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Georgians help a nation stretch its health resources

Mozambique, like many African countries, suffers from an array of health care problems.

Life expectancy there is just 50 years old. The adult HIV rate is 11 percent.

Mozambique (in dark blue)

Mozambique (in dark blue)

And, like many African nations, Mozambique has a shortage of skilled health care workers.

The World Health Organization recommends 235 health care workers per 100,000 population. Mozambique in 2012 had 75 workers per 100,000.

It’s that shortage that three Atlanta area organizations have teamed up to address.

The Task Force for Global Health, the CDC and a group of Georgia Tech students have produced a new Excel-based tool that can help a nation distribute health care workers more evenly around a country — ensuring that the sickest people have access to care.

The tool was developed for Mozambique, where it will be piloted this year. full story

Ordinary folks on the health care front lines

Barbara Ellington, a health care volunteer, is helping her Athens neighbors live healthier lives. She gives them sound advice on how to take care of themselves and when to seek medical treatment.

Taking Blood Pressure

Ellington received special training from nurses and health educators in Athens as part of the Community Health Partner Program.

Through that program, she and others have become a resource for people who have little access to health advice or medical care, as well as for those whose worlds are limited by lack of transportation or infirmity.

“I was able to educate my neighbor, and I got him to start taking his blood pressure medicine by telling him why it was important,” says Ellington, who completed the training in 2013 and uses what she learned on a regular basis. full story

A hospital’s main strategy — survival

The CEO of Southern Regional Medical Center has her hands full.

The financially ailing hospital in Riverdale, in south metro Atlanta, has seen high levels of uncompensated care and a decrease in privately insured patients, among other negative payment trends.

Kim Ryan

Kim Ryan

Last year, a $50 million Clayton County bailout helped Southern Regional Medical Center step back from a financial cliff.

This week, facing continuing challenges, Southern Regional CEO Kim Ryan announced job cuts.

“We have made a commitment to increase efficiencies and reduce costs,” Ryan said in a statement. “Unfortunately, these measures required an organizational restructuring and the elimination of 80 positions, including management positions, throughout the health system.”

Ryan has met with county and community leaders over the past few weeks in an effort to obtain additional financial support, the hospital said.

Similar financial pain has spread across the Georgia hospital industry, from rural facilities to urban systems. full story

A few words could affect millions of people

Benjamin Wills of Atlanta is among the more than 400,000 Georgians receiving a subsidy to afford health insurance in the Affordable Care Act exchange.

With the subsidy, Wills is paying a monthly premium of $370 for family medical and dental coverage through the exchange.


Benjamin Wills

If he loses the subsidy, Wills said Wednesday, he could be forced to drop his family’s dental coverage, and perhaps re-enroll his daughter in the government PeachCare program.

“The way [the ACA] is now is working for our family,’’ said Wills, who recently left a job with benefits to start a private Christian school in Atlanta.

The fate of the insurance subsidies – and the future of the Affordable Care Act in general – were on the line as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday on the legality of the credits in the exchanges in Georgia and 36 other states.

This case, King v. Burwell, is not officially a challenge to the ACA. Instead, the plaintiffs in the case say the law is not being followed. They argue that the subsidies, which help people afford coverage, are not permitted by the health law in the 37 states that have federally operated insurance exchanges.

After more than an hour of arguments in the case Wednesday, the justices appeared divided over the subsidies issue. full story

Legislators look at overhauling insurance laws

Georgia lawmakers considered insurance bills Wednesday that would create major changes in health plan networks in the state.

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

Sen. Chuck Hufstetler

The Senate Insurance and Labor Committee first heard testimony on Senate Bill 143, which would require the state employee and teacher health plan to include the state’s five Level 1 trauma centers as “in-network” facilities.

That would help Grady Health System, a trauma center in Atlanta that is now “out-of-network” for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia members.

Blue Cross is the main insurer in the State Health Benefit Plan. So approval of Senate Bill 143 would make Grady in-network for the plan’s 630,000 members.

The state of Georgia has similar requirements with the health plans that serve Medicaid and PeachCare members, said Sen. Chuck Hufstetler (R-Rome), lead sponsor of the bill. full story

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