The Pulse

Financial first aid for a mountain hospital

An unusual financial arrangement has taken Habersham Medical Center in Demorest off the critical list.

In a deal with the local hospital authority, Habersham County has agreed to make monthly bond payments on the northeast Georgia hospital’s $37 million debt, and will eventually take over the assets of the facility.


Habersham Medical Center

Habersham’s financial move “has been already beneficial to the hospital,’’ Demorest Mayor Rick Austin told GHN on Monday. “It immediately puts us back in the black.”

“This hospital is incredibly crucial to our community and our county,’’ Austin said.

Habersham strongly promotes itself to tourists and potential retirees. The availability of good health care is essential to attracting such people.

The agreement comes at what some experts consider the most pressing financial time ever for the state’s hospital industry.

Rural hospitals, such as the Demorest facility, are under heavy fiscal strain. Four hospitals have closed in rural Georgia over the past two years, with others many experiencing cash problems. full story

State agency loses federal ‘family planning’ grant

A federal health agency has awarded a three-year, $7.8 million Georgia “family planning services” grant to a coalition led by an Atlanta-based community health center.

Family Health Centers of Georgia will work with other federally qualified health centers in the state, Grady Health System and Planned Parenthood to deliver these services to individuals, primarily low-income women. The services are funded through the federal Title X program, and the funds come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

It’s the first time in 30 years that this family planning grant did not go to Georgia’s public health agency, though the agency did apply for it.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald

Ryan Deal, a spokesman for the Georgia Department of Public Health, said in an email to GHN that Gov. Nathan Deal (no relation) and the agency’s commissioner, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, “are deeply concerned about the federal government’s decision.”

“At this point, we are uncertain as to the statewide services provided by the Family Health Centers of Georgia, Inc., and their approach to implement services in rural Georgia,’’ Deal said in his statement.

“The federal government has not shared with Georgia Department of Public Health their new approach to ensuring all of Georgia is covered,’’ the statement continued. “Governor Deal has requested that Dr. Fitzgerald review options affecting all Georgians, as more details are shared by the federal government.”

Family Health Centers said Friday that the consortium of federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), Grady and Planned Parenthood will provide statewide coverage, with more than 170 locations in the state. full story

How will broader gun-carry law affect hospitals?

Now that Georgia’s controversial gun-carry legislation has taken effect, hospitals across the state are trying to figure out how to respond to it.

The new law means different things for different hospitals. Generally speaking, hospitals that are considered government buildings have to comply with it, while those that are privately owned do not.

Glock17And there are other exceptions, including one that pertains to Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta.

Yet the ultimate effect of House Bill 60 on hospitals and even some nursing homes may not be clear until it plays out in practice – perhaps until someone with a weapon enters a facility and is confronted about his or her right to carry it.

It’s possible that some facilities may even choose to ignore the law or test its limits.

“As is often the case with newly enacted laws, there are many unanswered questions regarding HB 60, and ultimately courts will interpret the law and apply it to specific facts,’’ said a July 1 memo from Georgia Hospital Association attorney Temple Sellers to association members, which was obtained by GHN. full story

Feds to scrutinize Georgia’s Medicaid backlog

A federal agency says it will review Medicaid eligibility and enrollment processes in Georgia and six other states due to “a substantial backlog of pending applications.”

The July 9 letter from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not indicate how much of a backlog Georgia has or the reasons for it.

smslogoThe Georgia review will also cover the state’s PeachCare program for uninsured children.

The other states getting this backlog letter were Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, North Carolina, Virginia and Wyoming, according to Inside Health Policy.

(Besides these seven states, CMS had previously notified another six states to submit plans to fix their Medicaid enrollment snags.) full story

Fourth insurer plans statewide exchange offerings

UnitedHealthcare is the fourth health insurer seeking to offer insurance statewide in Georgia’s exchange next year.

The Minnesota-based company would join Coventry, Time Insurance Co. and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia in offering health plans in all regions of the state.

Healthcare Cost

This year, Blue Cross was the only statewide insurer in the Georgia exchange, which was created under the Affordable Care Act.

Counting the four that plan statewide offerings, there are nine insurers applying to participate in the Georgia exchange to some degree. The state’s insurance department released rate data for eight of the nine applicants earlier this month, but omitted data from UnitedHealthcare, saying it had an incomplete application.

The agency said Friday that the application is now complete, and it released United’s proposed rate information. full story

Consumer Corner

Big data looking for drug problems

A program mines databases of medical records for signs that drugs are linked to problems.

Around the State

Dallas: Elder abuse case

A caregiver is in jail after a family says she stole more than $44,000 from their elderly parent’s bank and credit card accounts.

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False lab test charges

The CEO of a local allergy testing lab is facing federal charges for allegedly falsifying test results that were sent back to patients.

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Augusta: MD/MBA degrees

Those with a head for science and medicine can also sharpen their business sense with new degree programs at Georgia Regents University.

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Augusta Chronicle

Kids left in hot cars

Accidents in which children die after being left in vehicles are more common than one might think.

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Gainesville Times


Augusta: VA exec bonuses

Though VA medical center had deaths from delayed care and safety problems since 2006, at least $25,000 in bonuses have been awarded to top execs over that time frame.

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Augusta Chronicle


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