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Health Reform

Atlanta’s Piedmont system landing new hospital

Just two days after WellStar announced plans to add another hospital, a second metro Atlanta health system says it’s making a similar deal.

Atlanta-based Piedmont Healthcare said Thursday that it plans to bring Newton Medical Center in Covington into its group of hospitals.

Newton Medical Center

Newton Medical Center

The deal will involve a long-term lease of assets from the Newton County Hospital Authority, and when the agreement takes effect, Newton Medical will become a subsidiary of Piedmont, officials said.

The announcement follows Tuesday’s news that Marietta-based WellStar Health System aims to take West Georgia Health in LaGrange into its fold. West Georgia Medical Center would become the sixth hospital in the nonprofit WellStar system, though it’s the first one not in Atlanta’s suburbs.

The moves continue the rapid consolidation among hospitals in Georgia and nationally, as they face dramatic changes in the way they’re paid for services. Part of that stems from provisions in the Affordable Care Act.  full story

WellStar expanding reach in LaGrange hospital deal

Marietta-based WellStar is planning to add another hospital system to its fold, one that’s outside its current geographical sweet spot.

West Georgia Health in LaGrange announced Tuesday that it has signed a letter of intent to join WellStar Health System, which dominates the northwest Atlanta suburbs.

West Georgia Health in LaGrange

West Georgia Health in LaGrange

The CEO of West Georgia, Jerry Fulks, cited the changes rampant in health care payments — many of which were ignited by the Affordable Care Act — for his system’s yearlong pursuit of a partner.

West Georgia Medical Center would become the sixth hospital in the nonprofit WellStar system, though it’s the first one that’s not in Atlanta’s suburbs.

Meanwhile, WellStar is still working on a potential blockbuster merger with Emory Healthcare in metro Atlanta.

Fulks said Tuesday that West Georgia Health, the parent of the medical center, was seeking a partner with at least $1 billion in revenues, which WellStar surpasses. “We wanted an organization that’s focused on physicians and employees,’’ Fulks added.   full story

Grady outlines plan to transform care for uninsured

Grady Health System realized it couldn’t count on Medicaid expansion anytime soon, so it went looking for a different path.

Expansion, already implemented in a number of other states, would have extended coverage to hundreds of thousands of low-income Georgians – turning them into paying patients. By doing that, it would have helped Atlanta’s Grady Memorial and other hospitals offset deep federal cuts looming from the Affordable Care Act.

But Gov. Nathan Deal and the Republican-led Georgia General Assembly stood firmly opposed to expanding Medicaid because of the cost.

Grady Memorial Hospital

Grady Memorial Hospital

So Grady officials began to envision a smaller-scale insurance program that could avoid the political and financial pitfalls that accompany a Medicaid initiative.

What they and state officials are proposing is a plan where federal matching Medicaid dollars would be used to help set up pilot sites that would give coverage to the uninsured, then manage their care and potentially improve their health.

Grady in Atlanta, Memorial Health in Savannah, and a small group of rural hospitals are seen as the initial players in the coverage plan. full story

Health legislation — Who won and who lost?

With the 2015 General Assembly session ending last week, here’s a list of the health care winners and losers during the 40 days of the Legislature.

clipboardAgree with GHN’s list? What did we leave out? Let us know . . .

Winners from the Legislative session:

Children’s health – Medical cannabis use was legalized for children with seizure disorders, so Georgia families living in Colorado to get access to the medicine can return home. Legislation was approved to require insurers to cover applied behavior analysis for young children with autism.

Primary care doctors and ob/gyns – They got a long-delayed pay bump of $23 million in state funds for treating Medicaid patients, which will be matched by an even higher amount from the feds.

The hospital industry – It lobbied hard and protected itself from changes to the state’s regulations for health care facilities, known as CON laws. (But hospitals got no legislative action on expanding Medicaid, a step that has buoyed the finances of struggling health care facilities in other states.) full story

Emory, Aetna create latest ACO care model

Emory Healthcare and Aetna are teaming up in a collaboration known as an “accountable care organization’’ (ACO), which aims to enhance patient care and reduce costs.

ACOs are networks of hospitals and doctors — and sometimes insurers — that arose as a central feature of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

aetMedical providers in ACOs typically are rewarded based on the quality of care they provide. Under a special Medicare program, the organizations get paid more for keeping their patients healthy and out of the hospital. Several ACOs have been formed in Georgia.

The ACO announcement Thursday did not mention Emory’s potential merger with rival WellStar Health System, nor what role the Aetna ACO might have in a merged entity.

Emory and WellStar, both major players in the metro Atlanta market, are currently in talks to merge their health care assets into a new medical powerhouse. full story

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