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Key panel gives doctors a pay raise for Medicaid

A state Senate panel gave Georgia primary care doctors a potential financial boost Wednesday, putting millions of dollars into the state budget for a pay raise to deliver services to Medicaid patients.

The Senate Appropriations Committee passed a budget that awards $5.9 million in state funds for a Medicaid pay raise to ob/gyns, and $13.6 million to internists, pediatricians and family medicine physicians.

Dr. Evelyn Johnson of Brunswick says the pay raise will keep some doctors from closing their practices.

Dr. Evelyn Johnson of Brunswick says the pay raise will keep some doctors from closing their practices.

Those amounts surpass the House’s allocation of $3 million and $1.6 million to the respective groups.

The state funds would be matched by federal money.

The doctors can’t count on the raise yet. The Georgia budget has a ways to go before being finalized. full story

Georgia Medicaid official picked for top job

The Department of Community Health has tapped a current official to become the state’s new Medicaid chief.

Linda Wiant has served as pharmacy director for Georgia Medicaid since August 2011.

Linda Wiant

Linda Wiant

Her new appointment is effective March 16. She replaces Jerry Dubberly, who left the position of Georgia Medicaid director in January to take a job in the private sector.

“I believe Linda has the temperament, experience, perspective and approach to be a strong and effective leader of Georgia’s Medicaid program in this critical era of transformation of our nation’s health care system,” said Clyde Reese, commissioner of Community Health. “I am confident in her ability to work under the leadership of Governor [Nathan] Deal and my direction to shepherd the program into the future. I appreciate her willingness to assume this important role.”

As pharmacy director, Wiant has had daily responsibilities including oversight of the pharmacy claims processing system, the Pharmacy Benefit Manager, and a drug rebate program.

As Medicaid chief, Wiant will oversee services for about 1.9 million Georgians in Medicaid and PeachCare (the children’s health insurance program), with a state budget of more than $2.5 billion. full story

Rural health panel offers plan to cut ER use

A special state panel created by Gov. Nathan Deal has proposed a pilot program that would use telemedicine and other techniques to bolster rural health care in Georgia.

The Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee report, released Monday, supports a “hub and spoke’’ model to relieve the burden on rural hospital emergency rooms. It would use telemedicine-equipped ambulances to facilitate remote diagnoses of patients in rural areas.

clipboardTelemedicine basically is the transmission of video and digital vital signs of a patient to a physician at another location who can evaluate that information for a diagnosis. Georgia has been a pioneer in this field.

The four pilot sites would be based in hospitals that serve different rural regions of the state: Union General in Blairsville, Appling HealthCare in Baxley, Crisp Regional in Cordele and Emanuel Medical Center in Swainsboro.

The report of the Rural Hospital Stabilization committee makes no mention of the possibility of Medicaid expansion in the state, which is opposed by Deal and the Republican legislative leadership due to cost concerns. full story

Exchange enrollment soars past half a million

Powered by a late surge, Georgia’s enrollment in the 2015 health insurance exchange easily surpassed the half-million mark.

Federal officials said Wednesday that 536,929 Georgians selected a plan or were automatically re-enrolled in the state exchange. The Affordable Care Act provides for exchanges in all 50 states, and this is their second year of operation.

Sylvia Burwell

Sylvia Burwell

Open enrollment ended Sunday. The figures show that Georgia enrollment accelerated in the final two weeks, with more than 60,000 signing up. As of Feb. 6, 468,464 had enrolled in coverage in Georgia.

This year’s enrollment number far outpaces last year’s Georgia exchange total of 316,543, and exceeded many projections for the state.

Nationwide, about 11.4 million Americans selected exchange, or marketplace, plans or were automatically re-enrolled, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced. That was 10 percent more than expected, HHS said Wednesday. full story

Agency chief discusses contracts, benefits cutoff

This summer, the state’s main health agency will pick the winners of a multibillion-dollar annual contract to deliver health care to more than 1 million Georgians.

Clyde Reese

Clyde Reese

The Department of Community Health also plans to choose a vendor this year to coordinate the care of Medicaid beneficiaries who are elderly or disabled.

Clyde Reese, the commissioner of Community Health, gave an update on both mega-contracts Thursday at an agency board meeting.

He also said the department is close to naming a Medicaid chief to replace Jerry Dubberly, who recently left the position for a job in the private sector. Reese told GHN that the search has narrowed to two candidates, and that he anticipates the naming of the new director within a month.

And he addressed the controversy over the elimination of health benefits for part-time school workers who do not have education certificates. full story

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