Archive for the ‘Legislative News’ Category

Georgia Academy Provides Information for Members following Supreme Court Reversal of Roe v. Wade

Following the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the Georgia Academy issued the following statement:

The ruling by the US Supreme Court related to Roe V. Wade will undoubtedly cause confusion and concern for many Georgians and family physicians. While it will take time to fully understand how this ruling and existing Georgia laws will ultimately affect patient care, we know our members will continue counseling their patients to make medical decisions together about what care is best for them.

The Georgia Academy has a long-standing policy to oppose any legislation or rule that would criminalize care.  We will keep you informed about the potential changing Georgia healthcare landscape with the SCOTUS ruling.  The GAFP will continue to monitor and provide education for our members if the SCOTUS ruling changes the current legal practice of medicine in Georgia.

The American Academy also issued a statement and posted additional information to members which can be found here:  https://www.aafp.org/news/media-center/statements/supreme-court-decision-criminalizes-medical-care-and-limits-access-to-health-care.html

To offer ongoing education, the GAFP engaged the Georgia law firm, Hall, Booth, and Smith and held a Question-and-Answer Session on Legal Implications of the reversal in Georgia.  This webinar was held for over 70 members on Tuesday, June 29th.  Pearson Cunningham, associate with Hall, Booth, and Smith developed an overview of the Supreme Court Ruling and pending litigation in Georgia.  

Additional information will be provided to our members as changes in Georgia health law occurs.

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The Supreme Court’s Decision in Dobbs and Georgia’s LIFE Act

On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women’s Health Org. The decision will bring major changes to the law surrounding regulations on abortions in Georgia and across the country. The Supreme Court’s decision and the current status of Georgia’s “LIFE Act” is summarized below.

A. The Dobbs Decision

In Dobbs v. Jackson Whole Women’s Health Org., the Supreme Court voted 6-3 to uphold the constitutionality of the State of Mississippi’s Gestational Age Act, and by a vote of 5-4, the Court overruled Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.

The majority opinion was authored by Justice Samuel Alito and joined by Justices Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barret. Chief Justice Roberts wrote an opinion concurring in the judgment but disapproving of the Court’s overruling of Roe and Casey. Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor wrote a joint dissent.

In Roe, the Supreme Court held that the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process clause protects a women’s right to obtain an abortion prior to fetal viability. In Casey, the Supreme Court reaffirmed what it called Roe’s central holding and established that abortion restrictions may not impose an “undue burden” on a woman’s right to obtain an abortion prior to viability. The decision in Dobbs overrules those decisions and others.

Moving forward, a state’s regulation of abortion will pass constitutional muster (as a matter of federal law) so long as it is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Such laws, the Court explained in Dobbs, will be “entitled to a strong presumption of validity.” This “rational basis” test, which the Court announced as the new framework for analyzing constitutional challenges to abortion laws, is almost always satisfied in favor of the state regulation. In other words, courts have rarely found a law to be unconstitutional under the rational basis test, in other contexts. This is why the opinion has been described as “returning the issue” to the “states.”

This is not to say that abortion regulations will necessarily be found valid in every circumstance. Other, independent reasons may exist for a certain law to be found invalid. For example, a criminal prohibition on abortion may be found invalid on the grounds that the criminal prohibition itself is unconstitutional vague. Generally speaking, though, Dobbs means that states will have broad latitude when legislating on the subject.

B. Georgia HB 481 (the “LIFE Act’)

 In 2019, the Georgia General Assembly passed HB 481 (the “LIFE Act”), which was enacted into law by Governor Brian Kemp on May 7, 2019. See 2019 Ga. Laws 711. The Act amends numerous provisions of Georgia Code on various topics, but importantly, the Act limits abortions performed in Georgia after the point in which a heartbeat is detectable. The Act imposes criminal and civil liability to enforce its provisions. Licensed medical professionals can also face professional discipline for failures to adhere to the Act.

