Here’s an interesting story. Down in Albany, the Dougherty County Commission is considering next year’s health care options for county employees. The commissioners are having trouble agreeing to a health care benefits package in which employees can use both of the local hospitals, Palmyra Medical Center and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. Under a current exclusive proposal, county employees would only be able to use Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. At the County Commission meeting on October 13th, Commissioner Jack Stone asked an important question: “Is there a plan in place that allows county employees to use both hospitals?” It seems pretty intuitive that county employees should have the option to choose where they receive medical care. For too long however, county employees and others in southwest Georgia have been without real choice when it comes to health care.
Fortunately, the winds of competition have started blowing. Several months ago, a lawsuit was filed to bring more competition to the Albany health care market. Additionally, Palmyra Hospital filed a letter of intent under the new Certificate of Need (CON) law to bring competition to the baby delivering business. And now, the Dougherty County Commission is in a position to select a health care benefits package that will provide county employees with a choice in where to go for medical services.
Only a nonexclusive health care benefits package that enables county employees to choose where they receive medical care will deliver true patient choice. Patient choice can increase health care quality and assist in the managing of health care costs. Empowering patients to have a choice will reap huge benefits for Dougherty County.
Patient choice will not only keep the price of health care down, but also empower Georgians to make their own decisions regarding their health care provider. Albany citizens need and deserve the benefits of choice and competition to ensure they are able to pick the hospitals that they believe will provide the best care for them.
Nothing could be more vital to the greater Albany community than ensuring families are given the highest possible quality of care. Competition, along with prudent regulation, is a vital tool in providing quality control.
The County Commission has the opportunity to give county employees a real choice in where they receive health care by selecting a nonexclusive health care benefits package that includes coverage for both Palmyra Medical Center and Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. The Commission urgently needs to make a decision that works for everyone so it doesn’t end up settling last minute on an exclusive – and harmful – health care plan that maintains the status quo. This issue is on the table for discussion at the next Commission meeting, on Monday, November 3rd.