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Health Costs

Patient safety scores for hospitals get an update

One in four Georgia hospitals received an “A’’ grade in patient safety from the nonprofit Leapfrog Group, the same percentage as six months ago.

Two hospitals in the state got an “F’’ grade under Leapfrog’s “Hospital Safety Score,” updated from the fall.


Leapfrog, which was founded by employers, said last week that nationally, hospitals have made significant improvements on several surgical safety processes, as well as in implementing computerized medication prescribing systems.

But the hospitals’ performance on safety outcomes — including preventing errors, accidents and infections — has not significantly improved, Leapfrog said.

Scoring an “A” grade were 19 hospitals across Georgia, from metro Atlanta to Augusta to Savannah to Rome, where both hospitals earned the top mark. Also earning an “A’’ – for the second time in a row – were 69-bed Gordon Hospital in Calhoun in northwest Georgia and Colquitt Regional Medical Center, a 99-bed hospital in Moultrie in southwest Georgia.

Getting a failing grade were Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia in southeast Georgia and Union General Hospital in Blairsville in the Blue Ridge Mountains. full story

Autism coverage becomes law with signing

Just a month ago, the latest attempt to require autism coverage in Georgia insurance policies appeared dead.

Autism legislation was stuck in the House Insurance Committee in the waning days of the 2015 General Assembly session. Similar bills that had been proposed in previous years had stalled and ultimately failed.

Gov. Nathan Deal signs House Bill 429 as legislators and Ava Bullard (in green dress) look on.

Gov. Nathan Deal signs House Bill 429 as legislators and Ava Bullard (in green dress) look on.

But this time, a compromise between House and Senate leaders led to a reworked insurance bill that added the autism requirement language. The legislation was passed.

And on Wednesday, flanked by legislators and child advocates at the state Capitol, Gov. Nathan Deal signed House Bill 429 into law.

It will require many health insurance plans to cover applied behavior analysis (ABA), a treatment designed to help young children with autism reach their full potential in learning ability. The legislation applies only to children 6 and under, and does not require coverage by large companies that self-insure their benefits. full story

Report: State lags in public health spending

Georgia ranks 37th among states in per capita spending on public health, according to a newly released report.

Healthcare CostThe $18.48 that Georgia spent per capita on public health in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 is less than half the funding in some other Southeastern states, such as $59.22 in Alabama, $47.94 in Arkansas and $43.97 in Tennessee.

The Georgia public health budget did exceed those in Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina, said the report, released this week by the Trust for America’s Health.

Georgia’s per capita amount increased from the $18.08 per capita amount spent in 2012-2013. full story

Medicaid care coordination put back on hold

The state has shelved its attempt to coordinate care of Medicaid beneficiaries who are elderly or disabled.

Photo of the Georgia Capitol BuildingThe Georgia Department of Community Health said Tuesday that it was not proceeding “at this time’’ with soliciting bids from potential vendors to operate the program.

The agency’s statement, made in an email to GHN, follows the General Assembly’s removal of $12 million in state funds, intended for the startup of the program, from the fiscal 2016 budget proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Community Health, though, denied that the removal of startup funds drove its decision to halt the contracting process. full story

Emory, WellStar commit to planning merger

The preliminary talks are over: Now Emory and WellStar officials will move forward on creating a merged health care system.


Reynold Jennings

Trustees of Emory University and WellStar Health System have approved a resolution to start the “design phase” of a new entity, the two organizations announced Thursday evening.

The combination of Emory Healthcare and WellStar would be easily the state’s biggest health system. But a merger won’t come quickly, officials said. And the deal still has not been clinched, they emphasize.

The potential combination of the two large metro Atlanta systems was announced Feb. 9. Officials said then that the initial talks between the two systems would continue for 45 days, and Thursday’s announcement made clear that the merger idea had been given a green light.

Some of the details to be worked out during the next phase of talks include the name of the new health system, its corporate office location, governance and structure. That is expected to take at least a year. full story

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