The Pulse

Former state insurance chief wary of big mergers

The giant health insurance mergers now on the table would reduce the number of major national insurers from five to three.

John Oxendine, Georgia’s former insurance commissioner, believes that a Big Three is not enough for a competitive balance.

John Oxendine

John Oxendine

“Three is not competitive,’’ Oxendine told GHN last week in an interview. “My personal opinion is that it would be very bad for consumers.”

The two deals – Aetna buying Humana and Anthem buying Cigna – were each announced in July.  The former would double Aetna’s size in Georgia, while the latter would add to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia’s big membership lead over other insurers in the state. Anthem is Blue Cross’ parent company.

If both deals ultimately are approved by regulators and shareholders, the two combined companies, Aetna and Anthem, would be part of the new Big Three, with UnitedHealthcare being the other giant national player. full story

Southern Regional’s owner files for bankruptcy

The nonprofit owner of Southern Regional Medical Center in Riverdale announced late Thursday that it has filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Northern District of Georgia.

img-stock-IMG_2483A media release announcing the filing emphasized that Clayton County’s lone hospital will remain open and operating while Southern Regional Health System officials consider a proposed sale of the medical center to a California-based nonprofit.

Southern Regional said it will fulfill its obligations to its employees and vendors, and continue to deliver high-quality medical care. The organization also said it has obtained a commitment for post-bankruptcy financing.

Last week, Prime Healthcare Foundation signed a letter of intent to acquire the 331-bed Riverdale hospital.

Southern Regional Medical Center, reeling from a heavy load of uncompensated care, has been in danger of closing its doors.  full story

Northside Hospital buys group of imaging centers

Atlanta’s Northside Hospital has acquired 22 medical imaging centers in Georgia, expanding its reach in outpatient services.

Northside Hospital in Atlanta

Northside Hospital in Atlanta

The purchase of MedQuest’s centers in the state brings Northside’s total of imaging centers to 56 in North and Central Georgia.

“We’re committed to a strong outpatient infrastructure,’’ Lee Echols, vice president of marketing and communications for Northside, said Thursday. “The growth of outpatient services is absolutely dramatic.’’

The acquisition price was not disclosed. MedQuest, headquartered in the northern Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, is a subsidiary of  North Carolina-based Novant Health.   full story

Milestone: 50 years of Medicare and Medicaid

When signing the bill creating Medicare and Medicaid 50 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson held the ceremony in Independence, Missouri, where former President Harry Truman lived.

Truman, who had pushed unsuccessfully for national health insurance during his own presidency, was at LBJ’s side during the signing. (And in one of those of odd coincidences of U.S. political history, the two presidents from different eras would die less than a month apart in the early 1970s.)


President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare bill into law while former President Harry Truman (seated) looks on.

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare bill into law while Harry Truman (seated) looks on.

The decades-long push to create the two health insurance programs was like “a long-distance run,’’ said Dr. David Satcher, a former U.S. surgeon general, at a Carter Center forum Wednesday.

Satcher added that it was also “like a relay race,’’ noting that Truman handed off the “baton’’ of national insurance to LBJ.

This week, federal officials along with many health care and community organizations are marking the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, created July 30, 1965.   full story

Health data breach affects thousands

About 3,000 Georgians have been told that some of their health information was inadvertently disclosed.

dhslogoThe data breach affected clients in the Community Care Services Program, which helps people at risk of nursing home placement to remain in their communities.

The program is managed by the Department of Human Services Division of Aging Services, in partnership with Georgia’s 12 Area Agencies on Aging. Overall, CCSP serves about 9,500 people.

The problem involved the unintentional disclosure of certain health diagnoses of program participants through an email to a contracted provider. full story

Consumer Corner

Is texting while walking dangerous?

Texting while walking decreases the ability to walk in a straight line and slows down pace, but it may not be overly dangerous.

Around the State

Ga. hospitals spun off

Trinity Hospital of Augusta is one of 38 hospitals — four in Georgia — being spun off by its parent company into a new subsidiary that will focus on smaller markets.

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Augusta Chronicle

$6.88 million settlement

In a historic settlement, a Norcross-based home nursing company has agreed to pay $6.88 million to settle allegations that it violated the False Claims Act.

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Gwinnett Daily Post

Mystery illness kills mom

Stefanie Ballard died Sunday night after developing a strange infection three weeks ago.

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Dublin: Long VA wait times

The Carl Vinson VA Medical Center is making progress in reducing physician vacancies and is recruiting more volunteers, but the facility continues to lag on wait times.

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Macon Telegraph

Planned Parenthood protest

With the U.S. Senate scheduled to vote to strip Planned Parenthood of taxpayer funding, residents gathered for a prayer rally in front of the organization’s Augusta clinic.

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Augusta Chronicle


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