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House Majority Leader Jon Burns discusses healthcare, Medicaid
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Recognizing that access to quality healthcare remains an issue in many parts of Georgia, the General Assembly worked hard this session to deliver policy solutions for our citizens. 

This week’s article will continue my discussion of healthcare legislation passed by the General Assembly during the 2017 legislative session.

Early in the session, the General Assembly reauthorized the Hospital Payment Provider Agreement, known as the “Provider Fee.”

This action enables the state to draw down approximately $400 million in federal matching funds for our state’s Medicaid program.

As such, this important measure will help support our Medicaid population – children, pregnant women, and people who are aging, blind and/or disabled - and the hospitals who serve them.

In addition, the two appropriations acts we passed prioritized increasing access to quality, healthcare treatment for Georgians, particularly those Georgians in rural and underserved areas. 

For instance, in the Amended Budget for FY ’17 (House Bill 43), the General Assembly appropriated:

•        $500,000 for two new Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) in Jackson and Jenkins Counties;

•        $387,407 for a new add-on payment for newborn delivery in rural counties;

•        $219,684 for an emergency medicine residency program at Memorial Health University Medical Center;

•        An additional $100,000 for the Georgia South Family Medicine Rural Residency Training Program; and

•        Additional funding to maintain the rural dentistry loan program and to support OB/GYN physicians who want to return to practice in underserved areas. 

In the General Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (House Bill 44), the General Assembly appropriated  funds to create 97 new residency slots in primary care medicine, 20 OB/GYN residency slots (including four residency slots at Memorial University Medical Center), and a new psychiatry residency program at Gateway Behavioral Health in partnership with Memorial University Medical Center.

The proposed budget for FY ’18 also provides:

•        $300,000 to expand loan repayment programs for physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses and dentists practicing in rural and underserved areas;

•        $595,653 for a $500 add-on payment for newborn deliveries in rural counties; and

•        $4.1 million to study early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. 

Gov. Deal has signed House Bill 43, the Amended Budget, into law.

The general appropriations measure, House Bill 44, was passed by both the House and Senate and awaits action by the Governor.

In addition to these budget priorities, the General Assembly passed a number of general bills this session aimed at increasing access to quality healthcare treatment for Georgians. These measures will be discussed in this and subsequent articles.

•        Senate Bill 180, which amends the tax credit program for donations to rural hospital organizations.  This bill increases the amount of the tax credit allowed from 70 to 90% of the donation made.  This bill also flattens the tax credit cap at $60 million for 2017, 2018 and 2019.  It is my hope these modifications will encourage more participation in the program and, consequently, more financial support for rural hospital organizations across the state.

•        Senate Bill 14 sets forth a mechanism to provide additional support to rural hospitals. Under this bill, rural hospital organizations can apply for state funding grants, which would be capped at $4 million per grant per calendar year. These grants would be awarded for infrastructure development, strategic planning, nontraditional health care delivery systems and the establishment of 24-hour emergency room services open to the public.

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