The Act defines “abortion” broadly as “the act of using, prescribing, or administering any instrument, substance, device or other means with the purpose to terminate a pregnancy with knowledge that termination will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of an unborn child.” The Act specifies, however, that an “abortion” does not include procedures performed for the purpose of “[r]emoving a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion,” a term the Act specifically defines, or procedures performed for the purpose of “[r]emoving an ectopic pregnancy.”

The Act provides three exceptions to what would otherwise be a prohibited “abortion.” Those exceptions are as follows:

(1) when a “physician determines, in reasonable medical judgment, that a medical emergency exists”;

(2) in cases of rape or incest so long as (a) the “probable gestational age” (as that term is defined in O.C.G.A. §  31-9B-1) of the unborn child is 20 weeks or less, and (b) “an official police report has been filed alleging the offense of rape or incest”; or

(3) when a “physician determines, in reasonable medical judgment, that the pregnancy is medically futile.”

The Act specifically defines the terms “medical emergency” and “medically futile.”

A violation of the Act is punishable by imprisonment of one to ten years. Regarding a criminal prosecution, the Act provides an affirmative defense to a medical professional where the medical treatment provided resulted in the accidental or unintentional injury or death to the “unborn child,” and it provides an affirmative defense to the woman seeking the abortion where she reasonably believed the procedure was the only way to prevent a medical emergency.

Other sections of the Act amend Georgia’s informed consent and reporting statutes in various ways to include additional materials and information that must be provided prior to the procedure being performed. And the Act contains further requirements and conditions on performing abortions in Georgia.

Regarding civil liability, the Act provides that a woman upon whom an abortion is performed in violation of the Act shall be entitled to institute a civil action against the person who engaged in such violation.

C. Status of Litigation over the LIFE Act

Prior to the Act’s effective date, various organizations sued to enjoin enforcement of the Act in June 2019. The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia preliminarily enjoined the Act on October 1, 2019. In July 2020, the district court permanently enjoined the Act. The State appealed the decision to the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Litigation progressed at the Eleventh Circuit through fall 2021; however, on September 27, 2021, the Eleventh Circuit stayed the case pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs.

The case has remained stayed, and thus, the injunction in place, since. Recently, however, the Eleventh Circuit ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs (due on or before July 15, 2022) addressing the effect of the Dobbs decision on the case. A decision from the Eleventh Circuit is not expected before the parties’ deadline to file the supplemental briefs, but it is impossible to know for certain when a decision will be issued.

D. Dobbs, the LIFE Act, and the state of the law moving forward

Technically, the LIFE Act took effect on January 1, 2020; however, the Act has been enjoined since before then, and it remains enjoined at the present time, until the Eleventh Circuit issues a decision or otherwise alters the status quo.

What this means is that the specific parties against whom the injunction has been issued (various state and local officials) may not presently enforce the Act. The injunction is still in place at the present time with respect to those parties. This does not mean that such officials would be prohibited from enforcing the Act as soon as the injunction is lifted—including for conduct occurring in the interim. Whether liability can be validly imposed under such circumstances is a very difficult question of law, for which there are not clear and direct answers. Therefore, medical professionals in Georgia should become immediately familiar with the Act; how it affects their practice; and all should remain up-to-date on specific medical and legal guidance.

While the Eleventh Circuit’s decision can be expected soon, it is impossible to know what the decision will say with respect to the validity of the Act moving forward. The district court’s decision declaring the LIFE Act unconstitutional was premised on two distinct holdings: (1) that the law infringed on the now-overturned liberty interest in obtaining an abortion; and (2) that the law was unconstitutionally vague with respect to how it re-defined the term “person” throughout the Georgia Code so as to include an “unborn child.”

The decision in Dobbs means that the Eleventh Circuit will very likely reverse the district court on the first point. The second point, however, was not at issue in Dobbs, and thus, the Eleventh Circuit must still address this in its forthcoming decision. Furthermore, Dobbs is a decision about federal constitutional law. Dobbs says nothing about the constitutionality of abortion regulations under state constitutional law. Thus, despite the decision in Dobbs (and whatever the  Eleventh Circuit ultimately concludes), future litigation in state court will likely arise under Georgia’s constitution.

