We’re just a few weeks into 2021, and in case you didn’t know, there are actually quite a few new Georgia laws that have taken effect in the new year: 275 of them in total. Here’s a rundown of some of the most notable new laws and regulations you’ll need to keep an eye on.

MEDICAL PROTECTIONS

Some of our specialties include dealing with insurance companies and medical malpractice cases, so these new acts in particular caught our eye.

Surprises in medical bills can be a huge hassle, especially if, after being involved in an accident you’re taken to a hospital that’s not in your provider’s network. The Surprise Billing Consumer Protection Act (HB888) requires health insurance companies to cover emergency services whether or not the provider is in the patient’s insurance network. It also creates a mechanism by which providers and insurance companies can then settle through arbitration. Most importantly, it takes the burden off the patient to pay to cost of out-of-network services while providing protections for certain other types of surprise billing situations.

Relatedly, HB 789, the Surprise Bill Transparency Act, creates a surprise bill rating system for insurers and providers. It also requires that insurers include their surprise bill rating score online, in print materials, and advertisements. SB 303, the Georgia Right to Shop Act, requires the public disclosure of prices for certain nonemergency health care services, so consumers can compare prices.

Maybe, especially after a serious accident or injury, you’ve required some form of physical therapy for your recovery only to find it isn’t covered by your insurance, or the copays are too high to consider it? SB 28 prohibits certain insurers from charging more (in copayment, coinsurance, or office visit charge) for services rendered by a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or chiropractor.

Finally, Lacee’s Law utilizes the state health benefits plan to provide for additional coverage for breast cancer screenings, aimed at protecting high risk patients. Currently some providers cover as little as 25% of the cost of these screenings, so this act seeks to take up some of the slack and encourage at-risk women to get additional screenings as needed.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING AND ABUSE

Human trafficking is a big problem in Georgia, particularly in the city of Atlanta, and there are a few new laws to provide protections to victims. For starters, HB 823 strips commercial vehicle operators of their CDL licenses if they knowingly transport victims of sexual or labor trafficking.  This is a lifetime disqualification.

Debbie Vance Act protects people being trafficked, allowing for victims to have their records vacated or expunged if they committed certain crimes while being trafficked. This aims to make it easier to victims of trafficking to be able to move on with their lives without a criminal record staining their reputation with future employers.

HB 911 prohibits foster parents from engaging in sexual misconduct with children in their care, closing a loophole that had previously existed. This provides for criminal penalties and disallows record restriction on the offenses under certain circumstances.

OTHER NOTABLE CHANGES

This one was pretty highly publicized, but you must now be 21 years old to buy any tobacco or vaping products in the state of Georgia.

HB 914 is a nice nod to how many military families routinely pass through the state of Georgia. It allows military spouses licensed to practice certain professions to more easily obtain a license to practice in the state of Georgia, easing their transition and enabling to start their own businesses and practices more easily.

Need help with any of the above? Give us a call! We’re always on top of the latest news and ready to help out our neighbors in Woodstock, GA and the North Metro Atlanta area with all their legal need. Reach out today, and we hope to assist you in the new year.