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Medicare

Most Georgia hospitals face readmission fines

Two-thirds of Georgia hospitals will receive Medicare fines for having too many discharged patients return within a month for additional care, federal data show.

The 67 percent of Georgia hospitals facing penalties is higher than the national average of 54 percent, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.

Piedmont Henry Hospital

Piedmont Henry Hospital

The readmission penalties, launched as part of the Affordable Care Act, seek to encourage hospitals to pay closer attention to what happens to patients after discharge.

Since the fines began, national readmission rates have declined, but roughly one of every five Medicare patients sent to the hospital ends up returning within a month of being released, Kaiser Health News’ Jordan Rau reported this week.

The fines will be applied to Medicare payments when the federal fiscal year 2016 begins in October. In this round, the average Medicare payment reduction is 0.61 percent per patient stay. Georgia’s average penalty is 0.47 percent.

The maximum possible fine is 3 percent. Piedmont Henry Hospital in Stockbridge will get the highest fine in Georgia, at 2.59 percent.  full story

Milestone: 50 years of Medicare and Medicaid

When signing the bill creating Medicare and Medicaid 50 years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson held the ceremony in Independence, Missouri, where former President Harry Truman lived.

Truman, who had pushed unsuccessfully for national health insurance during his own presidency, was at LBJ’s side during the signing. (And in one of those of odd coincidences of U.S. political history, the two presidents from different eras would die less than a month apart in the early 1970s.)

 

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare bill into law while former President Harry Truman (seated) looks on.

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Medicare bill into law while Harry Truman (seated) looks on.

The decades-long push to create the two health insurance programs was like “a long-distance run,’’ said Dr. David Satcher, a former U.S. surgeon general, at a Carter Center forum Wednesday.

Satcher added that it was also “like a relay race,’’ noting that Truman handed off the “baton’’ of national insurance to LBJ.

This week, federal officials along with many health care and community organizations are marking the 50th anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid, created July 30, 1965.   full story

Georgia trails other states in home health ratings

Just 12 percent of Georgia home health agencies received a superior 4-star or 5-star rating in a new Medicare quality ranking system for that industry.

home-health-stars-570The only states worse than Georgia in percentage of top-rated home health agencies were Alaska, with 0 percent, Washington state, with 3 percent,  Wyoming, with 4 percent, and Oregon, with 9 percent.

Most Georgia home health agencies (63 percent) received a 3-star or 3.5-star rating, while 25 percent got 2.5 stars or lower, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis.

The rankings for home health agencies, released last week, are the latest quality-based star ratings of medical providers from Medicare.

Such measures help provide more transparency for consumers to assess the care delivered by an organization. full story

A letter to GHN about kidney disease

To the Editor,

In 2004, I wasn’t feeling well and went to the doctor, only to find out that my kidneys weren’t working. I began dialysis immediately and was put on the waiting list for a transplant. This was the toughest thing I ever went through in my life, and I want to help others avoid what I went through.

Over 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease (CKD), yet only 10 percent are aware they have it. 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

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