Unfortunately, the law will likely remain in a state of flux for some time. Over time, these issues will hopefully be resolved, and there will be greater clarity for all. Medical professionals should continue adhering to the standard of care in their treatment of patients, and they should remain up-to-date on specific medical and legal guidance.

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Neither the author nor the author’s law firm represents you, unless a specific engagement between you and the lawyer/firm has been consummated and only then to the extent of such engagement. The information provided herein may no longer be accurate following publication.

2022 Legislative Session Wrap Up

The Second Session of the 156th Georgia General Assembly gaveled the end of the session, Sine Die, on Monday, April 4.  All bills that did not pass both the House and Senate are dead. The bills that did pass both chambers now move to the Governor’s desk for his consideration and signature. The Governor has 40 days to sign or veto bills. We will continue to monitor these bills through the mid-May deadline. For the bills that become law, state agencies will then begin to issue regulations to support the new law.   A new legislative session (two-years/biennial) will start next year on Monday, January 9, 2023.

Session Wins – Key Initiatives:

  • $81 million added to the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (begins July 1, 2022) to bring 108 codes (most commonly used by primary care physicians) up to 2018 Medicare rates. House Bill 911
  • Provide funds to increase select Obstetrical and Gynecological codes (59400, 59510, 59610, 59618) to 2020 Medicare reimbursement levels. House Bill 911
  • Mental Health Parity Act (House Bill 1013) – Includes sweeping reform for behavioral health including mental health insurance parity and loan forgiveness for primary care and psychiatric physicians. It will also mandate an 85 percent minimum medical loss ratio (MLR) requirement for Medicaid insurance plans. The bill was signed by Governor Kemp on April 4, 2022.
  • Expanding Medicaid Coverage for Post-Partum Women from Six Months to 12 Months –SB 338 The funding for this expansion of $28.2 million has been included in the 2023 budget.
  • Tort Reform – Allows for evidence of a non-party’s fault and authorize apportionment of damages in single-defendant lawsuits – House Bill 961
  • Scope of Practice- No advancement of independent practice by non-physician clinicians occurred during this session

Additional Bills We Supported/ Opposed:

House Bill 369 which included numerous expansions for APRNs, and PAs – did not pass.

House Bill 430 would have allowed APRNs and PAs to fill out documentation for a patient to apply for license plates and parking permits for those with disabilities – did not pass. 

Public Health – Include Vaping in State Indoor Smoking Act – House Bill 1348 House Bill 1348, which if passed, would add “vaping” as an additional smoking device that is outlawed in code from the 20005 Indoor Smoking Act.  This bill passed the House (149-12) on March 3rd and was one of the many bills left “on the table” on the last day of the session.  This bill, unfortunately, did not pass.

Administrative Relief – Removal of Prior Authorizations for Chronic Medications – Senate Bill 341 The Georgia Academy voted to support passage of Senate Bill 341, sponsored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, MD.  This will mandate insurance plans to forgo prior authorization for chronic medications.  This would be for non-ERISA (federally exempt) insurance plans as the State cannot enact changes to ERISA Insurance plans.  This bill did pass.

Medical Malpractice Legislative Relief Bills  – House Bill 807 and House Bill 961 House Bill 961, which the Academy supported, along with a large coalition, including the trial attorneys and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce would restore apportioning of damages to all responsible parties.  This bill passed and is pending the Governor’s signature. The Academy also supported House Bill 807 (CANDOR – Communication & Optimum Resolution).  This bill, if passed, would have allowed there to be pre-litigation between the medical community and patients if there has been a perceived harm during treatment.  This bill did not pass.

