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Surprise billing act passes Senate
Hill Jack
Sen. Jack Hill

Last week, the Senate passed The Consumer Surprise Billing Act. This bill provides for mechanisms to keep patients from being responsible for out of network fees between insurers and out of network providers for hospital charges. In the event of an emergency, insurers will be required to treat out of network services the same as in network services.

Legislation passed in 

the Senate last week

SB 123: Removes provisions that require electric utilities and independent power producers to pay $2.00 per ton of fly ash, bottom ash, boiler slag, or flue gas that is produced by said companies. The $1.00 per ton surcharge still stands, and any current contracts are not impacted by this change. The changes will impact these contracts upon renewal.

SB 294: Allows the Teachers Retirement system of Georgia to invest in additional alternative investments such as hedge funds, tangible assets, property, private equity or venture capital, and commodities. Total alternative investments are still capped at 5% of total funds.

SB 302: The chairpersons of House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committees will be able to request up to five economic analyses of tax credits each year from the Office of Planning and Budget. SB 120, vetoed in 2019, provided similar protections. SB 302 differs from SB 120 in two ways. SB 302 allows for up to five analyses each year while SB 120 only allowed up to three. SB 302 allows for independent auditors while SB 120 was to be completed by the state auditor. This bill passed by substitute adding a requirement that copies of the analyses be sent to the House Budget and Research Office and the Senate Budget and Evaluation Office.

SB 303: “Georgia Right to Shop Act” Insurers would now be required to disclose pricing for non-emergency healthcare through their websites to allow consumers to compare prices.

SB 316: This bill allows for military spouses that have licenses to practice certain professions in other states to obtain that same license by endorsement to practice in Georgia.

SB 319: Prohibits the building of inhabitable structures in the inundation zone of a category II dam without certification by an engineer. Any area downstream of a dam that would be affected by the release from a dam’s reservoir would constitute an inundation zone.

SB 322: Outlines exemptions for development projects to be relieved of development impact fees. A development project can qualify if it creates extraordinary economic development and employment growth or affordable housing. The bill also gives specific criteria for other non-exempt impact fees to ensure that the municipality or county is not increasing impact fees on other projects to offset the loss of exemptions for affordable housing.

SB 341: Allows any law enforcement unit in Georgia to supplement its workforce as necessary with qualified, retired peace officers or correctional officers when there is a disaster or emergency as declared by county sheriff, public safety director, or the Governor. To be eligible, retired law enforcement officers must maintain qualifications.

SB 342: Establishes the minimum qualifications for volunteer firefighters and also the processes in which a volunteer fire department must be certified by a Georgia Volunteer Fire Service Council, created by this legislation.

SB 352: If an insurer includes a provider in their directory for a network plan at the time the covered person selects his or her benefit plan, the insurer must cover the provider’s charges at in-network rates regardless of whether or not the provider remains in the insurers’ network plan.

House bills now in Senate

HB 521: This bill authorizes limited licenses for dentists and dental hygienists licensed in good standing in other states to provide free dental care to low-income patients in this state on a volunteer basis.

HB 779: This legislation revises the distribution of the proceeds from the alternative ad valorem taxes on motor vehicles among local governments. 23% of the proceeds would go to the county governing authority and 28% would go to the governing authority of the municipality. The remaining 49% of the proceeds would be distributed to the Board of Education of the county school district.

HB 819: Authorizes the issuance of veterans’ licenses to any person who is a United States Citizen and a resident of Georgia who has served on active duty in the armed forces of an ally of the United States during wartime or conflict.

Bills introduced in 

the Senate this week

SB 417: Healthcare professionals who have been issued an expedited license by the Georgia Composite Medical Board would have to pass criminal background checks.

SB 423: Establishes the State Anti-Hazing Fund, requires colleges to provide students with informational programs on hazing and also requires them to report findings of violations of the school’s code of conduct or state and federal laws relating to hazing. Student organizations would be held responsible for hazing.

SB 427: Requires the Department of Community Health to conduct an actuarial study to see if the state of Georgia would save money by moving pharmacy care from Medicaid care management services to Medicaid’s fee-for-service program.