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Hospitals get financial rewards . . . or do they?

A majority of Georgia hospitals will get performance bonuses from Medicare for their quality of care, federal data show.

The 59 percent of Georgia hospitals getting the financial reward exceeds the national average of 55 percent, according to a Kaiser Health News article. The bonuses come from measurements that include patient satisfaction, lower death rates and how much patients cost Medicare.

Healthcare CostMeanwhile, 40 percent of the Georgia hospitals subject to the measurements are being penalized for quality-of-care problems, while 1 percent broke even in the Medicare quality category.

An official with the Georgia Hospital Association, when asked by GHN to comment on the bonuses Thursday, said, “We are proud of the fact that of the 10 states with the most hospitals assessed in the study, Georgia leads them all with 59 percent of its 99 hospitals receiving the quality bonus.”

“The Georgia hospital community still has a lot of work to do make great care even safer, but these numbers demonstrate that we are moving in the right direction,’’ said Kevin Bloye, a Georgia Hospital Association vice president.

Kaiser Health News reported that many of the bonuses nationally will be offset by hospital penalties that the government has also established as a part of the Affordable Care Act.

Fewer than 800 of the 1,700 hospitals that earned these bonuses nationally will actually receive extra money, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis. full story

Will Ga. hospital group go to bat for expansion?

Unlike its counterparts in other states, the Georgia Hospital Association has not been seen as actively advocating for Medicaid expansion.

A number of states have expanded their Medicaid programs, making more low-income people eligible for benefits and thus helping hospitals financially by reducing their numbers of uninsured patients.

Hospital Outpatient Entrance SignBut expansion has gone nowhere in Georgia. Gov. Nathan Deal and his fellow Republicans who dominate the General Assembly have made a point of blocking such a move, saying it would cost the state too much money.

Just last week, Georgia House Speaker David Ralston slammed the door on the idea once again. “I haven’t heard any widespread regret in Georgia on our decision not to expand Medicaid,” said Ralston, as reported by Tom Crawford in his Georgia Report.

But in recent days, Georgia’s biggest hospital association has crafted a proposal to the state that would include Medicaid expansion, and the group says the plan would be both beneficial and fiscally wise.

The GHA proposal, obtained by Georgia Health News,  calls for the state to take advantage of the federal government’s commitment to absorb 100 percent of the costs of expanding the program until 2017.

The plan urges the state to use $6.1 billion in federal funds to extend coverage for uninsured Georgians, with services delivered through the existing Medicaid managed care companies for two state fiscal years.   full story

Emory Healthcare chief jumps to Michigan system

In a move that caught industry experts by surprise, the president and CEO of Emory Healthcare announced Wednesday that he is leaving those jobs for the same positions with a Detroit-based health system.

John Fox

John Fox

John Fox will begin his tenure at Beaumont Health System in March. The Michigan system was formed in September through a consolidation of Beaumont Health System, Oakwood Healthcare and Botsford Health Care.

“While leaving Emory Healthcare is a difficult decision, the challenge of leading Beaumont Health System, as well as the opportunity to be closer to family, played a significant role in this decision,” Fox said in a statement.

At least on paper, the nonprofit Beaumont appears to be a larger health system than Emory, having net revenues of nearly $4 billion and consisting of eight hospitals with 3,337 beds, 153 outpatient sites, 5,000 physicians, more than 33,000 employees and 3,500 volunteers.

Emory Healthcare, with about $2.7 billion in annual revenue, has six hospitals, 200 provider locations and 1,800 physicians.

Its flagship Atlanta hospital, Emory University Hospital, has gained national attention in recent months for its role in the fight against Ebola. It was the first U.S. facility ever to treat an Ebola patient, and Emory has successfully treated all four Ebola patients admitted there. full story

Feds punish 29 Ga. hospitals over harm to patients

The federal government is cutting payments to 29 Georgia hospitals for high levels of infections and patient injuries in the facilities.

The new Medicare crackdown on hospital-acquired infections and preventable injuries is similar to the existing federal penalties on excessive readmissions of patients within 30 days after discharge.

Overall, 721 U.S. hospitals are getting the new penalties, which means they will have their Medicare payments lowered by 1 percent.

WellStar Kennestone in Marietta

WellStar Kennestone in Marietta

The Georgia hospitals being penalized include some of the largest and best known in the state.

In the metro Atlanta area,  Emory University Hospital, Grady Memorial, WellStar Kennestone, Piedmont Hospital and Atlanta Medical Center are among those receiving cuts. full story

Hospitals cutting payrolls to cope with hard times

A recent series of job cuts shows that tough financial times remain for the state’s hospitals – and may get worse next year, experts say.

The biggest cuts have come in two hospital systems in Columbus.

Columbus Regional Health eliminated 219 positions in a cost-reduction move in November. The cuts came after a $17 million operating loss in fiscal 2013 and a similar loss in fiscal 2014, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported. The job cuts included 99 terminations.

Later in the month, St. Francis Hospital, also in Columbus, eliminated 65 filled positions and 15 vacant positions while grappling with a $30 million accounting inaccuracy it discovered in October.

Newton Medical Center

Newton Medical Center

And last Friday, 23 employees of Newton Medical Center in Covington were affected by staff cuts, the Rockdale Citizen reported.

The layoffs are not at the level that Georgia hospitals pursued during the depths of the recession. And they may be partly a sign of necessary belt-tightening during difficult times.

Still, hospital industry officials see that the current revenue trends aren’t positive. full story

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