Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday signed legislation that will extend the amount of time eligible new mothers can receive Medicaid and cut down on patients being surprised by bills after receiving care. DeKalb Women’s Specialists’s Dr. Scott was in attendance as President of the Georgia OB/GYN Society. The bills were part of a package of health care legislation the governor signed Thursday. “These two bills are joined by several pieces of legislation that I will be signing today, all of which accomplish what we have promised to do — that is to streamline bureaucracy, increase access to quality care, insist on transparency and fairness, improve health outcomes and put Georgia families first,” Kemp said.
House Bill 1114 will extend the amount of time low-income Georgia mothers can receive Medicaid benefits, the public health program that provides care to the poor and disabled, from two months to six after the birth of a child. Nearly $20 million was set aside in the state’s budget to fund the extension.
House Health and Human Services Chairwoman Sharon Cooper, a Marietta Republican and the legislation’s sponsor, was giddy after the governor signed the bill.
“I’ve worked on a lot of legislation, but some of them are special,” Cooper said. “This one is special. … Let’s put it this way: It’s the right thing to do, and I’m glad we’re doing it.”
Georgia has consistently ranked among the worst U.S. states for maternal deaths. Mortality rates are particularly dismal for Black women: They are three to four times more likely to die when they become mothers in Georgia than white women.
House Bill 1114 would also clear the way for Medicaid coverage for lactation care and services to pregnant and lactating women and their children.
“With that piece of legislation we’re going to enhance access to quality and timely care for mothers on Medicaid,” Kemp said.
Kemp also signed House Bill 888, which intends to prevent people from receiving high hospital bills when they’re unknowingly treated by out-of-network doctors in an emergency situation. HB 888 would require patients to pay no more than their deductible, co-pay or other in-network payment determined by their plan.
“HB 789′s transparency requirement will allow individuals or company HR departments the ability to check out a plan’s network before making a choice of insurance plans, so they will finally know what they’re actually buying,” said state Rep. Mark Newton, an Augusta Republican who sponsored the bill. “Having this information and this choice will also encourage insurance plans to offer the full network coverage of hospitals and the doctors who provide the care, thereby eliminating surprise out-of-network bills for Georgians.”
After a ribbon cutting for Kennestone’s new emergency department, Kemp thanked health care providers for the work they’ve done to assist during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Without question these are difficult times that we’re in,” Kemp said, “but I will tell you today is a bright spot as we celebrate these new laws to ensure a safer, healthier and more prosperous tomorrow.”