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‘Balance billing’ draws legislative scrutiny

A patient scheduled for surgery makes sure that both the hospital and surgeon are in the health plan’s network prior to the operation.

Sen. Renee Unterman

Sen. Renee Unterman

But after the surgery, a surprise bill arrives for hundreds of dollars. It turns out that the anesthesiologist used in the procedure was not in the patient’s insurance network – and the patient had no idea.

Such “balance billing’’ situations often confound and upset consumers receiving medical care – and can lead to tough collections practices.

A state legislative panel hearing Thursday discussed surprise billing for medical care. The subcommittee was chaired by state Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford), who said she has heard from many constituents complaining about medical debt, bankruptcies due to medical bills, and credit rating downgrades.

“It’s so hard on the consumer,’’ said Unterman, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

Physicians and members of the hospital and insurance industries testified on surprise medical bills, pointing to varying reasons for their use. They agreed, though, that it’s something that can hit consumers hard. full story

Suwanee medical school starting PA program

The Georgia campus of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine has been approved to launch a physician assistant program.

GAPCOM-logo (2)The two-year master’s degree program will begin next June, with 20 students in the first class. The Georgia campus of PCOM is in Suwanee, a northeastern suburb of Atlanta.

Physician assistants practice medicine with supervision by licensed physicians, delivering a range of medical services in a variety of settings.

The number of PAs in Georgia has increased by 67 percent over the past 10 years, now surpassing 3,000. Still, experts say there’s a shortage of them in the state. full story

Ebola work reflects Health Connect South’s goal

Dr. Ian Crozier was caring for Ebola-infected people in Sierra Leone in 2014 when he contracted the disease himself.

The 44-year-old physician flew to Atlanta and was placed in the special isolation unit at Emory University Hospital. Crozier, known as “Patient 3” at Emory to protect his identity, was very sick, with multiple organ failure.


Later, after he was successfully treated and discharged, the Ebola virus was found in his eye. That brought Crozier back to the Emory unit for more treatment.

Crozier will be among several veterans of the Ebola response effort who will reassemble at a conference in Atlanta next Wednesday.

Health Connect South will bring together, along with Crozier,  the CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden; the medical director of the Emory isolation unit, Dr. Bruce Ribner; Georgia’s public health chief, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald; and Georgia hospital officials, among others. full story

Commentary: This shouldn’t happen to women

A northwest Georgia hospital, in financial peril, shut down its labor and delivery services this week.

Dr. Carla Roberts

Dr. Carla Roberts

Hutcheson Medical Center in Fort Oglethorpe joined many other Georgia hospitals that have given up obstetrical services, citing costs.

In a new GHN Commentary, Dr. Carla Roberts, a founding partner of Reproductive Surgical Specialists at Northside Forsyth Hospital, argues that these obstetrics closures, coupled with a high maternal mortality rate, constitute a “war on women.’’ She doesn’t use this controversial term to make a partisan point, but she doesn’t use it lightly, either.

“Good prenatal care requires 10 prenatal visits,” Roberts writes. “Georgia Medicaid currently reimburses each physician $300 in toto for these 10 visits. That is $30 per visit.” And malpractice insurance remains expensive, she says.

Roberts calls for a legislative solution to these problems.

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


Deal shows clout of Georgia health IT

MEA|NEA, a health IT company based in the Atlanta suburb of Norcross, announced Tuesday that it has acquired another company in the industry, the White Stone Group.

Stethoscope on a computer keyboardThe combined company has more than 1 million customers in the medical and dental markets.

MEA|NEA said it will form two complementary business units — one focused on providers, patients and insurers in dental care, and the other focused on medical care.

A private company, MEA|NEA will maintain operations in Norcross and in Knoxville, Tenn. full story

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