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Sen. Ben Watson: General Assembly more than halfway home
Ben Watson
Sen. Ben Watson

Sen. Ben Watson

Guest columnist

The Georgia General Assembly has now finished the 27th of the 40 days of the session, with the all-important “crossover day” scheduled Monday, March 6.

As I have discussed before, crossover day is the last day that a House bill may be considered and passed to be reviewed by the Senate. We will be considering many pieces of legislation that day.

I joined in cosponsoring Senate Bill 99 because of its importance to improve healthcare access for Georgians. The legislation would create an exemption from Certificate of Need requirements for acute care hospitals, established in rural areas that meet certain criteria. The legislation would allow the formation of an acute care hospital located in a rural county that will provide inpatient hospital services; participate in both Medicaid and Medicare and will accept both Medicaid and Medicare patients; provide health care services to indigent patients; and have at least 10 percent of its annual net revenue categorized as indigent care, charity care, or bad debt.

Many small hospitals cannot compete in rural areas and are hindered by the state’s over-reliance on Certificate-of-Need licenses. This legislation passed overwhelmingly in the Senate and now heads to the House for consideration.

This Senate overwhelmingly passed Senate Bill 109, legislation that would require the Department of Community Health to include continuous glucose monitors as a pharmacy benefit for Medicaid recipients. This legislation, which I also cosponsored, requires the Department of Community Health to include coverage for continuous glucose monitors as a pharmacy benefit under Medicaid. The criteria for such coverage shall be updated to align with current standards of care and the recipient has been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus by a treating doctor. Once again, as a physician who treats many patients with diabetes, I recognize the needed use of monitors to better control the ever-growing development of the disease of diabetes.

Senate Bill 106 is legislation that is designed to provide for a three-year pilot program to provide coverage for remote maternal health clinical services under the Medicaid program. This is a continuance of the Georgia General Assembly’s effort to greatly reduce post-partum maternal morbidity. This is another priority item for many of us in the Georgia Senate and was overwhelmingly passed with much bipartisan support.

The Senate also passed legislation known as the “Back the Blue Act.” S.B. 110 would provide financial support for Georgia’s sheriff’s departments through establishing a voluntary “check off” of auto insurance premium invoices to allow for Georgians to conveniently donate $3 to local law enforcement. This bill passed with unanimous bipartisan support, as most Georgians agree that our local law enforcement officers deserve further financial compensation. It is prudent for the Georgia General Assembly to show their support for our hard working and dedicated sheriff’s departments as they are vital to the safety of our state.

As we progress through the session, I will keep you updated on legislation. Thank you for your continued interest in the General Assembly session.

As your public servant, feel free to visit me at the Capitol or to reach out to me by phone or email. I am in 325-A Coverdell Legislative Office Building. My office phone number is (404) 656-7880, and my email is ben.watson@senate.

 I look forward to continuing to serve you.

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