By: Sen. Blake Tillery (R – Vidalia)
March 17-- With the tenth week and 35 legislative days behind us, the light at the end of the tunnel is nearing. We have just two weeks until we adjourn Sine Die, leaving very little time to vet, amend and vote on the House Bills that have been sent to us. We passed 22 House bills and resolutions this week, and I expect these next two weeks to be the busiest yet with the 40-day legislative marathon coming to an end.
One of the bills that I was happiest to see pass the Senate this week was House Bill 831, which I mentioned last week would help create work opportunities for those with disabilities. It is because of the hard work and relentless determination of people from around the state, and one from our own backyard, that this legislation was able to make it to this point. I look forward to this bill receiving the Governor’s signature and becoming law soon.
We also passed House Bill 769 out of the Senate this week. This bill encompasses several recommendations that were made by the House Rural Development Council over the interim, and I believe it will start to address the problems we are seeing in many rural hospitals across the state. This bill will create the Rural Health System Innovation Center which will be tasked with researching and finding ways to address data collection, workforce needs and ways to finance and deliver health care in rural Georgia. Specifically, this bill would allow an exemption to be made regarding the certificate of need in certain cases, create a grant program to incentivize physicians to practice in rural areas, allow a tax credit on donations to rural hospitals and expand who can place a remote order pharmacy entry.
One of the biggest problems that we see is not just with access to care, but the availability and number of healthcare professionals. This bill will help incentivize doctors to open practices in rural Georgia by providing them with a grant determined by the average insurance premium rates in their communities. Often times, doctors choose to practice in more urban settings because they would not be as overworked as much as doctors in rural areas of the state. This grant program would give an incentive to doctors to move to these underserved areas, increasing the number of doctors and decreasing wait times at their offices.
Another change this bill makes is increasing the rural hospital donation tax credit from 90 percent of the amount donated to 100 percent. We hope this will encourage more people to give to rural hospitals and in turn, help some of our struggling institutions stay afloat.
The final big point this legislation makes is to remove some of the current restrictions on pharmacists when remotely ordering entries to be filled. As pharmacists in rural Georgia, along with many other medical professionals, are few and far between, the ability to remotely order prescriptions for filling is a necessity for reducing the time it takes to get the order filled. This will enable pharmacists to work in different parts of the hospital and community.
All of these measures are just some ways this bill will help rural Georgians receive the care they need and deserve. I look forward to seeing what other red tape we can work on cutting to help rural Georgia thrive. As always, it is a pleasure to serve you. Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.