The Pulse

Nightmare for vulnerable: Unlicensed care homes

The investigation of a South Georgia unlicensed personal care home began with the report of a resident of the facility breaking into a nearby home to get food.

Law enforcement officials later raided the care facility, called Uplift, which housed people with mental illness and disabilities.

Sen. Renee Unterman

Sen. Renee Unterman

Conditions were horrifying.

“All these people were hungry,’’ said Morven Police Lt. Terry Griffin, according to a Valdosta Daily Times article. The facility was infested with insects, and there was no air conditioning.

State and local agencies helped transfer Uplift residents to other facilities. “People started clapping in the breezeway, even crying. They were so happy to leave,” Griffin said.

These relocations are becoming commonplace in Georgia. Since June, law enforcement and state officials have transferred a total of 55 people from 10 unlicensed personal care homes, including Uplift, members of a legislative committee were told Tuesday.

The state has seen an increase in complaints about alleged abuse of adults at such unlicensed facilities, state officials told the legislative Joint Study Committee on Emergency Relocation of Abused Adults, meeting in Lawrenceville.

“This issue we have to address,’’ said state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, citing “unbelievable conditions’’ in some of the residences. full story

Another insurance deadline only days away

More than 20,000 Georgians have until next Friday to provide missing information or they will lose their insurance exchange coverage Sept. 30.

Renard Murray

Renard Murray

The regional administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told GHN on Friday that most of the data discrepancies involve immigration or citizenship issues.

Letters requesting further information were mailed earlier in August to 310,000 people in three dozen states that have their insurance exchange run by the federal government. The exchanges were created under the Affordable Care Act.

Georgia’s total of 20,900 people getting the notices was the third-highest total in the nation, after Florida’s 93,800 and Texas’ 52,700.

Renard Murray, the regional CMS administrator, said the federal agency has been working on getting this information for months, and that as many as seven letters requesting data have been sent to some people. full story

State health agency outlines spending increases

A state health agency is budgeting an extra $24 million this fiscal year, and a similar amount next year, to pay for costly hepatitis C drugs in Georgia’s Medicaid program.

clipboardThe state is also expected to pay $14.1 million more this year, and $37.9 million in fiscal 2016, for lengthening the time between eligibility reviews for Medicaid and PeachCare beneficiaries, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

Those were among the financial projections made in a budget presentation Thursday for the board of the Georgia Department of Community Health, which runs the Medicaid and PeachCare programs in the state, as well as the state employee health plan. The presentation is the beginning of a long budgeting process for the agency.

The Community Health board approved the budget requests.

The hepatitis C drugs are considered breakthrough medications for patients. One drug, Sovaldi, has a 90 percent cure rate for newly infected patients — much better than previously available treatments for hepatitis C. full story

Freestanding ERs target suburbs, rural panel told

Freestanding emergency departments have been proposed in Georgia as a potential solution for struggling rural hospitals, or newly closed ones, that want to remain operational in downsized form to help patients in need.

Healthcare CostBut the trend toward such standalone emergency rooms nationally is totally different from that picture, members of the Georgia Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee were told Monday.

Freestanding EDs are actually proliferating in suburban areas, targeting high-income patients who have private insurance, said Charles Horne of accounting firm Draffin & Tucker. The prevailing emphasis is on patient convenience, not need, he told committee members at a meeting in Cordele.

Earlier this year, Gov. Nathan Deal backed a change in state licensing rules that would permit a stand-alone emergency department and some other services in rural areas that have a financially ailing – or closed – hospital.

But so far, no organization has applied to create such a facility in the state.

Meanwhile, four rural hospitals have closed in the past two years in Georgia, and others are having severe financial problems. full story

Hotline helps connect Georgians to benefits

“My medicines cost $200 per month. I wasn’t able to get them although I had had two prior heart attacks. Now I can get my medication because of . . . Medicaid. I would have given up without your help.”

The person quoted above is one of hundreds of Georgians helped by a benefits hotline run by the Georgia Legal Services Program.

220px-Cisco7960GThe program has operated at a time that Georgians have faced “incredible barriers getting through to DFCS” to receive benefits, says Vicky Kimbrell of GLSP.

DFCS has suffered backlogs over the past year in applicants getting both food stamps and Medicaid coverage. The agency phone number has been overwhelmed with demand, Kimbrell says, after it switched over to an online system for benefits renewals and notices.

“Seniors and people with low incomes don’t have access to computers,’’ says Callan Wells of Georgia Legal Services, who helps run the hotline. “They are asking that renewals be completed online. Homebound seniors without computers are disadvantaged by that system.” full story

Consumer Corner

Eating habits improve, except for poor

Eating habits have improved — except among the poor, showing a wealth gap on diet.

Around the State

Drug laws cut overdose deaths

A GBI study indicates laws aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse correlate with the lowest number of reported prescription drug overdoses in more than five years.

Read the full article:
Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Read more here: http://www.ledger-enquirer.com/2014/09/01/3277875_gbi-study-prescription-drug-laws.html?sp=/99/100/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

‘Strict procedures’ on Ebola

A CDC spokesman says prior heading to the West Africa region, employees are given an extensive refresher course on how to protect themselves from the Ebola virus.

Read the full article:
WABE

Rockdale: Heart services

Rockdale Medical Center will soon broaden its range of cardiovascular services with the addition of a multimillion dollar cath lab.

Read the full article:
Rockdale Citizen

Some traces of drought

More than 58 percent of Georgia is showing some level of dryness — 8 percent of the state shows severe drought and over 12 percent is in moderate drought.

Read the full article:
Macon Telegraph

Read more here: http://www.macon.com/2014/09/01/3280690_some-of-georgia-seeing-drought.html?sp=/99/148/198/&rh=1#storylink=cpy

Medical marijuana fight

The parents of a girl with a seizure disorder were devastated when Georgia legislators failed to pass legislation legalizing medical marijuana use in the state.

Read the full article:
Gwinnett Daily Post

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