With 2022 well underway, a number of states nationwide are beginning to put into effect the laws and legislation they spent all of 2021 attempting to enact. On January 1, 2022, Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp introduced a bevy of new bills that are likely to shift the state’s already tempered political climate, including laws aimed at improving medical bill transparency (SB80), lowering sales tax on vehicles (HB63) and constructing further safeguards to protect juveniles in foster care from sexual exploitation or servitude (SB28). Originally set to pass back in July, all three bills were delayed by the General Assembly due to provision tax issues as well as the ongoing governmental strain of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Bill 80
In a collected statewide effort to boost medical bill transparency between patients and healthcare service providers, Georgia lawmakers looked to dismantle the root cause of the issue at hand: prior authorization. Sometimes referred to as “prior approval,” prior authorization is simply the process by which insurance companies' vet incoming patients, a necessary step taken before giving doctors and other medical practitioners the go-ahead to offer these individuals medical services. More importantly, this process is an insurance provider’s way to deem if a patient requires a full-scale treatment plan, which in most cases means having a pre-existing coverage plan. With Georgia’s SB80 put into effect, insurers are now directed to disclose any prior insurance restrictions or requirements for prior authorization approval on their company’s website, hopefully allowing future patients to be granted medical care at a faster rate.
House Bill 63
Aside from tackling issues such as insurance transparency within certain medical practices, Georgians looking to lease a vehicle for personal use should expect a major tax break once they make their decision. Dubbed the Lease Vehicle Tax Exemption Bill, this new legislation completely revises the definition of fair market value in Georgia, specifically targeting alternative ad valorem tax. Ad valorem, or “according to value,” is a tax placed on a product based off the assessed value of the product, which in this case refers to both interest and finance charges when making a down payment on a leased vehicle. This legislative revision comes to fruition eight years after the passing of the Title Ad Valorem Tax: Used Cars and Tax Rate, a bill that drastically altered the way in which retail prices are determined for used cars.
Senate Bill 28
Since the mid-1990s, the state of Georgia has been facing an ongoing crisis brewing within their foster care system. According to a 2018 report conducted by the American Public Welfare Association, Georgia’s number of children placed in foster or substitute care is growing 33 times faster than that of the national rate. To make matters worse, the state estimates that approximately one-third of children who return home eventually find themselves back in the system. In order to combat this issue, Georgia lawmakers passed SB28, a bill which aims to enhance the protection of children by targeting and revising the state Juvenile and Domestic Relations Code. Finally highlighting emotional abuse as legal grounds for state interference, SB28 also clarifies the difference between sexual exploitation and servitude as well as outlining exactly what the state considers abandonment, further expanding guidelines for parents who have relinquished their parental rights. Additionally, juvenile intake officers and state social workers are now required to participate in annual training sessions centered around the early warning signs of child neglect. As the monthly rate of foster children in Georgia only continues to rise, SB28 and its legislative changes are expected to make significant strides in containing this crisis.