Editor's Note: The following is a report by John Deffenbaugh, Dade's voice in the Georgia House of Representatives, on week 6 of the current legislative session.
On Monday, Feb. 12, my Georgia House of Representatives colleagues and I reconvened at the Georgia State Capitol for week six of the 2018 legislative session. The General Assembly is now officially over halfway through this year’s session, and “Crossover Day” is just a few legislative days away. The legislative pace has quickened considerably, and this week, the House was hard at work passing meaningful legislation for the good of our state and its citizens.
In an effort to increase transparency and eradicate surprise hospital billing for scheduled procedures, the House passed House Bill 678 this week. This bill would provide several consumer protections regarding health insurance and would prevent patients from receiving “surprise” bills, which can be 10 to 12 times higher than in-network charges, when an out-of-network doctor participates in their treatment team during an elective procedure. Under HB 678, hospitals, health care providers and insurers would be required to disclose to patients which doctors in their treatment team are part of their insurance network, which health care plans they participate in and which hospitals they are affiliated with prior to providing non-emergency services. If a provider is not in the patient’s network, the provider would be required to give the patient an estimated bill upon request.
This legislation would also allow patients to request and obtain information about other medical professionals and hospitals and potential care costs before care is given. Furthermore, patients who receive a surprise bill would have the right to file a dispute with an arbitrator from the insurance department.
Finally, HB 678 would require insurance providers to bill patients for services within 90 days, and the patient would have 90 days once they receive the bill to secure payment, negotiate or initiate a dispute.
These unexpected and astronomically expensive out-of-networks bills have forced some Georgians into bankruptcy, and two out of three Georgians will receive a surprise medical bill in the next two years. The House’s passage of this legislation is a positive step forward in eliminating this frustrating practice and increasing transparency between patients, health care providers and insurers.
This week, we unanimously passed House Bill 749, a measure that would benefit Georgia’s retired veterans and their families by specifying that military retirement income is excluded from Georgia income tax. If a deceased veteran’s surviving family member, regardless of the family member’s age, were to receive any military retirement income, it would also be excluded from state income tax under this legislation.
Our state has passed many military-friendly measures over the past several years, but Georgia is currently one of only nine states in the nation that does not address military retirement pay tax exemptions. If signed into law, this bill would bring Georgia up to speed with other states that have instituted similar pro-military policies.
My colleagues and I passed a bipartisan bill on Wednesday, Feb. 14, that would support Georgia students and seeks to improve students’ learning environments. House Bill 740 would prohibit schools from expelling or suspending students in public preschool through third grade for five or more days per school year without first providing the student with a multi-tiered system of supports. This multi-tiered system of supports includes a team of educational professionals, such as school social workers and guidance counselors, as well as Response to Intervention (RTI), a preexisting program that identifies and addresses students’ academic and behavioral needs to help them succeed in the classroom.
Rather than continuously suspending and expelling students from the classroom and limiting students’ access to integral curriculum, HB 740 would address students’ underlying needs to help improve their educational outcomes.
On Thursday, Feb. 15, the House passed a measure to protect our state’s elderly and disabled adult populations, groups that are particularly vulnerable to neglect and abuse. House Bill 635 would authorize district attorneys in each judicial circuit to establish an Adult Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation Multidisciplinary Team to coordinate investigations of and responses to suspected elder or disabled adult abuse, neglect or exploitation. House Bill 635 would grant team members the legal right to share information generated in the team’s investigations, responses and activities with one another, thus allowing the people involved in such cases to work collaboratively to address these issues. Elder abuse is on the rise in every county and every city in our state, and this measure would allow for seamless cooperation between those who work for the good of our state’s elderly and disabled adults.
If you have any questions or concerns on any upcoming legislation, please do not hesitate to contact me, as I welcome any opportunity to hear your input. My Capitol office phone number is 404-656-0202, and my email address is email@example.com.
As always, thank you for allowing me to serve as your state representative,