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Health Costs

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

Hepatitis C: The high cost of a cure

Probably the biggest ethical dilemma now confronting the health care world involves two expensive new drugs to treat hepatitis C.

The issue boils down to a tradeoff between efficacy and cost.

iStock_000017543934SmallOne drug, Sovaldi, has a 90 percent cure rate for newly infected patients – much better than previously available treatments for hepatitis C. It also costs $84,000 for a 12-week treatment – basically $1,000 per day.

The second drug, Olysio, is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients.

Some patients face even longer treatment periods – and higher costs.

Georgia Medicaid covers the drugs, though with some restrictions, for its 1.6 million beneficiaries. In March, Georgia’s Drug Utilization Review Board recommended that Medicaid add Sovaldi and Olysio as “non-preferred,” and needing a state approval in each case.

In April, 107 Medicaid patients were taking Sovaldi, at a cost of  roughly $3 million per month to the program, though the state will receive a rebate that will lower that cost.

Still, physicians say the use of these two drugs is a breakthrough. “It really transformed treatment for hepatitis C,’’ Dr. Anjana Pillai, an Emory transplant hepatologist, told GHN on Tuesday. full story

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