Legislative briefs

Bill to license health insurance navigators on way to governor

A bill that would require a new group of health care workers called health insurance navigators to be licensed and regulated cleared its final legislative hurdle Thursday.

The House of Representatives passed House Bill 198 after the Senate approved a version that would require navigators to be knowledgeable about the state’s health programs for low-income Georgians: Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids. The legislation passed 136-24. It will now go to the governor’s desk for his signature.

The federal Affordable Care Act calls for health insurance navigators to help uninsured people and businesses use the new federally run online health insurance marketplaces starting this fall. The bill would require navigators to have at least 35 hours of training, be licensed and take continuing education classes.

Navigators will be called on to help consumers determine what type of coverage they are eligible for — commercial health plans or a government program — and whether they qualify for federal tax subsidies. They will be overseen by the state insurance commissioner and paid for with federal grant dollars.

— Misty Williams

Ginseng bill brings jokes, final passage

Georgia ginseng will get an extra two weeks to mature before harvest under legislation headed to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk.

Senate Bill 81 was given final passage in the House on Thursday. The bill, requested by the state Department of Natural Resources, will help boost supplies of wild ginseng, a key ingredient in products such as energy drinks and cosmetics.

Ginseng grows wild, mostly in the North Georgia mountains, where harvesters pick the plant for its roots. Once dried, the roots as recently as 2011 fetched about $350 per pound. Much of it is sold to China.

Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, presented the bill in the House and said some people say ginseng “is like coffee, Viagra and Prozac all together. That’s why people pay $350 a pound for it.”

That line led to a series of playful questions from colleagues.

The bill also prompted this quip about the Senate from Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge: “So this what they’ve been doing over there?”

— Aaron Gould Sheinin

The Tift in Tifton seems to be settled

It’s not exactly the Hatfields and McCoys, but the Tifts of Tift County finally have the right man.

House Resolution 281 formally recognizes Tift County’s namesake as Henry Harding Tift. Henry Tift was an entrepreneur, philanthropist and mayor of Tifton who played a key role in the area eventually organized into Tift County in 1905.

The recognition, given final passage Tuesday by the state Senate, corrects historical records. It originally was not Henry Tift but his uncle, Nelson Tift, who was considered Tift County’s namesake. The problem? Nelson Tift never lived in Tift County but was from Dougherty County instead.

HR 281 passed the Senate unanimously. It passed the House unanimously last month.

— Kristina Torres

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