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Hospitals

Potential merger sparks concern on prices

As merger talks continue between Emory Healthcare and WellStar Health System, a consumer advocacy group has voiced concerns about the potential impact of a deal in the metro Atlanta market.

Beth Stephens

Beth Stephens

Georgia Watch said such provider consolidation “is leading to higher prices for consumers with little to no improvement in the quality of care individuals receive.”

Beth Stephens, the group’s health access program director, also said she is concerned that the public comment period about the merger lacks transparency.

“We want to know what stakeholders are being engaged, and why consumer advocacy organizations are being left out of the conversation,” said Stephens, who submitted her organization’s comments to Emory and WellStar this week.

Emory and WellStar issued a statement Thursday that said the two organizations “remain in discussion on this initiative and anticipate providing additional information in early April. We look forward to engaging with the community throughout the planning process.’’   full story

Mandl named to top posts at Emory Healthcare

Emory University announced Wednesday that Michael J. Mandl will take over as president and CEO of the university’s health care operations.

Michael J. Mandl

Michael J. Mandl

Mandl currently serves as chairman of Emory Healthcare’s board of directors.

The appointment comes at a pivotal time for Emory Healthcare, which is in negotiations on a potential merger with another metro Atlanta medical heavyweight, WellStar Health System.

Mandl has led those merger discussions on behalf of Emory from the outset and will continue to do so, the university said.

He will replace John Fox, who surprised industry experts in leaving as Emory Healthcare CEO and president for the same positions with a Detroit-based health system. full story

Cancer hospital drops bid to ease rules . . . for now

Cancer Treatment Centers of America said Tuesday that it is dropping its effort to get a bill through this year’s General Assembly to expand its Newnan hospital’s capacity – and allow it to treat more Georgians.

But CTCA indicated that the fight is not over.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America's hospital in Newnan

Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s hospital in Newnan

The hospital chain had been supporting House Bill 482, sponsored by state Rep. Wendell Willard (R-Sandy Springs), which would have eliminated a requirement that 65 percent of the cancer hospital’s patients come from out of state. That rule was imposed by the Legislature in 2008 when it allowed CTCA to build the facility.

Willard’s legislation, which met ferocious opposition, also would have also allowed the cancer hospital to expand its bed capacity. full story

A hospital’s main strategy — survival

The CEO of Southern Regional Medical Center has her hands full.

The financially ailing hospital in Riverdale, in south metro Atlanta, has seen high levels of uncompensated care and a decrease in privately insured patients, among other negative payment trends.

Kim Ryan

Kim Ryan

Last year, a $50 million Clayton County bailout helped Southern Regional Medical Center step back from a financial cliff.

This week, facing continuing challenges, Southern Regional CEO Kim Ryan announced job cuts.

“We have made a commitment to increase efficiencies and reduce costs,” Ryan said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these measures required an organizational restructuring and the elimination of 80 positions, including management positions, throughout the health system.”

Ryan has met with county and community leaders over the past few weeks in an effort to obtain additional financial support, the hospital said.

Similar financial pain has spread across the Georgia hospital industry, from rural facilities to urban systems. full story

Legislators look at overhauling insurance laws

Georgia lawmakers considered insurance bills Wednesday that would create major changes in health plan networks in the state.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee first heard testimony on Senate Bill 143, which would require the state employee and teacher health plan to include the state’s five Level 1 trauma centers as “in-network” facilities.

That would help Grady Health System, a trauma center in Atlanta that is now “out-of-network” for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia members.

Blue Cross is the main insurer in the State Health Benefit Plan. So approval of Senate Bill 143 would make Grady in-network for the plan’s 630,000 members.

The state of Georgia has similar requirements with the health plans that serve Medicaid and PeachCare members, said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), lead sponsor of the bill. full story

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