Bureau Chief

ATLANTA — The Georgia House of Representatives has given final passage to two health-care measures aimed at improving outcomes for new mothers and elderly Georgians.

The House voted unanimously late Wednesday to expand Medicaid coverage for low-income mothers in Georgia and impose additional regulations on the state’s elder-care homes in the era of COVID-19.

In both cases, the state Senate made changes to the bills, which had originated in the House earlier in this year’s legislative session, before the General Assembly took a three-month hiatus to discourage the spread of coronavirus.

House Bill 1114 authorizes the state to apply for a federal waiver that would allow Georgia to offer Medicaid coverage to income-eligible women up to six months post-partum. The current Georgia Medicaid program only permits coverage for up to two months.

The bill also would extend Medicaid coverage to lactation specialists for mothers having trouble feeding their babies.

The Senate amended the bill to make the expanded coverage subject to the availability of funding for the initiative, a key consideration in light of the state’s current budget woes.

House Bill 987 increases training requirements for staff members in elderly care facilities and raises the number of staff who would have to be on site at any given time to watch over residents. It would also increase fines for violations or if a facility causes a resident’s death.

When the bill reached the Senate, it was amended to require elderly care homes to report when residents or staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. Senators also set out specific cleaning procedures and put in a provision requiring facilities to keep on hand at least a seven-day supply of protective equipment including masks and gowns.

“We’re going to be a leader in this country on taking care of our elderly in assisted-living facilities,” said House Health and Human Services Committee Chairman Sharon Cooper, R-east Cobb, who sponsored both bills.

Both measures now head to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk for his signature.

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