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Senate bill to focus on opioid education, patient brokering
Renee Unterman 2018.jpg
State Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford

A bill introduced in the Georgia General Assembly is targeting kickbacks in the health care industry and creating a commission for better research and education on addiction and the opioid drug epidemic.

Butch Miller
Butch Miller
“A lot of people are going to have to play a role in this, not just the addict, not just the family, not just the doctors, not just the communities,” said state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville. “It’s going to take everyone working together.”

Miller applauded the work by Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, who introduced the legislation Monday.

“This holistic approach will turn the tide in Georgia’s fight against substance abuse and addiction,” Lt. Governor Casey Cagle said in a news release. “By improving education, treatment and recovery, we can save countless lives and defeat the opioid epidemic.”

A call to Unterman’s office for comment by The Times was unsuccessful.

The first section of the bill concerns “patient brokering,” where a health care provider or facility offers or receives any benefit for referring a patient to one another.

Any “commission, benefit, bonus, rebate, kickback or bribe, directly or indirectly” to “induce the referral” of person between the two groups would be illegal.

The section has some exceptions, including “payment, compensation or financial arrangement within a group practice” and payments for “professional consultation services.”

Miller said legislators informed their decisions on the bill by talking with those with substance abuse disorders and their families.

“You find your best answers when you get the closest to the problems,” he said.

Dallas Gay, who has been a vocal part of the Partnership for Drug Free Hall, said he started drafting a letter in support of the bill.

The second section of the bill would create a governor-appointed “director of substance abuse, addiction and related disorders” who would oversee a 15-member Commission on Substance Abuse and Recovery.

The commission includes the commissioners of public health, community health, human services in addition to law enforcement officials and appointed representatives.

“To have a lot of that coordinated in one place would seem to make sense to me,” Gay said.

The commission’s tasks would include coordinating overdose data, consulting with other state agencies, providing recommendations on a potential Medicaid waiver for opioid abuse, creating a block grant program, developing education plans and expanding access to “appropriate prevention, treatment and recovery support services.”