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Health Costs

High court preserves all ACA subsidies

The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling Thursday, upheld the Affordable Care Act subsidies that have helped millions of Americans, including 412,000 Georgians, obtain insurance coverage.

John Roberts

John Roberts

The ruling was hailed as a huge victory for President Obama and for the ACA, although the constitutionality of the 2010 law was not in dispute in this case.

The justices ruled that federal subsidies can be offered in insurance exchanges run by the federal government, as they are in Georgia and 33 other states.

The plaintiffs in the case argued that the health law did not permit such subsidies in states that have federally operated exchanges. The pointed to the ACA’s language, which says the subsidies are available through an exchange that was “established by the State.”

“Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court’s majority. “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.” full story

A program that helps parents help children

The boy, nearly 1 year old, has started walking around his family’s apartment.

These early wanderings by a child are a challenge for any parent, but in this case, they can be especially dangerous.

chlogoThe boy has hemophilia A, a disorder that prevents blood from clotting properly. Any bumps, scrapes or bruises that he gets can create a serious medical problem. That’s why he wears knee pads and a soft helmet for safety.

Once a week, the two-member team of social worker Andrea Parker and nurse Sharon Greer visit the apartment in Duluth, a northeastern suburb of Atlanta. They help the mother with advice, information and a medical check for her child.

The visits “have given me more resources,’’ says the mother, 34, who requested anonymity. “They have been helpful.”

The team comes from Childkind, an Atlanta nonprofit that delivers services for children who are disabled or have medically complex conditions.   full story

A letter to GHN about kidney disease

To the Editor,

In 2004, I wasn’t feeling well and went to the doctor, only to find out that my kidneys weren’t working. I began dialysis immediately and was put on the waiting list for a transplant. This was the toughest thing I ever went through in my life, and I want to help others avoid what I went through.

Over 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease (CKD), yet only 10 percent are aware they have it. full story

Big jump looming in health insurance rates

Many Georgians could face double-digit increases in their health insurance premiums next year, based on initial rates sought by insurers.clipboard

Insurers’ requests in Georgia range as high as a 64.2 percent increase for a Time Insurance Co. plan for individual coverage starting in January. But most of the double-digit increases being requested in the state are in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent.

The federal government this week issued a list of proposed 2016 premium increases of 10 percent or more nationally. Increased scrutiny of high rate increases is called for under the Affordable Care Act.

The report does not list proposed increases of less than 10 percent, and an insurance industry official says many plans in Georgia remain under that threshold.

The rates pertain to health plans offering coverage bought by consumers and small employers both inside and outside the state’s insurance exchange, created under the ACA. The actual premiums will not be finalized until the fall, federal officials noted.

A state insurance regulator said Tuesday that the proposed Georgia premium increases have been sent to outside actuaries for analysis “to make sure they’re thoroughly vetted.” full story

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.

LF2012-t-leapfrog-logo

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

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