One of the top priorities of the Georgia House Republican Caucus is providing access to healthcare for all Georgians, no matter their zip code. The budget for Fiscal Year 2022 demonstrates our commitment to healthcare access, particularly for Georgians who are elderly or have special needs. House Bill 307 provides additional access to healthcare for Georgians across our state, and House Bill 316 will allow pharmacists to offer expanded service in pharmacies.
The FY 2022 budget includes a ten percent rate increase for home and community-based service providers who deliver care to elderly and functionally impaired Georgians. This care is typically provided in the eligible individuals’ homes or communities as an alternative to a nursing home. This rate increase for home and community-based services will help more Georgians stay in their homes and receive the care they need while ensuring that providers are adequately compensated.
The budget also includes $300,000 for a three-year grant for rural hospitals for “Electronic Intensive Care Units.” This program improves outcomes for patients facing serious health issues in rural areas of Georgia. Electronic Intensive Care Units use telemedicine to provide critical care services to patients rather than requiring them to travel to a specific intensive care facility that may be far from their home.
Chairman Sharon Cooper’s House Bill 307 made it through the Senate with few changes. This bill authorizes healthcare providers to offer services from locations other than their offices and patients to receive services in their homes or other locations through telehealth technology. Insurers are not allowed to require separate deductibles or in-person consultations before their insureds receiving telehealth services. In areas with limited broadband services, patients can even receive services via audio-only means.
Under HB 307, insurers are also not permitted to restrict providers to the use of specific platforms or vendors, guaranteeing that providers can use the platform that serves their patients best. Additionally, insurers cannot create restrictions for providers’ ability to prescribe medication through telehealth that are more restrictive than state and federal laws for in-person prescriptions. Providers are required to keep records that are at least as detailed as the documentation for in-person services.
House Bill 316, sponsored by Chairman Ron Stephens, increases the number of pharmacy technicians that a pharmacist can supervise directly. Currently, Georgia law provides that pharmacists can only directly supervise three technicians at a time, limiting the capacity of a pharmacy and the number of prescriptions that can be filled.
HB 316 expands that number from three to four. When a pharmacist is directly supervising four technicians, two of the technicians must be certified. When three technicians are being supervised, one of the technicians must be certified. This expansion will allow pharmacists to better serve Georgians with prompt, cost-efficient services.
Although Session is over for the year, please do not hesitate to call (404.656.5052), e-mail, or participate on Facebook to share your thoughts and concerns. It is an honor to represent you in the General Assembly, and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.