Senators introduce healthcare council, opioid bills

[private]Sens. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) and Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) have introduced major healthcare bills that would create a new state health planning agency and would try to stem the opioid abuse crisis.

The legislation is an outgrowth of a task force appointed by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle last year to study how the state could improve access to healthcare for Georgians.

SB 357 would create a Health Coordination and Innovation Council that would “coordinate the major functions of the state’s health care system, and develop innovative approaches for stabilizing costs while improving access to quality care.”

The 13-member council would be headed by a director of health care policy and strategic planning who would be an employee of the Office of Planning and Budget and would report directly to the governor.

The council’s mission would be to identify the state’s most pressing healthcare issues and “promote cooperation from both public and private agencies to test new and innovative ideas.”

SB 352 provides that the governor will appoint a director of substance abuse, addiction, and related disorders who would oversee a newly established Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery.

The commission would be charged with developing a coordinated and unified effort among state and local agencies to confront the addiction and substance abuse crisis.

SB 352 also prohibits “patient brokering,” the offer of a commission or payment to induce the referral of a patient to or from a health care provider or substance abuse facility;

“These bills are going to make significant differences,” Unterman said.

There is no mention in SB 357 of Georgia applying for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which would bring in federal funding to extend Medicaid coverage to more working-class families.

“I recognize there are a lot of supporters out there (of expansion),” Cagle said when questioned about this. “I have a philosophical difference and viewpoint. It does no good to continue to grow government and increase the strains on our budget.”

“It is a much harder path we have chosen but in the end I think it will give us greater dividends,” Cagle added.

© 2018 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Casey Cagle , healthcare planning council , opioid abuse , Renee Unterman