COVID Vaccine exemption (Senate Bill 345) prohibits state and local governments and their agencies from mandating COVID-19 vaccine passports for any services or access to any facility.  The law will cease to be in effect on June 30, 2023, and does not apply if compliance is required by CMS regulations.

Death Certificates (Senate Bill 496) requires a medical examiner’s inquiry after the death of a pregnant women or a women who has been pregnant within 365 days prior and would also define the term “unattended by a physician” for the purposes of a medical examiner’s inquiry as a patient who has not been seen by a physician within 180 days for a condition or illness likely to have cause or contributed to such individual’s death.  This bill passed and is pending the Governor’s review/signature. Health

Care Workers Wellness Program (House Bill 1533) would have provided confidentiality protections to participants in a wellness program for clinicians.  The Georgia Academy supported this measure, and it passed the House but died “on the table” in the Senate on Day 40.

Transgender High School Athletes (House Bill 1087) authorizes the Georgia High School Association to ban transgender girls to compete against other girls in public school sports.  This bill passed on the last day of the session and has been sent to the Governor for review/signature.

Lead Screening for Children (House Bill 1355) will lower the level of lead in children’s blood that would trigger state regulatory action, which includes testing, warning letters and required correction of the problem.  The new poisoning level threshold would be the CDC guideline of 3.5 micrograms per deciliter. That’s much lower than Georgia’s current 10 micrograms, a standard that experts say leaves many children at risk.  This bill passed on the last day of the session is pending review / signature by the Governor.

Advocacy Update Second Session, 156th Georgia General Assembly

The Second Session of the 156th Georgia General Assembly launched in the second week of January.  At the end of this session, all bills still pending (not having passed out from both the House and Senate) will be dead.  The Georgia Academy of Family Physicians leadership (Legislative Committee and the Legislative Session Working Group) have been meeting weekly to receive updates and advance the Academy’s mission of advocating for family medicine and our patients.

The Georgia General Assembly has expended 19 of its potential 40 days as of February 17th.  Upcoming key dates are March 15 (Crossover – last day for a bill to pass from one chamber to the next) and proposed Sine Die (Final Day of Session) which is April 4th.

Mental Health Parity – House Bill 1013

The Georgia Academy supports the Mental Health Parity Bill (HB 1013), sponsored by Speaker David Ralston, which codifies mental health parity and other sections that supports family physicians treating their patientsThe Academy lobbyists are working with bill sponsors and supporters to increase support for loan forgiveness for family physicians that would enhance Georgia’s mental health workforce. The bill is currently pending in the House and Human Service Committee.

Expand Medicaid Coverage for Post-Partum Women from Six Months to 12 Months –SB 338

The Georgia Academy successfully supported Medicaid expansion for post-partum women from six weeks to six months during the last legislative session.  The Georgia Academy was proud to join Senator Dean Burke, MD and a coalition of over 15 groups (including the March of Dimes) to support Medicaid Coverage for post-partum women for up to12 months.  In a letter to the Georgia General Assembly, we noted our support, stating in part:

Women are at risk for pregnancy-related mortality and morbidity throughout the first year after delivery.

According to the Georgia Maternal Mortality Review Committee, of the 516 maternal deaths reviewed from 2012 to 2017, 39 percent were determined to be pregnancy-related, and 75 percent of those

pregnancy-related deaths were deemed preventable. Access to medical care during the postpartum period can be a critical tool in addressing the State’s maternal mortality crisis.

The bill unanimously passed out of the Senate on February 7th and is now pending in the House Health and Humans Services Committee.

Administrative Relief – Removal of Prior Authorizations for Chronic Medications – Senate Bill 341

The Georgia Academy voted to support passage of Senate Bill 341, sponsored by Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, MD.  If passed it would mandate insurance plans to forgo prior authorization for chronic medications.  This would be for non-ERISA (federally exempt) insurance plans as the State cannot enact changes to ERISA Insurance plans.  GAFP has an ongoing policy to support legislation that would ease administrative burdens, such as onerous prior authorizations required by many insurance plans.  This bill has passed out of the Senate and is currently pending in the House Insurance and Labor Committee.

