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Health Costs

Plan for new trauma center not welcomed by all

Hospital chain HCA’s push to have its Augusta hospital designated as a trauma center has unsettled leaders in the state’s hospital industry.

A trauma center is a medical facility that’s specially equipped and staffed to treat seriously injured people. Georgia authorizes four levels of such centers, depending on their capabilities.

The critics of the HCA effort point to the trauma center growth in the Florida market. Such centers in the Sunshine State are charging a “response fee” – essentially an entry fee into the hospital – for each trauma case that averages more than $10,000 per patient, according to a Tampa Bay Times investigation in March.

Doctors Hospital

 

HCA’s Doctors Hospital said through a spokesman that if it receives trauma center status, it plans to set its trauma activation fee at about $9,900 for each such case at the Augusta facility. The HCA initiative in Georgia was first reported by Tom Corwin of the Augusta Chronicle.

The two current trauma centers in Augusta, Georgia Regents Medical Center and Trinity Hospital, said they charge activation fees of $1,949 and zero, respectively, for a comparable Level III trauma patient, the Chronicle reported.

Nashville-based HCA’s bid for trauma designation has drawn strong opposition from the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals, an organization of nonprofit hospitals. full story

Albany hospital appeals key ruling on CON laws

Another regulatory twist has emerged in the FTC vs. Phoebe Putney saga.

Phoebe and its local Albany hospital authority said Thursday that they have appealed a state agency’s ruling that a certificate-of-need (CON) approval would not be necessary if they were ordered to sell a hospital they acquired in 2011.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital

 

The acquisition of Palmyra Medical Center, which had been Phoebe’s only competitor in the Albany region, drew vigorous opposition from the Federal Trade Commission, which sued to stop the deal.

The FTC and Phoebe Putney reached a preliminary agreement last year to settle the lawsuit. The federal agency had been waiting for the Georgia Department of Community Health’s decision on the CON matter before it decided whether to finalize the settlement deal. full story

Two central Georgia hospitals look to team up

Two hospital systems in Middle Georgia announced Tuesday that they intend to form a partnership, in a move that reflects the constant consolidation of health care organizations.

The deal will not be a merger or acquisition, but it will have some financial aspect to it, said leaders of Milledgeville-based Oconee Regional Health Systems and Macon-based Central Georgia Health System.

Medical Center of Central Georgia

Medical Center of Central Georgia

Ninfa Saunders, CEO of Central Georgia and the Medical Center of Central Georgia, said the partnership’s primary goal is to improve the value of health care for patients, medical providers and insurers.

“This partnership will allow our health system to keep its identity intact while greatly enhancing the patient-focused health care we have provided our local residents for so many years,” Jean Aycock, CEO of Oconee Regional Health Systems and Oconee Regional Medical Center, said in a statement.

The nonprofit Milledgeville hospital, though, recently suffered a credit downgrade from Standard & Poor’s from B to CCC. full story

Georgia still a national leader in health IT

An industry magazine’s list of top U.S. health care IT companies again shows a heavy Georgia presence.

Healthcare Informatics Magazine lists eight Georgia-based companies in its top 100 health IT companies in 2014, based on revenues from the previous year.

logoMcKesson, based in Alpharetta, is again ranked as the No. 1 company in the industry. The company, with $3.4 million in revenues, has topped the magazine’s list for seven straight years.

Others in the top 100 include Alpharetta-based MedAssets, at No. 17; Greenway Health, based in Carrollton, at No. 32; and HealthPort Technologies, based in Alpharetta, at No. 36. full story

Cost is a big question, and here’s an answer

Millions of Americans have no health insurance. Millions of others have health coverage that includes high deductibles.

Both these groups often have to pay upfront for the whole cost of a medical procedure or a visit to a doctor. And these prices can have wide variation, even within a single community.

Healthcare CostYet there’s little if any information publicly available that helps such individuals compare prices.

Three major health insurers are doing something about that. UnitedHealthcare’s parent company, along with Humana and Aetna, are leading an industry initiative
to make medical price information available to consumers on the Internet.

The independent nonprofit Health Care Cost Institute will create and administer this online portal, expected to be available in January.

Separately, a health care website Monday rolled out some price information for people who “self-pay” — or have no insurance — in various markets around the country.

Georgia consumers can find out what the estimated self-pay price is for procedures at facilities run by the hospital chain HCA on clearhealthcosts.com. full story

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