The top 10 Georgia health stories of 2015

In a growing state where health-related news is happening every day, it was hard to whittle down the list. Give us your thoughts.


1.      Jimmy Carter diagnosed with cancer  The former U.S. president, the only Georgian ever to hold the office, announced in August that he had melanoma. But after treatment at Emory, the 91-year-old Carter, an international leader in public health awareness, reported that he was cancer-free.

2.      Medical cannabis approved  The General Assembly approved a bill to let Georgians with certain medical conditions use medical marijuana. That bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Allen Peake, now is pushing for legalized cultivation of medical cannabis in the state, so it will be more available to patients.

3.      Hospital consolidation picked up Large hospital systems in Georgia accelerated their push to find partners in the rapidly changing health care business. WellStar, Piedmont, Northside and Memorial Health were among the systems joining the consolidation drive, with plans to connect with or acquire other hospitals.

4.      Struggling hospitals sought lifelines While large health systems made deals to get even larger, some small ones sought deals just to survive. Southern Regional Medical Center in suburban Atlanta, at the financial brink, found an out-of-state buyer. Hutcheson Medical Center, in northwest Georgia, also landed a potential buyer, but only after closing its doors. Meanwhile, the state committed to helping a group of rural hospitals boost their revenues through telemedicine and other tactics.


5.      ACA exchange momentum got even stronger Half a million Georgians signed up for the 2015 health insurance exchange by mid-February (and as the year neared an end, a similar number had already enrolled for 2016 coverage). Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court preserved the viability of federally run exchanges, including Georgia’s, ruling that their consumer subsidies are legal under the ACA.

6.      Expansions of insurance coverage (and mergers) proposed It may not be Medicaid expansion, but the Georgia Chamber of Commerce set up a task force to study improving access to health care. Grady Health System sought to cover more uninsured through a waiver proposal. Meanwhile, big insurers Anthem and Cigna and Aetna and Humana planned mergers that will have a major effect in Georgia.

7.      HIV crisis grew in metro Atlanta  Atlanta was ranked No. 5 among U.S. metro areas for new diagnoses of HIV, and Georgia is a leading state for those new infections. The combined problems of poverty and lack of access to health care in Atlanta are driving forces behind the HIV epidemic, and they disproportionately affect the black community in Atlanta.

8.      Waycross cancer mystery Four children were diagnosed with rare cancers during the summer in the Ware County area, and public health officials and a federal health agency are investigating possible links to industrial contamination.

Lexi Crawford with her mother, Cristy, in their Waycross home. Lexi has rhabdomyosarcoma.
Lexi Crawford with her mother, Cristy, in their Waycross home. Lexi has rhabdomyosarcoma.

9.      Faster action urged on DOJ settlement A federal judge ordered the state of Georgia and the Department of Justice to come up with solutions faster for the problems lingering in the system that serves the developmentally disabled and people with serious mental illness.

10.  Cancer hospital hit two walls Cancer Treatment Centers of America sought to lift state-imposed restrictions on how many Georgians it can treat at its Newnan hospital. But the effort went nowhere in the Legislature, and a Georgia health agency declined to step in.

Hannah Lindquist in the hospital
Hannah Lindquist in the hospital

Other big stories included one for the record books: Hannah Lindquist, 18, became the first Georgia patient ever diagnosed with the once terrifying but now very rare disease known as the plague. She recovered after a week in a Thomasville hospital. She probably was bitten by an infected flea while hiking in the California wilderness, her family said.