The 2023 Georgia Legislative session concluded on March 29. Governor Kemp has 40 days to determine whether to sign or veto each bill. If Governor Kemp signs a bill or fails to veto a bill, the bill becomes law. If the governor vetoes a bill, it requires a two-thirds majority of members of each house to override. Acts and other laws enacted at the session become effective the following July 1, unless a different date is provided in the act.
This legal update highlights healthcare-related legislation that passed the General Assembly.
Funding for Adult Residential Mental Health Programs (HB 18)
As part of the 2023 budget, the Healthcare Facility Regulation Division at DCH will receive $250,000 to implement and regulate adult residential mental health programs and issue licenses for same.
Treatment of Gender Dysphoria in Minors (SB 140 – Signed)
Unless a limited exception applies, minors may no longer receive irreversible procedures or therapies for the treatment of gender dysphoria, including hormone replacement therapies, sex reassignment surgery, or any other surgical procedures for the purpose of altering primary or secondary sexual characteristics in a hospital or other institution licensed under Title 31. The law does not specify what procedures or therapies are considered “irreversible” or what effect, if any, this will have on the availability of hormone blockers.
Exceptions are available for 1) the treatment of medical conditions other than gender dysphoria or sex reassignment surgery where such treatments are deemed medically necessary; 2) treatments for individuals born with a “medically verifiable” disorder of sex development, including ambiguous genitalia or chromosomal abnormalities; 3) treatment of partial androgen insensitivity syndrome; and 4) continued treatment of minors who are being treated with irreversible hormone replacement therapies prior to July 1, 2023.
Physicians are prohibited from performing such procedures or therapies even outside of a hospital-setting. Physicians who violate the law will be subject to administrative accountability from the Georgia Board of Composite Medicine.
Governor Kemp has signed this bill.
Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act (SB 197)
This Act adds requirements and limitations for advertisements by healthcare practitioners, including deceptive or misleading terms or false representations or inclusions, or references to medical or medical specialty titles unless the practitioner is a licensed physician. The Act also includes patient introduction requirements for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs) and physician assistants. APRNs must verbally identify themselves as an advanced practice registered nurse during each patient interaction in a clinical setting. Physician assistants must verbally identify themselves as a physician assistant during each patient interaction in a clinical setting. APRNs and physician assistants with doctoral degrees and who identify themselves with the title “doctor” must clearly state that they are not a medical doctor or physician. No healthcare practitioner may identity or refer to themselves in a clinical setting with any title that originates from or is a derivation of specialty or subspecialty training or certification attained by physician in a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree or completion of a physician internship, residency, or fellowship training program.
Chiropractors Have Lien on Cause of Action Accruing to Injured Person (SB 168)
Chiropractic practices may now have a lien against any cause of action accruing to the person due to injuries that necessitated the chiropractic care. The lien is against the cause of action and is not against the injured person, legal representative, or any other property or assets of the person. Chiropractic liens are subordinate to any hospital lien. Attorney’s liens still have priority over all other liens.
Safer Hospitals Act (HB 383)
Aggravated battery to an emergency health worker or healthcare worker, while such person is working on a hospital campus, is a felony with a minimum three year sentence.
Establish Office of Inspector General (SB 59)
Establish the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) will investigate the management and operation of any agency in the executive branch of state government. The OIG can receive and investigate complaints alleging fraud, waste, abuse, or corruption that has been committed or is being committed against an agency of the state and some acts committed by officers, officials, or employees of agencies. The OIG is assigned to the Office of the Governor and its authority is in addition to, not in contravention of, any and all jurisdiction, authorization, powers, and duties of the Attorney General or any other state or local law enforcement agency. The inspector general is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate and may be removed by the Governor for good cause.
Financial Stability Requirements for Applicants and Licensees of Personal Care Homes and Assisted Living Communities (HB 309)
Upon initial application or upon a change of ownership, applicants or licensees for personal care homes and assisted living facilities will need to provide a financial stability affidavit. Currently, the affidavit is only required upon initial application. The financial stability requirements themselves are unchanged.
Restrictions on Physician Sale of Contact Lens (HB 203)
This bill adds additional restrictions on physician sale of contact lens and adds requirements for examination and assessment prior to issuing a prescription for contact lens both in-person and via telehealth.
Anesthesiology Assistant Act (SB 164)
This Act creates a new licensure category for anesthesiology assistants. To be eligible for licensure, anesthesiology assistants must graduate from an anesthesiology assistant program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs and pass a certification examination or be licensed as a physician assistant in anesthesiology as of July 1, 2023. Anesthesiology assistants may perform duties and responsibilities delegated to them by a supervising anesthesiologist pursuant to a job description. Anesthesiology assistants may order controlled substances selected from a formulary established by the board and may order dangerous drugs, medical treatments, and diagnostic studies. The Georgia Composite Medical Board will promulgate additional rules and requirements and will oversee the licensure of anesthesiology assistants.
Pharmacy Technicians May Administer Certain Vaccines (HB 416)
Qualified pharmacy technicians may administer COVID-19 vaccines and any vaccine that is included on the adult immunization schedule if certain delegation and supervision requirements are met.
Reimbursement for Patient Expenses for Clinical Cancer Trials (SB 223)
Sponsors of cancer clinical trials must provide potential patient-subjects with information regarding reimbursement for travel and ancillary costs prior to participating in the study.
Pregnant Women Eligible to Apply for Welfare (HB 129)
This bill expands the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) eligibility criteria to pregnant women. Currently, TANF is only available to families with children, but HB 129 will expand the eligible pool to mean a pregnant woman or one or more children living with a parent or other caretaker relative or legal guardian, subject to certain income requirements.
Vaping Prohibited Indoors (SB 47)
This bill expands Georgia’s indoor smoking ban to prohibit electronic smoking devices which create an aerosol or vapor or the use of any oral smoking device for the purpose of circumventing the prohibition of smoking in Georgia’s Smoke-Free Air Act. This new definition would apply to prohibitions on smoking in enclosed areas within places of employment and private and semi-private rooms in healthcare facilities licensed under Title 31 unless every patient occupying the room has written authorization fromtheir treating physician to smoke.
Bills that Did Not Pass
- Repeal of CON Act (SB 162) – This Act would have eliminated Certificate of Need requirements for the majority of health care facilities and services except for long-term care facilities and home health agencies, but would have required certain new health care facilities to obtain a special license to operate. The special license would be in addition to any license or certificate presently required by the Healthcare Facilities Regulation Division at DCH.
- Nurse and physician assistant authority to prescribe schedule II controlled substances (HB 557)
- Require DCH to include continuous glucose monitors as a pharmacy benefit for Medicaid (HB 143/SB 109)
- Amend licensure and licensure renewal requirements for APRNs (HB 215)