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Health Costs

Deal shows clout of Georgia health IT

MEA|NEA, a health IT company based in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross, announced Tuesday that it has acquired another company in the industry, the White Stone Group.

Stethoscope on a computer keyboardThe combined company has more than 1 million customers in the medical and dental markets.

MEA|NEA said it will form two complementary business units — one focused on providers, patients and insurers in dental care, and the other focused on medical care.

A private company, MEA|NEA will maintain operations in Norcross and in Knoxville, Tenn. full story

‘Narrow’ networks are the exchange norm here

Georgia had the highest percentage of “narrow’’ insurance networks in the 2014 health exchanges, a new report says.

Healthcare CostFive of six Georgia “Silver” exchange plans last year had medical provider networks with a limited choice of doctors, the report said.

The 83 percent of Georgia plans having narrow networks surpassed that of all other states, according to University of Pennsylvania researchers.

The report, released Monday, said health insurers are using narrow networks to keep premiums down as consumers shop for coverage on the exchanges, created under the Affordable Care Act. full story

SHBP members get good news on prices

Most schoolteachers and state employees will see lower premiums for health care under their 2016 benefits plan unveiled Thursday.

Clyde Reese

Clyde Reese

Only people with a high-deductible plan from UnitedHealthcare will have an average increase next year, said Department of Community Health officials at an agency board meeting Thursday.

The health plan options will remain the same, as will employee co-pays, Community Health officials said.  This current year’s deductibles generally will be retained as well.

“We are going to focus on continuity and stability,’’ said Commissioner Clyde Reese, the head of the department. “Our members have had a lot of disruption.” full story

Surprising facts behind Ga.’s kidney transplant rate

The Southeast has the lowest rates of kidney transplantation by region, and Georgia is at the bottom among states.

That dismal ranking led a group of researchers to study how often kidney dialysis patients in Georgia are referred to transplant centers.

Rachel Patzer

Rachel Patzer

Their study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that just 28 percent of Georgia patients are referred to transplant facilities within the first year of dialysis treatment.

The low number of referrals came even though a transplant is considered the best treatment for most patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), which occurs when the kidneys stop working well enough for a person to live without dialysis or a transplant.

The study also found a big variation in the percentage of referrals among Georgia dialysis facilities – from zero to 75 percent. full story

Former state insurance chief wary of big mergers

The giant health insurance mergers now on the table would reduce the number of major national insurers from five to three.

John Oxendine, Georgia’s former insurance commissioner, believes that a Big Three is not enough for a competitive balance.

John Oxendine

John Oxendine

“Three is not competitive,’’ Oxendine told GHN last week in an interview. “My personal opinion is that it would be very bad for consumers.”

The two deals – Aetna buying Humana and Anthem buying Cigna – were each announced in July.  The former would double Aetna’s size in Georgia, while the latter would add to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia’s big membership lead over other insurers in the state. Anthem is Blue Cross’ parent company.

If both deals ultimately are approved by regulators and shareholders, the two combined companies, Aetna and Anthem, would be part of the new Big Three, with UnitedHealthcare being the other giant national player. full story

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