2020 Legislative Summary- Adrienne D. Zertuche, MD, MPH, FACOG, Co-Chair, GOGS Legislative Committee

To coincide with the kickoff of the Georgia General Assembly 2020 Session, I am excited to announce some promising changes to the Georgia OBGyn Society’s (GOGS’) legislative and advocacy efforts.  For many years, our work at the Gold Dome has been spearheaded by our Legislative Chair Dr. Andy Toledo and Co-Chair Dr. Carla Roberts and implemented by our lobbyist Skin Edge and former executive directors Pat Cota and Daniel Thompson.  This Session, we are fortunate to have Skin Edge continuing to lobby on our behalf, but he will be joined by our new executive director, Kate Boyenga, and directed by an entire team of physician leaders.

 

In order to ensure our organization’s advocacy efforts are representative of our diverse members – and sustainable for years to come – we recently instituted a GOGS Legislative Committee.  This team of eleven physicians meets in-person quarterly and by phone as often as needed during the Session.  We are led by Co-Chairs Dr. Andy Toledo and Dr. Adrienne Zertuche and include representation from GOGS leadership, ACOG Georgia Section leadership, the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG), the Patient Centered Physicians Coalition (PCPC), Young Physicians, and Junior Fellows (in practice and in training).

 

The GOGS Legislative Committee’s primary focus during the 2020 Session will be to continue efforts to improve Georgia’s maternal mortality and morbidity rates.  Georgia’s 2019 House Study Committee on Maternal Mortality – of which GOGS Advisory Board Members Dr. Jane Ellis and Dr. Chad Ray were members – recently released several recommendations regarding this endeavor.  First on their list, and at the forefront of ACOG advocacy efforts nationally, is postpartum Medicaid extension.

 

Data from Georgia’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee (MMRC) demonstrates that 73 percent of maternal deaths in Georgia occur during pregnancy or the first 6 weeks postpartum; the remaining 27 percent occur between the sixth week and one year postpartum.  However, Medicaid coverage – which is responsible for more than 50 percent of Georgia deliveries – ceases 60 days after delivery.  Extending comprehensive service provision to a full year may decrease delayed postpartum maternal mortality and morbidity, especially that related to cardiovascular disease, cardiomyopathy, overdose, and suicide.

 

Therefore, in accordance with ACOG and the House Study Committee’s recommendations, the GOGS Legislative Committee will pursue postpartum Medicaid extension at the capitol this Session.  Although it is expected to be a tight budget year, we will also fight to ensure appropriate Medicaid reimbursement rates for our obstetricians that tirelessly care for our highest risk pregnant and postpartum women.

 

Another legislative issue that the GOGS Legislative Committee will be monitoring closely this Session is that involving the licensure of certified professional midwives (CPMs, i.e. “lay midwives”).  GOGS certainly has an interest in expanding access to obstetric services, particularly in our state’s rural shortage areas.  However, it is critical that any midwife seeking to provide maternity care to Georgia women meet minimum education and training standards.  While certified nurse midwives (CNMs) meet and often exceed these standards, CPMs traditionally do not.  The Legislative Committee will thereby scrutinize any legislation proposed this year to ensure appropriate education and training stipulations for any CPMs pursuing licensure.

 

Finally, the GOGS Legislative Committee looks forward to supporting medical liability reform legislation this Session.  In an increasingly litigious society, it is critical that steps be taken to control professional liability costs and improve stability within our healthcare delivery system.  The field of obstetrics is particularly vulnerable to litigation, and Georgia may begin to curb the attrition rate of early- and mid-career obstetricians if progress is made at the capitol on issues such as caps for noneconomic damages.  The Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) is also passionate about reform, and we look forward to collaborating with them this Session.

 

While the GOGS Legislative Committee only has space for eleven members, there is plenty of room for GOGS members to become engaged in advocacy efforts in other ways.  We encourage you to:

  • Attend the Georgia Patient Centered Physicians Coalition “Day at the Capitol” on March 5, 2020 and/or the ACOG Congressional Leadership Conference (in Washington, D.C.) from March 8 to 10, 2020
  • Sign up to serve as the “Doctor of the Day” for the Georgia House of Representatives
  • Get to know your state legislators and keep them informed on GOGS’ legislative priorities
  • Donate annually to the GOGS’ GynPAC
  • Request PAC funds for a candidate committed to improving women’s health and healthcare
  • Contact the GOGS Legislative Committee with suggestions for legislative priorities, advocacy strategies, or anything at all

 

Thank you, GOGS members, for staying engaged in our efforts to improve the health and healthcare of the women of Georgia.  Our committee looks forward to serving you!