April 4, 2014 Radio Commentary

Two Slam-Dunks in One Bill

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, April 4, 2014 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Good morning, Jim. The 39th and 40th days are the most dangerous times of the legislative session. That’s when legislators scramble to pass bills that are poised to pass, but will die unless they get a second chance. A second chance could mean attaching it to another bill, but that’s a little tricky, too, since a last-minute amendment might get both bills killed. But, thankfully, Representative Jason Spencer allowed H.B. 707 to be attached to H.B. 943, and it worked. So, here’s what we can expect.

When H.B. 943 becomes law, cancer treatment for oral chemotherapy will have the same insurance coverage as intravenous (IV) chemotherapy, and the coverage in effect December 30th cannot be changed to avoid it. Insurers may not offer incentives or limit treatment to encourage patients to accept inferior coverage, and healthcare policies cannot limit payment to doctors who recommend patients for other services or provide additional services, themselves. Intravenous chemo and injected chemo co-pay cannot be increased and $200 is the MOST cost-share patients can be charged for a filled prescription. Those provisions become law no later than July 1st or sooner if the governor signs H.B. 943 before then, and that part of H.B. 943 takes effect January 1, 2015.So, when H.B. 943 passed, Representative Lee Hawkins bill entitled the Georgia Health Care Freedom Act passed, too. Meaning, no state or local government agency, department or entity can use any money, personnel, or assets to advocate for an Obamacare health exchange or influence anyone in Georgia to expand Medicaid eligibility beyond current enrollment. It, also, prohibits the establishment or operation of a state healthcare exchange for Obamacare and prohibits the conversion of an existing program into a state exchange. In addition to that, when the federal grant funds run out, navigators for Obamacare will be terminated and the program will not be renewed.

Because these two bills were combined, three good things will happen when H.B. 943 becomes law. Cancer coverage will be enhanced, Georgia will not implement or operate a health exchange, and navigator programs will end when navigator grant money runs out.

Incidentally, the governor has 40 days after the session to veto bills or sign bills or allow bills to become law without his signature. This conjoined bill seems to be a slam-dunk to become law. That’s a double blessing for Georgians! For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.