The Pulse

Commentary: Analyzing malpractice reform

Is there a feasible way to reform the medical malpractice system? Would changes be worthwhile?

Katja Ridderbusch

Katja Ridderbusch

Katja Ridderbusch, an Atlanta-based foreign correspondent for German news media, looks to European and other countries’ legal systems for an answer.

In a new GHN Commentary, Ridderbusch describes the differences between tort systems and poses possible solutions for the high malpractice costs in America.

“The premium for medical liability insurance for a general surgeon in the United States can be as high as $130,000 to $190,000 in areas such as Long Island, N.Y., or Miami,’’ she notes. “In Germany, it’s between $5,000 and $10,000.”

Here’s a link to her Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at


Legislator: Waiver plan still requires legislative OK

State Rep. Jason Spencer has fought the Affordable Care Act as hard as anyone in the Georgia General Assembly.

Rep. Jason Spencer

Rep. Jason Spencer

Spencer, a Woodbine Republican, was a driving force behind passage of a bill that requires legislative approval for expansion of Medicaid in Georgia under the 2010 federal health care law. He also pushed legislation that forbids Georgia from running its own insurance exchange under the ACA. (Georgia, like most states, has a federally run exchange.)

Now Spencer, a physician assistant, is raising questions about a plan proposed by Grady Health System that would request a special Medicaid “waiver” to cover more uninsured Georgians.

The proposal is not part of the Affordable Care Act, but Spencer sees the waiver plan as a potential pathway to Medicaid expansion in the state.

This year’s General Assembly approved the state’s potential request for a Medicaid waiver in the fiscal 2016 budget. But Spencer cites a May 22 letter from Daryl Robinson, counsel to the state attorney general, that says the General Assembly may not amend provisions of general law through an appropriations act.

The line item in the 2016 budget allowing a waiver process “does not constitute proper authority,’’ Spencer told GHN on Wednesday. “Whoever slid that into the budget was misinformed.’’ full story

Official who ‘helped stabilize’ DCH finances retiring

When he took over as finance chief for the state Department of Community Health, Tim Connell assumed oversight of a $13 billion budget.

Tim Connell

Tim Connell

The agency administers Medicaid, a highly complicated, vital health program, as well as the benefits plan for state employees and teachers.

Connell didn’t have health care experience when he took the job. What he did have was years of state government financial work, including as president of the Georgia Student Finance Commission. He spent two years as director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, and also was deputy commissioner for the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for six years.

“The reason why I came to DCH was to apply a management approach’’ used in previous positions, Connell told GHN in a recent interview. He said his goal was to improve the overall accountability and effectiveness of the agency’s financial operation.

Connell, 65, is retiring at the end of June after more than 35 years of government service, with the past two at Community Health.  full story

Cancer survivors teaming up to help others

Fourteen years ago, corporate executive Angie Patterson had breast cancer, undergoing a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Angie Patterson

Angie Patterson

That yearlong process was harrowing, but she calls it “an enlightening time.”

Patterson, now 58, discovered as a patient that she “had a real passion to help others diagnosed with cancer.’’

In recent years, she has been working with cancer survivors as vice president of the Georgia Center for Oncology Research and Education (Georgia CORE).

Now Patterson will be teaming up with health care providers and other stakeholders, along with survivors, to develop research to address the needs of vulnerable Georgians who have had the disease. full story

Atlanta’s Piedmont system landing new hospital

Just two days after WellStar announced plans to add another hospital, a second metro Atlanta health system says it’s making a similar deal.

Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare said Thursday that it plans to bring Newton Medical Center in Covington into its group of hospitals.

Newton Medical Center

Newton Medical Center

The deal will involve a long-term lease of assets from the Newton County Hospital Authority, and when the agreement takes effect, Newton Medical will become a subsidiary of Piedmont, officials said.

The announcement follows Tuesday’s news that Marietta-based WellStar Health System aims to take West Georgia Health in LaGrange into its fold. West Georgia Medical Center would become the sixth hospital in the nonprofit WellStar system, though it’s the first one not in Atlanta’s suburbs.

The moves continue the rapid consolidation among hospitals in Georgia and nationally, as they face dramatic changes in the way they’re paid for services. Part of that stems from provisions in the Affordable Care Act.  full story

Consumer Corner

Increasing exposure to heat extremes

Vastly more Americans will be exposed to dangerous heat waves in future decades, scientists warn.

Around the State

Georgia ranks low in dentists

A new report ranks Georgia 45th out of all U.S. states when it comes to the availability of dentists.

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Largest group of graduates

The Georgia campus of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduated its largest class ever. 

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Gwinnett Daily Post

Accessing hospital salaries

Finding out what the top leaders at Georgia Regents Health System earn costs more than at some other large public hospitals.

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Augusta Chronicle

Braselton: Economic impact

The economic benefit in Hall County has already been felt from a new hospital’s opening in Braselton.

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Gainesville Times

Stephens: Church bus crash

More than a dozen church members are recovering after a church bus crash Thursday night in Stephens County.

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