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Feds vow flexibility on ramping up Medicaid

A top federal health official said Wednesday that his agency would welcome talks with Georgia leaders about any proposal resembling a Medicaid expansion plan.

smslogo“We’re open for business,’’ Andy Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told reporters during an Atlanta visit. The feds would be a “willing and eager partner’’ in such discussions.

Medicaid expansion, as outlined under the Affordable Care Act, extends the program’s coverage to more uninsured people. States must agree to this move, and Georgia’s political leadership has rejected expansion due to concerns about cost. Recently, though, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce launched a plan to study ideas about broadening Georgians’ access to care.

Separately, Slavitt also said CMS would be willing to look at a Medicaid “waiver’’ plan such as the one proposed by Atlanta’s Grady Health System, which seeks to cover more uninsured Georgians. He also emphasized that a waiver proposal would bring a different set of parameters and funding than an expansion-like plan. full story

Commentary: Reducing premature births

Georgia recently slipped from a grade of “C” to a “D” on the March of Dimes Premature Birth Report Card.

Callan Wells

Callan Wells

A big reason for premature births is poor health of mothers before they become pregnant, experts say.

In a new GHN Commentary, Callan Wells of the Georgia Legal Services Program says that if the state government wants to lower Georgia’s premature births, “it should start by publicizing available health programs and help women get enrolled and use their benefits fully.”

Wells cites a little-known Medicaid program as an example.

Here’s a link to her Commentary.

Georgia Health News welcomes Commentary submissions. If you would like to propose a Commentary piece for Georgia Health News, please email Andy Miller, editor of GHN, at

Another rural hospital going out of business

A rural hospital in northwest Georgia, burdened by a heavy debt load and large financial losses, is set to close Dec. 4.

Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe would be the fifth rural Georgia hospital to shut its doors since 2013.

Hutcheson Medical Center

Hutcheson Medical Center

A bankruptcy court judge issued the order for the closure this week, the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.

Hospital employees were told of the closing date on Thursday, according to the Walker County Messenger/Catoosa County News.

The Hutcheson CEO, Farrell Hayes, declined comment Friday on the closure, referring GHN to the trustee appointed by a bankruptcy court judge to oversee hospital operations during its Chapter 11 reorganization. Trustee Ron Glass could not be reached for comment. full story

A verbal showdown over cancer hospital proposal

A patient’s right to choose. Legislative authority on health care. “Cherry picking’’ the privately insured.

These themes highlighted the vehement arguments made at a state agency hearing in Atlanta on Tuesday as advocates and critics clashed over a proposal to eliminate state requirements for a Newnan cancer hospital.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America's hospital in Newnan

Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s hospital in Newnan

The Department of Community Health’s board will vote next month on the controversial proposal to allow Cancer Treatment Centers of America’s Georgia facility to reclassify as a general acute-care hospital.

The idea has generated strong reactions within political and health care circles. Leaders of key health committees in the Georgia Senate and House have voiced their concerns about the rule change.

The proposal, if it gains final approval from the board, would allow CTCA to seek a reclassification as a general hospital. And if the cancer hospital wins a “certificate of need’’ (CON) for that change, it could then avoid the current restriction of having no more than 35 percent of its patients come from Georgia. full story

Unsuccessful bidders protest state health contract

Three losing bidders have filed a protest over the state’s selection of vendors for a multibillion-dollar Medicaid and PeachCare contract.

Healthcare CostLast month, four companies – Amerigroup, Peach State, WellCare and CareSource — were picked as winners of the contract to serve lower-income adults and children in Georgia.

The contract for the “Care Management Organizations’’ is worth an estimated $4 billion over six years. The launch date for the new contract is July 1.

But unsuccessful bidders Americhoice (a unit of UnitedHealthcare), Humana and AmeriHealth Caritas have appealed that decision by the Department of Administrative Services, which handles contracting in Georgia. full story

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