State officials said Tuesday that they plan to increase the number of insurers and health plan options for state employees and teachers next year. The State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP) has been a target of fierce criticism since Jan. 1. That’s when changes to its benefit design, plus the use of just one insurer, sparked widespread complaints from teachers and state employees about a lack of choice of insurance plans and higher health care costs.
Last year, a bill that would renew a financing mechanism for the state’s Medicaid program hurtled irresistibly through the Georgia General Assembly. Gov. Nathan Deal signed it into law almost as soon as it was passed. The main part of the provider fee was eventually approved by the feds last year. But a second part of that provider fee, aimed at helping hospitals that were financial “losers’’ under the original distribution formula, has still not been approved.
Georgia’s high-profile hospital antitrust saga may not be over after all. The Federal Trade Commission is asking a state agency whether a potential divestiture of the Albany hospital that Phoebe Putney acquired in 2011 would require regulatory approval. Last August, the FTC and Phoebe Putney Health System announced they were settling the agency’s long-running antitrust suit over the hospital acquisition. But that deal has not yet been finalized.
In the wake of some recent closures of rural Georgia hospitals, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Wednesday an initiative to help such facilities survive tough financial times. Deal said he is proposing a change in licensure rules that would allow a struggling rural hospital — or one that has recently closed — to offer downsized services that would include an emergency department.
Rural health care may get a needed boost under a proposed regulation change that would allow a hospital to downsize its services, the commissioner of a Georgia health agency said Thursday. Clyde Reese, commissioner of the Department of Community Health, said he would ask the board of the agency to promulgate rules for such a “step-down” facility.
The physician pay hike for Medicaid services is finally beginning to reach Georgia doctors, more than a year after it was intended to take effect. The three managed care organizations serving the majority of Medicaid beneficiaries are sending the extra payments to physicians starting this month, according to a schedule released by the Department of Community Health.
A state agency offered some financial relief to state employees and teachers Monday by approving changes in their health plan at a specially called board meeting. The sudden action by the Department of Community Health board follows a deluge of complaints from members of the State Health Benefit Plan, which also covers other school personnel, state retirees and dependents.
Nearly a year after it was supposed to take effect, the physician pay hike for Medicaid services still hasn’t been fully implemented in Georgia and other states. The delays have come in states, including Georgia, that use managed care in their Medicaid programs, a physicians organization says.
The commissioner of the Department of Community Health on Thursday upheld the award of the state employees’ health benefits contract to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia. Clyde Reese, the DCH commissioner, also upheld the award of the pharmacy benefits management contract to Express Scripts. The contract award sparked intense criticism from UnitedHealthcare, which charged that the bidding process was flawed and needed to be redone.
Attorneys for UnitedHealthcare continued hammering away at the state’s award of an employee benefits contract to a competitor, saying Wednesday that it was a deeply flawed bidding process that needs to be redone. United currently holds the SHBP contract, along with Cigna, which has also protested the award.