Most rural Georgia residents in a new survey say they have experienced problems with the affordability of health insurance and the cost of health...

Most rural Georgia residents in a new survey say they have experienced problems with the affordability of health insurance and the cost of health care.

Healthcare CostWhen asked the biggest problem facing local health care, 68 percent named cost, with quality of care and access to care trailing far behind, according to the survey of 491 people. It was conducted by Opinion Savvy and commissioned by Healthcare Georgia Foundation.

The poll may be the first to focus entirely on rural health care issues in Georgia. It comes in the wake of four rural hospital closings in the state since the beginning of 2013.

Those hospitals closed due to financial problems, and the economic and medical effects of their loss have drawn the attention of Georgia’s political leadership.

Across America, rural residents generally lag far behind people in other areas when it comes to health and quality of medical care. 

Rural regions have higher death rates due to heart disease, stroke and cancer. They also have higher rates or smoking, diabetes, and low birth-weight babies, and higher rates of uninsured people. And rural areas have chronic shortages of primary care physicians.

An estimated 2 million Georgians live in rural areas of the state.

Asked what their community needed most in terms of health care, about half of those surveyed in the poll indicated it was a clinic. And 77 percent said there is either a moderate, severe or extreme shortage of medical providers in their community.

Stewart Webster Hospital

Stewart Webster Hospital is one of four rural Georgia hospitals to close since January 2013.

More than half said that local, state or federal government have the responsibility to ensure local access to quality care, while 27.3 percent said the private sector had that responsibility.

About 40 percent surveyed in rural Georgia said they had experience with being uninsured.

Jimmy Lewis, CEO of HomeTown Health, an organization of rural hospitals in the state, said Tuesday that  “we’re seeing a phenomenal migration [of patients] to uninsured, underinsured and self-pay.”

He noted that fewer people have employer-based coverage, and that many have such high deductibles that it makes them underinsured.

“Cost is a killer in rural areas,’’ Lewis said. “Many are retired or on fixed incomes. That’s why they want clinics.”

Georgia’s rural hospitals, unlike those in some other states, are not getting a revenue boost from Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Expansion would extend Medicaid coverage to more low-income patients, meaning the hospitals that treat them would get more revenue. But Georgia is among the states that have rejected Medicaid expansion, saying it’s too costly.

Gov. Nathan Deal has backed a pilot program that is using telemedicine to facilitate remote diagnoses of patients in rural areas.

Gary Nelson

Gary Nelson

Gary Nelson, president of Healthcare Georgia Foundation, said this week that his organization has met with legislators, representatives of rural hospitals and other stakeholders about strategies to improve rural health care in Georgia.

Nelson said he hopes the foundation’s rural Georgia work will help drive “sustainable and effective’’ investment in those areas. “It’s long overdue,’’ he said.

 


Sign up for our free email alerts and follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @gahealthnews.
Help us fulfill our nonprofit mission with a tax-deductible donation!

Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

  • Michael St Louis

    July 22, 2015 #1 Author

    This is such an important issue. Telemedicine is an important innovation but it doesn’t solve anything if people stay home because they can’t afford care. Rural Georgia needs Medicaid expansion if it hopes to keep it’s hospitals open and its all-to-rare private MDs adequately paid to keep them at work in rural areas.

    Reply

  • Maria

    August 13, 2015 #3 Author

    I agree. We do need the Medicaid expansion in Rural Georgia because most doctors in Rural Georgia will not take patients with the Affordable Care Act Insurance. Some will not take patients with Medicaid Insurance. Some patients who have the ACA insurance have been forced to leave their Rural communities in order to get health care.

    Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please leave these two fields as-is:

Help us pursue our nonprofit mission with a tax-deductible donation.

Credit Cards

EVERY LITTLE BIT HELPS
Donations Welcome

Donate Icon