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New Legal Changes in Healthcare in Georgia – What You Need to Know

Before they broke for recess the Georgia Legislature used the last few weeks of the 2019 General Assembly session approve a more than usual number of legal changes to healthcare in Georgia.

Some of these changes made national news, others were little more than a blip in terms of media attention but may still significantly impact many Georgians health. So what exactly did lawmakers change and what should you, as an employer and benefits provider know about them? Here is a look at some of the most important legal changes in healthcare in Georgia that may impact your employees, and maybe even yourself:

CON

For the first time in over ten years it had been proposed that significant changes should be mane to the state’s certificate of need guidelines (CON) and the majority of those changes were approved. These changes included allowing private healthcare provider Cancer Treatment Centers of America a pathway to expand its bed capacity and accept more Georgia patients at its Newnan facility and limiting the ‘rival entities’ right to object to any facility being built to compete to them to projects within 35 miles of their facility, where previously there was no geographical limit.

Medical Marijuana

One of the last pieces of legislation passed before the session ended was an agreement on how a law affecting healthcare in Georgia that has already passed could finally be made workable.

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Qualified patients in Georgia are already legally allowed to use CBD oil – more commonly known as medical marijuana oil – but it has yet been legal for them to buy it in the state, making the law almost invalid.

However, after intense discussion lawmakers agreed to allow several new ways for the more than 8,000 patients already approved for the state’s medical marijuana program to buy it, including through six approved private growing companies, state universities and selected pharmacies.

HIV

Already having been ‘called out’ by the Trump administration about the severity of the spread of HIV in Georgia the Legislature approves several measure to tackle the problem. These included approving supervised needle exchange programs to prevent HIV infection between intravenous drug users and the increased distribution of a drug designed to lower their chances of getting the virus to those in demographic categories known to be at a higher risk for HIV infection.

Senior Services

A number of steps were taken to pass bills designed to improve senior health services and to decrease the burden on those family members who are tasked with caring for aging relatives. These included measures that address a waiting list of about 7,000 older Georgians looking for state provided support services such as personal assistance, transportation to medical appointments and home modifications, with an influx of extra funding expected to open up 1,000 more slots.

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Mental Health

One of the highest profile issues in terms of healthcare in Georgia that the legislative session tackled is the issue of mental health. A state commission was been approved to analyze Georgia’s behavioral health services and recommend improvements. The issues they will study include how to remedy the lack of mental health professionals available in Georgia to assist those struggling, the high teen suicide rate and the issue of increased high school and college dropout rates due to mental health challenges.

All of this proposals will need to be signed off on by Gov. Kemp but for all of those listed here he is expected to do so.

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