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.
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.
Lower Oconee Community Hospital in southeast Georgia has closed due to financial problems, becoming the state’s fourth rural hospital to do so in the past two years. The 25-bed “critical access” hospital in Glenwood, in Wheeler County, is looking to restructure, its CEO said in a statement.
A safe prediction for the upcoming session of the Georgia General Assembly is that dozens of bills involving health care will be up for consideration. That’s the case every year under the Gold Dome. But given the likelihood this year of a short session, ending in mid-March, it’s also a good bet that many health bills will be sidetracked or stalled before they come to a vote. Here’s a roundup of some of the important legislative issues in health care.
Stratus Healthcare billed itself as the largest hospital alliance in the Southeast when it was formed this summer. Since then, health industry officials have wondered: What is this new collection of independent hospitals all about? If nothing else, Stratus is growing. The number of its hospitals has risen in a few months from 23 to 29.
New efforts to improve care coordination among hospitals, nursing homes and other providers are succeeding in reducing readmission rates, experts say. Georgia’s nursing homes and hospitals are collaborating more than ever to reduce readmissions, say officials with Georgia’s Quality Improvement Organization , a state-based group funded by Medicare to review medical care.
Mayo Clinic’s recently announced collaboration with a Columbus hospital may signal other Georgia ventures for the renowned Minnesota-based health system. St. Francis hospital will be the first Georgia organization to join the Mayo Clinic Care Network. Under the agreement, its physicians will be able to connect with Mayo specialists on questions of complex care using an electronic consulting technique. Mayo will also supply other informational tools.
As many as 15 rural hospitals in Georgia could close in the coming months, according to an industry spokesman. The facilities are losing millions of dollars in federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, at the same time that Georgia is not expanding Medicaid. Three rural hospitals have shut down this year in the state, and as many as 15 more may be closing their doors.
What happens when a rural community loses a hospital? Jobs disappear. Hopes for economic development fade. Residents look for a new route to the nearest hospital. Georgia has seen three rural hospitals close this year: Charlton Memorial Hospital in Folkston; Stewart-Webster Hospital in Richland; and Calhoun Memorial in Arlington.