Piedmont quitting Georgia Hospital Association

Piedmont Healthcare and its 11 hospitals are leaving the Georgia Hospital Association, a major blow to the finances and prestige of the health industry group.

Industry officials told Georgia Health News on Friday that the nonprofit Piedmont system, which is based in Atlanta, isn’t happy about the GHA leadership’s lack of support among key lawmakers and the Governor’s Office. Lobbying state government is a big part of the group’s function.

GHA, which now represents more than 170 hospitals in the state, said Piedmont is trying to save money by not renewing its GHA membership for 2020. The Piedmont system is believed to pay more than $500,000 in annual membership dues to the organization.

Piedmont’s “leadership made a business decision to spend on other priorities,’’ said GHA President Earl Rogers in a statement Friday.

Piedmont, in a statement late Friday, said, “As an organization, we take seriously our responsibility to improve quality and control the rising cost of health care. Our GHA dues have increased over recent years to a point that we can no longer ignore. We have taken the same approach to all areas within Piedmont, which has allowed us to keep our cost per unit in line with the substantial pressure we are seeing on the quality of the revenue stream.”

The Piedmont departure follows a year, 2019, in which hospitals fought hard and sometimes unsuccessfully in the Legislature against proposed health care regulatory changes.

Piedmont Athens Regional

One proposal that passed despite industry opposition was the lifting of state limits on the Cancer Treatment Centers of America facility in Newnan.

Also because of legislation passed in 2019, nonprofit hospitals in Georgia face new financial disclosure requirements. These rules include reporting of top salaries, property holdings and business ventures.

Rogers said in his statement that “GHA firmly believes in the importance of strength in numbers and a unified voice for the hospital industry.’’

“GHA is certainly disappointed by the Piedmont decision; however, we respect their leadership’s right to choose where resources are allocated and we wish Piedmont well.’’

Piedmont’s leaving of GHA is the biggest loss for the association since HCA, a Tennessee-based chain with some hospitals in Georgia, departed in the 1990s over differences on regulatory issues. HCA later rejoined the association.