The Pulse

State panel meets over ailing rural hospitals

Struggling to stay afloat financially, a northwest Georgia rural hospital has opted to file for bankruptcy protection from its creditors.

Officials at Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe said Wednesday evening that the filing would allow it to continue operations, restructure debt, and help protect it from a Chattanooga system’s effort to foreclose on the hospital’s property.

Erlanger Health System has tried to recoup about $20 million it loaned Hutcheson as part of a management agreement.

Hutcheson Medical Center

Hutcheson Medical Center

The bankruptcy action came just hours before Gov. Nathan Deal’s Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee met in Lavonia on Thursday at Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center — another rural hospital experiencing severe financial challenges.

The panel heard speakers outline the depth of the state’s rural health care crisis.

Four rural hospitals have closed in Georgia over the past two years. Jimmy Lewis of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals, told the committee that 15 more facilities are “financially fragile.” Six of those, he said, “could go tomorrow due to low cash.”

“We’re approaching Third World care in the state of Georgia,’’ Lewis said.

More than 40 Georgia counties lack obstetrical providers, and just 75 of 180 hospitals in the state have labor and delivery units, Pat Cota of the Georgia OB/GYN Society told panel members. full story

Big doings in state’s booming health IT industry

Greenway Health may not be a household name outside of Carrollton, its headquarters city, though many sports fans may have noticed that professional golfer Jason Dufner wears its logo on his golf shirts.

But in the medical field, Greenway Health has created a major profile. It’s among the leaders in the business of electronic health records and digital services for physicians.

greenwayThe company announced Wednesday that it is establishing an IT development center in Cobb County in metro Atlanta that will create 150 new jobs.

Also Wednesday, other health IT companies in Georgia announced expansions and other major corporate news, during a media tour preceding the Health IT Leadership Summit in Atlanta on Thursday.

Industry leaders say Georgia, and metro Atlanta in particular, have become known as the nation’s health IT capital.

According to the Metro Atlanta Chamber, there are more than 250 health IT companies in Georgia, supporting about 30,000 jobs. And Healthcare Informatics Magazine lists eight Georgia-based companies in its top 100 health IT companies in 2014, based on revenues from the previous year. full story

Exchange workers put priority on Latino outreach

Maria Espinoza came to a Doraville middle school Saturday looking to repeat what she called her “good experience’’ in the Affordable Care Act exchange.

Maria Espinoza

Maria Espinoza

Espinoza, 35, a construction worker, said through an interpreter that her ACA coverage for this year had worked out well, and that it was inexpensive.  Enrollment is now under way for next year.

Sequoyah Middle School, where Espinoza came to sign up,  was one of several metro Atlanta sites staffed by navigators, or insurance counselors, and by Enroll America personnel on the first day of open enrollment for the exchange.

With 80 percent of its students being Latino, the school was a logical place to do outreach to that population, which have high numbers of uninsured people.

The Latino community has proved at times difficult to reach, despite members’ need for coverage.

Georgia’s Latino/Hispanic population, which was small for most of the state’s history, has grown strongly and steadily since about 1990. They now constitute about 8 percent of the state’s population, but they account for 17 percent of the uninsured in Georgia. full story

What to expect in Year 2 of ACA enrollment

The Affordable Care Act exchange, which begins its second open enrollment period this Saturday, will offer many Georgians lower prices this time around.

Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State University, said Thursday that the average premium statewide for a 40-year-old nonsmoker for the second-lowest “silver” plan will rise by 2 percent from the 2014 figure.

healthcaregovBut in some Georgia regions, the premium for that plan will drop by double-digit rates, he said.

Still, people looking for a second year of coverage in the exchange – or to get a policy for the first time – need to pay attention to many factors besides premiums. Deductibles, co-insurance, prescription drug coverage, and whether specific hospitals and physicians are in a network are among the major considerations.

One thing is almost certain: Healthcare.gov, the federal enrollment website, will work more smoothly during this enrollment period. Last year, the site was plagued with massive technical problems – so much so the federal government extended the open enrollment window. full story

27% of state’s hospitals earn top safety rating

One in four Georgia hospitals earned an “A’’ grade in recently released ratings on patient safety.

clipboardThe 27 percent figure put Georgia hospitals roughly in the middle of the pack among states, according to the Leapfrog Group’s safety scores report.

The ratings measure the ability of hospitals to prevent errors, injuries and infections. The report on the ratings is intended to help consumers as they choose a facility for health services.

More than 1,000 people die each day in the United States because of preventable hospital errors, according to the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit, Washington-based organization that focuses on patient safety.

Nationwide, one in 25 patients actually picks up an infection in the hospital.

full story

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Around the State

Gwinnett: Drug discounts

The Gwinnett commissioners have set up a program to provide free prescription discount cards to county residents.

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Gwinnett Daily Post

 

Columbus: Hospital job cuts

St. Francis Hospital is eliminating 80 jobs effective immediately as it wrestles with a $30 million accounting inaccuracy it discovered last month.

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Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

Grady contract nears end

Grady Memorial Hospital will no longer be in the Blue Cross network when the current contract ends Nov. 24 at midnight due to a contract dispute.

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Atlanta Business Chronicle

Gwinnett: Wellness center

A company that manages more than 300 health centers nationwide has been given a contract to operate a new wellness center for Gwinnett County employees and retirees.

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Gwinnett Daily Post

 

Medicaid, Medicare fraud case

Two people were indicted for allegedly filing fraudulent claims with Medicare and the Georgia Medicaid program.

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Atlanta Business Chronicle

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