Did you know that approximately 6,000 U.S. citizens are diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease each year? ALS is a progressive and fatal disease that can take up to 12 months to properly diagnose. However, under current federal law, patients are required to wait five months after an initial diagnosis prior to receiving their Social Security Disability Insurance, which assists with the high cost of care. Because of this, we adopted House Resolution 135 to support Georgians living with ALS. This resolution urges Congress to change the processing time for patients who are seeking Social Security Disability Insurance benefit assistance. Congress recently brought forward legislation that would shorten this timeline, eliminating the five-month waiting period, but the bill has yet to pass. We are hopeful that this resolution encourages them to move forward with this much needed legislation.
Those Georgia citizens wishing to donate organs will have a new avenue to do so through the passage of Senate Bill 99. This bill is intended to promote public education and awareness concerning organ donations in Georgia. Individuals applying for a hunting, fishing or trapping license will now have the option to register to become an organ donor through the Department of Resources’ (DNR) online hunting licensing system. DNR’s website will provide online resources to educate citizens about the process and benefits of organ donation. 5,330 patients in Georgia are currently waiting for organ or tissue transplants.
Americans with Disabilities Act
We also unanimously adopted House Resolution 403 aimed at helping our citizens with disabilities and urging our convenience store owners to adhere to federal law and assist our disabled citizens in need. According to the Center for Disease Control, 23.6 percent of adults in Georgia are living with some type of disability. HR 403 acknowledges that citizens deserve equal access to basic services by encouraging owners and operators of convenience stores to post signs informing customers about assistance available for refueling. Currently, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires self-service gas stations or convenience stores to provide additional services for citizens with disabilities, but these laws have not been strictly enforced.
Medical Licensure Compact
We continued our quest for access to quality healthcare, especially in rural areas, through the passage of Senate Bill 16. This measure will add Georgia to the list of 25 other states that are part of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. This compact allows certain physicians moving to Georgia from a compact member state to go through an expedited licensure process, which will allow them to practice in multiple states through telemedicine services. The use of telemedicine allows for a doctor to diagnose a patient remotely which will be an asset in certain areas when addressing doctor shortages and the lack of accessible health care.
Direct Primary Act
Finally, we passed Senate Bill 18, also known as the “Direct Primary Care Act.” This bill gives Georgians the option to keep health care directly between the patient and their doctor without requiring insurance. The Direct Primary Care Act provides an alternative approach to affordable health care by allowing primary care doctors to provide health care to a patient through a direct primary care agreement. This agreement will allow patients to pay a monthly fee to a participating physician in order to receive care. The agreement will not be subject to state insurance laws or insurance billing. Further, this measure allows physicians providing health care services under a direct primary care agreement the right to decline a patient if the physician is unable to provide the appropriate level and type of health care services the patient needs. This is a great way to provide citizens an alternative for efficient and affordable health care by removing the unnecessary red tape.