Medical Malpractice Legislative Relief Bills  – House Bill 807 and House Bill 961

The Academy supports House Bill 807 (CANDOR – Communication & Optimum Resolution).  This bill, if passed, would allow there to be pre-litigation between the medical community and patients if there has been a perceived harm during treatment.  CANDOR is completely voluntary, and both sides must agree for the pre-litigation negotiation to occur.  Regardless of the outcome of a CANDOR mediation, there is no trigger to report to the Composite Medical Board, nor the National Practitioner’s Databank.  The GAFP Congress of Delegates already has a policy to support pre-litigation/CANDOR legislation, if helpful for family physicians and our patients.

House Bill 961, which the Academy supports, along with a large coalition, including the trial attorneys and the Georgia Chamber of Commerce would restore apportioning of damages to all responsible parties.  This bill has been reported out of the House Judiciary Committee and is now pending a vote on the House floor.

Medicaid Budget – Increasing Top 112 Codes to 2020 Medicare Parity – House Bill 911

Governor Kemp has added a proposed $81 million dollars to the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2023 (begins July 1, 2022) to bring up to 112 codes (most commonly used by primary care and obstetrical physicians) up from 2018 Medicare to 2020 Medicare Parity.  He also added in language to do away with “attestation” an issue that has plagued primary care physicians for the past several years to qualify to receive the higher rates.  As part of the Patient Centered Physician Coalition of Georgia, the Academy sent a letter of appreciation to the Governor, that stated, in part:

Representing over 7,500 family physicians, pediatricians, internal medicine physicians, Obstetricians/Gynecologists, and physicians of Osteopathic medicine, we would like to thank you for your proposed State Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget and your inclusion of ending the attestation issue for primary care physicians and increasing specific Medicaid codes to 2020 Medicare rates.

We appreciate your support of the healthcare needs of Georgia families and acknowledging that our groups tend to see the bulk of the most fragile citizens, those that qualify for Medicaid insurance. From infants, pregnant women, to the aged, blind, and disabled, we tirelessly work to provide quality healthcare.

The budget bill, House Bill 911, is currently pending in the House Appropriations Committee (and subcommittees) but is expected to begin to move through the committee process in the House over the next two weeks.

Conclusion

Please do not hesitate to contact our Executive Vice President, Fay Fulton (ffulton@gafp.org) if you have questions or ongoing concerns on advocacy issues.

GAFP Thanks Governor Kemp’s Proposed $85 Million to Increase Medicaid Payments

The Georgia Academy took the lead on thanking Governor Kemp for asking the Georgia General Assembly to add $85 million dollars to bring up 112 most commonly used codes for primary care and obstetrical/gynecological services to 2020 Medicare rates.  Governor Kemp also added money and language in the budget to end the issue of attestation where some of Georgia’s primary care physicians have been ineligible to receive a higher payment from early increases.  If passed, this rate would go into effect for the State’s 2022-2023 fiscal year which begins on July 1, 2022.

In a letter signed by all of the physician associations of the Patient Centered Physicians Coalition in Georgia, the letter stated:

Dear Governor Kemp:

Representing over 7,500 family physicians, pediatricians, internal medicine physicians, Obstetricians/Gynecologists, and physicians of Osteopathic medicine, we would like to thank you for your proposed State Fiscal Year 2022-2023 budget and your inclusion of ending the attestation issue for primary care physicians and increasing specific Medicaid codes to 2020 Medicare rates.

We appreciate your support of the healthcare needs of Georgia families and acknowledging that our groups tend to see the bulk of the most fragile citizens, those that qualify for Medicaid insurance. From infants, pregnant women, to the aged, blind, and disabled, we tirelessly work to provide quality healthcare.

With your proposed budget, it will allow us to continue to treat Medicaid patients. We look forward to supporting your recommendations through the legislative session.

