not covered by the insurer. This process, called balance or surprise billing, can leave the patient stuck with an exorbitant bill.

Last month, companion pieces of legislation were introduced in the House and Senate to ban surprise out-of-network medical billing (surprise billing) in emergency and non-emergency situations. SB 359 and HB 888, sponsored by Senator Hufstetler and Representative Hawkins respectively, both contain strong consumer protections and set a resolution process that allows insurers and health care providers to settle payment disputes while keeping consumers out of the middle.

Call one or more of these committee leaders to ask for their support of SB 359 and HB 888: Be sure to have the bill numbers ready when you call.

  • Sen. Ben Watson, Chairman of Senate HHS committee,
  • Sen. Dean Burke, Vice Chairman of Senate HHS committee, 404-656-0040
  • Rep. Mark Newton, Chairman of the House Special Committee, 404-656-0254
  • Rep. Sharon Cooper, Vice Chairman of the House Special Committee, 404-656-5069

If your state Senator or Representative is on either committee, please call them as well. (Action from Georgians for a Healthy Future).

HB 545 Protect Family Farms
Farmers and other rural property owners have the right to use and enjoy their private properties. But a bill supported by corporate agricultural lobbyists will change the long standing Right to Farm Act.  This law has protected family farmers and property rights of Georgians for decades.   HB 545 restricts landowners’ rights to protect their property values and quality of life if a new industrial agricultural operation moves in and causes a nuisance.  HB 545 weakens Georgia’s long-standing Right to Farm Act.
ACT NOW. Feel free to also call your legislator to voice your opposition and protect family farms. (Action from Protect Georgia).

If you visit your legislator this week, take Protect Georgia’s one-page explainer with you. Here’s a printable version.

SB 313: Pharmacy benefit managers, the middlemen for prescription drugs

SB 313, sponsored by Senator Dean Burke, had its second hearing in the Senate Insurance and Labor committee last Wednesday. This bill would update Georgia’s oversight of pharmacy benefit managers and add important consumer protections. Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are companies that manage prescription drug benefits for health insurance companies and in that role are charged with negotiating lower costs for the company and consumers.

At Wednesday’s hearing, patients, doctors, pharmacists and representatives of pharmacy benefit managers offered detailed testimony on the bill. No further action was taken on the bill last week and it is unclear if the Senate Insurance committee will consider it again this week. Georgians for a Healthy Future will continue to report on the bill through the legislative session. (We provided an overview of the bill in an earlier legislative update.) ACTION: In the meantime, let your state senator and representative know your prescription drug story.

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