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Health Costs

Charity clinics in Georgia save money, study finds

Georgia’s charity health clinics produce cost savings when treating patients with hypertension, a new University of Georgia study has found.

Serving patients with high blood pressure in Georgia Charitable Care Network clinics is less expensive than treating them in other settings, including by federally qualified health centers, by Medicaid providers and through private insurance, the study said.


Medical care being delivered at the Center for Black Women’s Wellness in Atlanta.

Fueling those savings are doctors who volunteer their time at the clinics for free, and the free medications given to these organizations, said Phaedra Corso, a health policy expert at the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health. Corso led the study, which was funded by Healthcare Georgia Foundation.

There are more than 90 of these charity clinics serving the uninsured across Georgia, the second-highest number among all states after Florida. Most of them are free to patients, but some charge a small fee. full story

‘Relationship-based’ health plan debuts in Atlanta

Free clinic visits and heavy use of “health coaches.’’

Tom Vanderheyden

Tom Vanderheyden

That’s part of the pitch made by a new insurance plan debuting in metro Atlanta. It says it offers a different model of care, with a strong emphasis on primary care.

Minneapolis-based Harken Health is launching in Atlanta and Chicago with some deep pockets behind it. Its main investor is health insurance giant UnitedHealth Group.

Harken is opening six primary care centers in metro Atlanta, getting ready for its Jan. 1 start-up. The centers are located in Austell, Brookhaven, Decatur, Duluth, east Cobb County and Roswell.

This accent on primary care and wellness reflects a new dynamic in health insurance brought on, in part, by the Affordable Care Act. full story

Year 3 of ACA enrollment: Little growth, big penalty

Federal health officials are predicting little growth in sign-ups as Year Three of open enrollment for the health insurance exchanges begins Sunday.

Sylvia Burwell

Sylvia Burwell

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said the administration expects that exchange enrollment nationally will reach about 10 million people by the end of 2016, up from 9.9 million announced in late June of this year.

More than 540,000 Georgians signed up for coverage in 2015 in the health insurance exchange, which was created under the Affordable Care Act. Dante McKay, state director of Enroll America, said Tuesday that he hopes Georgia at least equals that total or exceeds it for 2016.

The first two years of exchange enrollment in Georgia harvested “some low-hanging fruit,’’ McKay said. The remaining uninsured, he added, “may not be as easy to reach.”

Groups that will draw extra focus for enrollment in the state include young adults, Latinos and African-Americans, McKay said.

Open enrollment runs through Jan. 31. Consumers must sign up by Dec. 15 to have coverage that starts Jan.1. full story

Commentary: Stop these big insurance deals

This week, shareholders of Aetna and Humana voted to approve the merger of the two health insurance giants.

Dr. Deep Shah

Dr. Deep Shah

Federal and state regulators will still have their say on the deal, and on another insurance mega-merger, that of Anthem and Cigna.

In a new GHN Commentary, Dr. Deep Shah, an Emory medical resident, argues that the two deals “would represent unprecedented consolidation of Georgia’s health insurance market.”

He says the mergers would lead to lower wages, higher premiums and deductibles, and narrower provider networks. Shah calls on regulators, including Georgia’s insurance commissioner, to stop the deals.

Here’s a link to Shah’s Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at


Mammogram prices wildly inconsistent in Atlanta

Costs of mammograms in Atlanta can vary enormously — with some more than 5 times as expensive as others — a differential that’s among the widest in the United States.

1088819262-1249The prices of mammograms in Atlanta range from $89 to $488, according to Castlight Health, a company that helps businesses analyze health care prices.

The Castlight analysis was first reported by Kaiser Health News.

All the variations aside, Atlanta’s average price of $241 for a mammogram is actually at the lower end nationally. The average for a mammogram ranged from $485 in Sacramento, Calif., to $159 in Cincinnati.

Atlanta was not the only city where Castlight researchers found that some mammograms were more than five times as costly as others. Also in that category were Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia and Seattle, among other cities, KHN reported. full story

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