Our appreciation extends to our many patients who depend on support by the State to receive their medical care. Please do not hesitate to contact our organizations, if you or your leadership would like additional discussions on this critical issue.

Sincerely,

 

Susana Ajoy Alfonso, MD, MCHM, FAAFP – Georgia Academy of Family Physicians President

Randy E. Durbin, DO, MSPH – Georgia Osteopathic Medical Association President

Cary Perry, MD – Georgia OB Gyn Society President

Waldon Garriss, III, MD, MS, MBA, MHA, FAAP, MACP – Governor, Georgia- ACP

Hugo Scornik, MD, FAAP – Georgia Chapter – American Academy of Pediatrics President

 

Legislative Update- Wrap Up 2016 Session

Family Physicians Score Increases to Key Primary Care Codes for Medicaid!

Budget: The Governor signed a budget for 2017 fiscal year with a spending plan of $24 billion starting in July. It includes 32 key primary care codes that will be increased to the 2014 Medicare rate. These codes will be increased from between 11 percent to a high of 135 percent. This is a major victory for family physicians, our primary care physician and obstetrical/gynecologist colleagues. Increases for Amerigroup, WellCare and PeachState/Centene will begin on July 1, 2016. Increases for Fee for Service will begin after the Department of Community Health receives approval from CMS (6-8 month delay).

Tax Credit for Rural Hospitals SB 258

The General Assembly passed a bill that will allow an individual or corporation to get a state tax credit for donating money to a rural health care organization. The tax credit could help 39 rural hospitals that fit the criteria listed in the legislation. Four rural hospitals have closed in Georgia since the beginning of 2013. A fifth, Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe, briefly closed in December before reopening in a downsized format.

The amount of tax credits available was lowered from $100 million annually to $50 million in the first year, 2017. The amount for the second year will be $60 million, and for the third year, $70 million.

The receiving organization must be a nonprofit, must treat patients who are indigent or on Medical or Medicare, and must be located in a rural county.

Continued Support for New Family Medicine Residency Programs: $1.14 million added for 72 new residency slots in primary care medicine. Many of these slots will include family medicine residencies in hospitals that are creating new programs.

Prescription Drug Monitoring Program House Bill 900will make it easier for family physicians and other clinicians to appropriately use the Georgia Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. This bill will allow the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) to be fully utilized by clinicians and to allow for physicians and their designated clinical staff to identify patients who may have an addiction to prescription pain medications. This was one of the Georgia Academy’s key legislative initiatives!

Georgia Lactation Consultant Practice Act HB 649creates an advisory committee and process for licensure for lactation consultants. This will allow for licensed lactation consultants to be certified by the state and paid by Medicaid for their services. This has been a five year initiative that the Georgia Academy has continuously supported.

Savings Accounts for Disabled Citizens HB 768: The General Assembly also approved saving accounts for people with disabilities to help them live independently and not lose their Medicaid health insurance or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits.  The savings could pay for qualified expenses such as housing, transportation, education and personal support services.

Fireworks HB 727: This bill limits the usage of fireworks after a certain time. Prior to this people could use fireworks up until 2 am on New Year’s and July 4th, and 12 midnight on all other days. With this law the cut off time is 1 am for New Years and July 4th, and 9 pm for all other days. Revises provisions around fireworks in the state, including prohibiting use near electric plants, water and wastewater treatment plants, hospitals, nursing homes, other health care facilities, property owned or operated for counties and cities, and at public gatherings when a law enforcement agency or local fire department determines that the use of fireworks is not in the interest of public safety.

The Georgia Academy has continued to express concern about child safety related to use of fireworks.

Minors and HIV HB 1058: Allows a minor who is or professes to be at risk for HIV to consent to medical or surgical care or services by a hospital, public clinic, or physician. The bill also eliminates the requirement that the Department of Public Health develop AIDS and HIV counseling brochures, revises a provision relating to exposure of  a health care provider to a potentially HIV-infected person, and makes disclosure to a parent or legal guardian of a minor’s AIDS confidential information permissive rather than mandatory.

