Over the past several months, the COVID-19 Pandemic that has affected our state has shown the importance of access to quality, affordable healthcare. The Georgia House Republican Caucus has consistently prioritized Georgians’ access to healthcare through legislative and budgetary actions, and this most recent session was no different. Earlier this year, I shared with you the critical legislation that we passed to improve healthcare in our state, and this week I would like to share some of the ways that our caucus prioritized healthcare in the budget process.
The budget for Fiscal Year 2021 included $6 billion in spending to fund Georgia’s healthcare agencies, which provide vital services for our most vulnerable individuals and families. Our investment and support for these Georgians, our neighbors and friends, increases access to healthcare for children, veterans, and individuals in need in our communities. We also provided additional support for Georgians with disabilities or mental health disorders.
To reduce Georgia’s maternal mortality rate, an essential allocation in the budget was the $19.7 million that will provide six months of postpartum Medicaid coverage for mothers and their new babies.
This allocation supports House Bill 1114, sponsored by Chairwoman Sharon Cooper and which I was proud to co-sponsor. HB 1114 provides Medicaid coverage for Georgia mothers’ postpartum care, including lactation coverage, for which we allocated $125,000.
Finally, we restored $1.5 million to hospitals for maternal mortality prevention grants. This essential funding will provide new mothers in Georgia the care they need to ensure that mothers and new babies are well cared for.
Another important allocation that we made during the budgeting process was restoring $13.9 million in proposed cuts to Georgia counties’ public health grants. We also eliminated the twelve furlough days proposed for the employees of the Georgia Department of Public Health (“DPH”).
Our county public health departments and our DPH staff have remained on the front lines fighting the COVID-19 Pandemic, and it was important to us that furlough days not be imposed on those who have fought so hard to keep Georgians healthy.
To continue supporting our rural healthcare systems, we added $12 million to an existing $3 million already in place for the Rural Hospital Stabilization program to find solutions for our state’s rural hospitals. The budget also included two start-up grants for Federally Qualified Health Centers — one for a primary care center and another for a school-based primary care center.
We restored $1.7 million to continue funding the Rural Surgery Initiative at Augusta University, the start-up of a residency program at the South Georgia Medical Center, and rural surgical fellowships at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital, among other important initiatives.
We added $250,000 in new start-up funding for a rural psychiatry residency program at Colquitt Regional Medical Center.
We restored over $1.5 million for the following programs: Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant Program, regional cancer coalitions, the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia, the Georgia Poison Center, and Hepatitis-C testing. We did not cut Medicaid reimbursement rates in support of our doctors and hospitals who provide care to Georgians who are recipients of Medicaid. We also allocated over $2 million to fund a 1% increase in Medicaid reimbursement rates for over 100 different primary care codes.
Thank you all for allowing me to represent Georgia House District 159. It is truly an honor to work for you and this great state. If you have any feedback, do not hesitate to call (404) 656-5052, email, or engage on Facebook. If you would like to receive email updates, please visit my website to sign up for my newsletter or email me.
Jon Burns represents District 159 in the Georgia General Assembly, where he serves as the House majority leader.