The Pulse

Know what they say about Piedmont doctors?

Dr. J. Thomas Taylor’s patient rating is 4.8 on a scale of 1 to 5 — with 5 being the best score. Comments from the internist’s patients include these:

“The best primary care doctor in the world.”

Dr. Thomas Taylor

Dr. J. Thomas Taylor

“Really cares about his patients.”

“Very friendly and upbeat.”

One of the comments is not so complimentary: “Maybe I should attribute his mood to the fact that it was Monday morning and they were off to a late start … but Dr. Taylor was very unfriendly …”

Consumers can now go online and find such feedback on more than 200 Piedmont Healthcare physicians, along with an overall rating score for each.

The Atlanta-based health care system is among the first in the nation to publish the patient satisfaction ratings and reviews of its doctors. The reviews are available for the first time this week on its piedmont.org website. full story

‘Medical homes’ appeal to many doctors, patients

Ronald Whitten, a licensed clinical social worker, is excited about the idea of being a patient in a “medical home.’’

A medical home, in this context, is not a residential institution. It’s a physician practice that aims to provide more comprehensive, patient-friendly treatment while also curbing health costs.

Dr. Jennifer Zreloff

Dr. Jennifer Zreloff

Whitten, 70, a retired Emory faculty member who’s on Medicare, is convinced of the medical home’s benefits. He’s a patient of Dr. Jennifer Zreloff, an Emory Clinic internist.

Care for Whitten’s chronic conditions are coordinated under one medical practice, so he doesn’t have to visit several clinicians. Zreloff’s practice also offers the services of a nutritionist and a psychologist. Patients can communicate with a physician via email.

The concept of a patient-centered medical home — which combines the modern-day advantages of computerized medical data with the old-time convenience of having a familiar doctor — is catching on across the country. More primary care practices have started to provide team care, and almost 7,000 have already been recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance as patient-centered medical homes.

In Georgia, health insurers such as Aetna, Blue Cross, Kaiser Permanente and WellCare have launched medical home-style programs. Many seniors and adults under 65 appear to prefer this style of medicine.

Nationally, a recently released survey of adults 65 and older found that medical home services are still relatively uncommon, with just 27 percent reporting receiving this care. Yet 83 percent of those getting this team-based care say it has improved their health. And among those not getting these services, 73 percent would want this type of care, the survey of 1,000 older adults sponsored by the John A. Hartford Foundation. full story

2 insurers picked for university health plan

The contract for state employees and teachers has dominated the discussion of Georgia health benefits this year, because of widespread complaints that erupted over choice of plans and out-of-pocket costs.

indexBut almost drowned out by that uproar is another state health contract with a big impact for employees and the insurance industry.

The Board of Regents this week approved two insurers to deliver medical services in 2015 to University System of Georgia employees.

The two winners currently hold University System contracts. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia has been selected as a statewide health plan, and Kaiser Permanente will offer an HMO alternative in metro Atlanta and in Athens.

CVS Caremark was chosen as the pharmacy benefits manager for the self-insured plans. full story

Georgia exchange applications hit 220,000

Georgia insurers received more than 220,000 applications for health coverage in the Affordable Care Act’s exchange as of the official federal deadline of March 31, state officials said Wednesday.

Ralph Hudgens

Ralph Hudgens

Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens, though, said premiums have been received for only 107,581 of those policies, which cover 149,465 people.

“Many Georgians completed the application process by the deadline, but have yet to pay for the coverage,” Hudgens said in a statement Wednesday.

March 31 was the official deadline for individuals to get insurance coverage or face a financial penalty under the ACA. Yet because of the deluge of last-minute shoppers, federal officials relaxed the rules for those who reported having trouble with the exchange, and gave them into this week to sign up.

Given that extra time, there have presumably been more Georgians both signing up and paying for their premiums in April. They would not be included in the figures released Wednesday. full story

State seeking more choice in 2015 health plan

State officials said Tuesday that they plan to increase the number of insurers and health plan options for state employees and teachers next year.

The State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) has been a target of fierce criticism since Jan. 1. That’s when changes to its benefit design, plus the use of just one insurer, sparked widespread complaints about a lack of choice of insurance plans and higher health care costs.

Sarah Lesley and her daughters joined a Capitol rally in February against the change in the state health plan.

Sarah Lesley and her daughters joined a Capitol rally in February over the state health plan.

Now, though, the Department of Community Health is asking for proposals for a second statewide insurer to offer a high-deductible health plan, a Medicare Advantage plan for retirees, and a statewide HMO.

The current single insurer for SHBP, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia, would retain its health reimbursement arrangement plans and Medicare Advantage plans, plus add a statewide HMO option for the 2015 plan year. A third insurer would offer a fully insured in-network-only option for metro Atlanta, under the Community Health plan.

“SHBP is looking to enhance member choice in the 2015 plan year,” said DCH Commissioner Clyde Reese in a statement

The State Health Benefit Plan covers 650,000 state employees, teachers, other school personnel, retirees and dependents. With those numbers, the plan’s members can be a political force in an election year such as this one. When many of them began to complain about this year’s plan, and some began to organize, the state moved swiftly to amend it. full story

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Around the State

Deal signs gun legislation

Gov. Nathan Deal on Wednesday signed into law a sweeping gun bill attracting national attention.

Read the full article:
WABE

Drug take-back event

Georgia is among the states taking part Saturday in the Eighth National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day.

Read the full article:
WABE

Health partnership forum

Georgia Tech is hosting a conference focused on ways academic institutions and medical facilities can collaborate to solve medical problems.

Read the full article:
Associated Press

Hall: Students debate ACA

It has been an issue thoroughly hashed out by grown-ups, but on Wednesday, middle school students voiced their thoughts and opinions about health care reform.

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Gainesville Times

Regions announced for pilot

The Department of Human Services has announced regions where it will test a public-private partnership to run Georgia’s foster care system.

Read the full article:
Associated Press

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Foundation Support for GHN:

Healthcare Georgia Foundation
Kaiser Permanente
Reynolds Charitable Fund
Georgia Health Foundation