Medicaid Expansion

State Senate Creates a Study Committee on Premium Assistance Programs

Senator Michael Rhett (Marietta) sponsored Senate Resolution 1056 to create a Study Committee and have the Senate Research Office look into premium assistance programs that could be an alternative to Medicaid expansion. This Study Committee, if appointed by the President of the Senate, will designate up to six members of the Senate. This Committee will have completed its work and submitted its report by the end of the year.

Georgia Chamber of Commerce Access to Health Care Task Force

The Georgia Academy is supporting the Chamber’s Health Care Task Force that has brought business and the health care community to look at alternative solutions to Medicaid expansion. Dr. Rick Wherry, GAFP Past President and Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee, is serving on this Task Force. Alternative solutions to Medicaid expansion will be brought forward for review and discussion by the end of the year, for potential implementation in 2018.

Vetoed Legislation

Campus Carry HB 859: This bill would have permitted the concealed carrying of guns on college campuses. It would have allowed anyone 21 and older to carry guns anywhere on campus except for athletic facilities, sorority and fraternity houses, and dormitories. The Governor vetoed this legislation and it will not become state law.

Religious Liberty HB 757: This bill established provisions around the exercise of religion. The legislation was extremely controversial. Interpretations of the bill’s language and intent vary. The Georgia Academy remained opposed to the legislation over concerns about patients being denied access to care based on perceived lifestyle choices.

Bills that did not pass:

Changing Preceptor Tax Deduction to Tax Credit HB 997

The current PTIP program was implemented in July 2014 and offers up to a $10,000 deduction for precepting medical/osteopathic, APRN, or PA students. Eligible recipients are licensed physicians in the state of Georgia. The efforts to change this program from a tax deduction to tax credit did not receive a hearing in the House Ways & Means Committee and therefore died on Crossover Day.

Expedited Therapy for Sexually Transmitted Diseases HB 813: Sexual partners of patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea may receive ‘expedited partner therapy’ (a prescription for the sexual partner or partners for antibiotic drugs) without a physical examination.

Medical Marijuana HB 722: This bill would have legalized the use of medical marijuana for certain diseases and disorders. It passed the House, but did not receive a hearing in the Senate. It would have legalized medical marijuana usage for conditions such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, AIDs, seizure-related disorders, autism, and Tourette’s syndrome. The Georgia Academy recommends the use of medical marijuana only for the medical conditions where evidence based research has been proven that cannabis improves a specific condition.

Georgia Academy Leadership Meets with Georgia Congressman Tom Price, MD

Chapter President Mitzi Rubin, MD recently sat down with Georgia Congressman Tom Price, MD to discuss a variety of issues affecting family medicine and our patients. One key discussion that Congressman Price and Dr. Rubin focused on was the epidemic of opioid abuse and addiction. Dr. Rubin also encouraged Congressman Price to join the Congressional Primary Care Caucus. Part of this discussion included Dr. Rubin giving Congressman Price a campaign donation from the AAFP FAM MED PAC to support his re-election.

The Georgia Academy has a state PAC (https://www.gafp.org/pac/) and encourages all family physicians to contribute to both our state and national PAC to help foster ongoing relationships with our elected officials.  For more information about the AAFP’s advocacy efforts click here:  http://www.aafp.org/advocacy/donate/fammedpac.html

 

GAFP’s Congress of Delegates: Call for Resolutions

The Georgia Academy of Family Physicians is seeking resolutions for the 2016 Congress of Delegates (COD). Last year, the COD tackled issues such as vaccine policies, medical licensing and the numbers of delegates that could be allotted for each Georgia district.
What is the Congress of Delegates, you ask?  The GAFP Congress of Delegates is a governing body of the Academy that can set policy. It meets annually at the GAFP Annual Meeting to vote on and ratify decisions that are made by the Board all year, as well as to hear and vote on resolutions from all members.
We are soliciting your ideas and leadership in proposing resolutions for this year’s Congress of Delegates that meets November 10 in conjunction with the Annual Meeting held in Atlanta at the Westin Buckhead.
Do you need help writing your resolution? Staff is available to assist you, contact Alesa McArthur at amcarthur@gafp.org or 800.392.3841. You can submit your resolution online at http://www.gafp.org/about_gafp.asp and the deadline to submit resolutions is Friday, September 2.

