The Pulse

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

Released Ebola patients see an answer to prayers

Richard Furman recently received a grim phone call from a physician in Liberia.

The doctor gave an update about medical missionary Dr. Kent Brantly, who had been stricken with the Ebola virus in the West African nation.

Dr.-Kent-Brantly-news-conference

Dr. Kent Brantly (in blue shirt) addresses the media Thursday at Emory. Photo from Samaritan’s Purse

The physician didn’t think Brantly would survive, said Furman, a retired surgeon who’s on the board of directors of the Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, where Brantly worked. Furman said the doctor “thought he [Brantly] was gone.”

On Thursday, Dr. Furman celebrated Brantly’s recovery while seated among journalists during an emotional news conference at Emory University Hospital, where Brantley’s discharge was announced.

Fellow Ebola patient Nancy Writebol, who also caught the disease while working as a medical missionary in Liberia, was released Tuesday from Emory, officials said. Writebol had requested no announcement be made when her discharge occurred, Emory said.

Their release poses “no public health threat,’’ said Dr. Bruce Ribner, an Emory infectious disease specialist who addressed the media.

Brantly, 33, and Writebol, 59, show no evidence of Ebola, said Ribner. full story

Consumer Corner

Most babies getting their vaccines

The vast majority of babies are getting vaccines they need to protect them from serious illnesses.

Around the State

Walmart opens own clinics

Walmarts in Carrollton and Columbus will be among the first in the U.S. to host corporate-owned primary care clinics inside the store.

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Gwinnett Daily Post

Augusta: Cerner deal

Georgia Regents Health System is entering into a $400 million deal with Cerner Corp. to provide all of its health care information technology.

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Augusta Chronicle

Tattoo, piercing rules

Health officials in the Savannah area are considering changes in rules that govern tattoo and body piercing establishments.

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Savannah Morning News

Medical marijuana panel

Two experts on medical marijuana from Colorado urge Georgia lawmakers to give parents the right to buy cannabis oil to treat their children suffering from seizure disorders.

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Atlanta Business Chronicle

Summer lunch program

A total of 2,000 volunteers made and delivered 219,515 summer lunches for children through the Smart Lunch Smart Kid program of Action Ministries.

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11alive.com

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