Legislative Update: Budget, Telemedicine and Tattoos

Friday marked the halfway point of the current Georgia legislative session, and also saw passage of the Fiscal Year 2019 Amended Budget. Our legislative liaison Scott Maxwell of Mathews & Maxwell provided the following details in his weekly report:

Legislators found an additional $250,000 for home delivered meals to decrease the waiting list in each Area Agency on Aging across the state. They added $2 million to help hospitals located in rural, federally designated counties adversely impacted by Hurricane Michael, and made $20 million available for loans to farmers impacted by the hurricane.

A Little Respect, Please; That Tattoo Parlor Is Really A Body Art Studio

With last term’s need to develop new language to regulate “microblading” for the eyebrows, it’s not surprising that the Department of Public Health wanted to “touch up” some other antiquated terminology on the books for things people do to their skin with needles, including stick n poke kits. Per HB 328 by Karen Mathiak (R-Griffin), “tattoos” would be eased out of the code in several places to be replaced by the broader term, “body art.” That tattoo parlor on the corner is now a body art studio. But while the lingo may change, both studios and body artists would still have to be permitted by the Department of Public Health, just like their predecessors. Those that fail to operate within health regulations could have their permits suspended or revoked.

Your Doc Is Just a Phone Call Away . . .

Senator Renee Unterman (R-Buford) lost her HHS Committee Chair, but she certainly hasn’t retired from the fight. Unterman introduced and passed out of the Science and Technology Committee (which she now chairs) SB 115. This bill authorizes the Georgia Composite Medical Board to adopt rules and “issue telemedicine licenses to physicians who are licensed in other states, but not licensed in this state, to engage in the practice of medicine through telemedicine.” Telemedicine is, of course, much more than a telephone call as it utilizes audio, visual, and digital communications. An out-of-state physician issued a telemedicine license will not be allowed to practice in person within this state.

. . . And, Your Insurance Will Pay for It

Unterman’s Committee also passed out her bill that requires insurance companies to reimburse professionals on both the originating and distant end of a telehealth conference as if the patient were seen in person. SB 118 modernizes the Georgia Telemedicine Act and renames it the Georgia Telehealth Act. “Telehealth” is a more encompassing term, covering educational events, public health efforts and health administration exchanges.

Click here to read Maxwell’s full report.