Georgia Family Physician Leaders Take Advocacy Efforts to Halls of Congress

As part of the AAFP Family Medicine Congressional Conference, the GAFP sent 7 leaders to Washington, DC to advocate on behalf of family medicine and our patients. We thank our following GAFP delegation for their service: Mitch Cook, DO, Samuel “Le” Church, MD, Elvan Daniels, MD, Cedrice Davis, MD, Wayne Hoffman, MD, Leonard Reeves, MD, and Mitzi Rubin, MD.

The delegation met with most of Georgia’s elected federal officials including meetings with Congressmen Doug Collins, Tom Graves, Jody Hice, John Lewis, Tom Price, David Scott, and Senators Johnny Isakson and David Perdue.

 

 

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From Left to Right: Dr. Elvan Daniels, Congressman John Lewis, and Dr. Wayne Hoffman

From Left to Right: Congressman Doug Collins, Dr. Samuel “Le” Church, Dr. Wayne Hoffman, and Dr. Elvan Daniels

From Left to Right: Dr. Mitzi Rubin, Dr. Wanda Filer, Dr. Mitch Cook, Dr. Samuel “Le” Church, and Dr. Cedrice Davis

From Left to Right: Dr. Elvan Daniels, Dr. Wayne Hoffman, Dr. Mitzi Rubin, Dr. Cedrice Davis, Dr. Mitch Cook, and Dr. Samuel “Le” Church

 

Tell Congress to Hit Pause on Meaningful Use Stage Three

From AAFP News, find the original article at www.aafp.org/news/government-medicine/20151023mu3speakout.html.

October 23, 2015 03:45 pm News Staff – Although CMS and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology issued the final rule(www.cms.gov) implementing meaningful use (MU) stage three of the Medicare and Medicaid electronic health record incentive programs this month, there’s still time for Congress to hit the brakes.

The AAFP has built a Speak Out tool to help family physicians demand that their representatives do just that. More than 1,900 Academy members have called for a pause in MU stage three through the Speak Out already. Their messages can be expected to find an attentive audience in Washington, where senators and more than 100 House members had asked for a delay just before the final stage three rule was issued.

The message to legislators spells out the fact that MU stage three requirements make it more difficult for physicians to maintain the high standards their patients expect. If allowed to stand, the requirements will impose “significant financial strains” on practices without doing much to improve the quality of patient care.

“The meaningful use program has departed from its original goals and has devolved into a clunky and complicated process, undermined by interoperability, growing administrative burdens and unrealistic incentive requirements,” reads the message to legislators.

Already, the number of physicians who have attested to MU has fallen dramatically, the message tells legislators. Fewer than 10 percent of physicians have attested to stage two, and 43 percent will face a penalty in 2015.

To keep from driving even more physicians from the program, Congress must pass legislation to delay MU stage three until it is refocused to help physicians improve their care for patients.

“Today, we find ourselves at a pivotal point in the health care transformation process,” reads the message to legislators, “and it is essential that we make choices that facilitate transformation and avoid those that present obstacles.”

AAFP FamMed PAC Supports Senator Johnny Isakson’s Re-Election Campaign

Newly inducted GAFP President Mitzi Rubin, MD and her husband Jeremy recently attended a fundraiser to support Senator Johnny Isakson’s re-election campaign.  Funding support was provided by the AAFP’s Federal Political Action Campaign (Fam MED PAC).  For further information, click here http://www.aafp.org/advocacy/donate/fammedpac.html.  Note that the family dog, Lyra, wihile a political junkie, does not vote.