While the General Assembly scrambles to figure out how to keep bridges from collapsing without raising taxes, another seemingly mountainous topic is creeping up: Healthcare. We’ve written about rural healthcare and the Grady/Blue Cross Blue Shield debacle, but those two problems don’t begin to scratch the surface of our healthcare situation. The Albany Herald did a very nice write up on the trends and surprises in Georgia’s healthcare outlook.
Affordable Care Act
The gift that keeps on giving
higher premiums is the main topic for discussion within the medical field. The law has extremely altered the healthcare industry. Governor Deal has firmly stated he is not willing to expand Medicaid; however, with Georgia’s hospitals screaming for financial assistance, could support for expansion grow?
The Georgia General Assembly passed laws last year to place obstacles to ACA implementation in the state. One prohibited the state from expanding Medicaid without legislative approval. Opponents of expansion say it’s too costly overall.
Advocates’ campaign for Medicaid expansion has gone nowhere in Georgia. Some Republican governors, including critics of the ACA, have accepted expansion in their states. But Gov. Nathan Deal has stood firmly against it here. And last year Deal easily defeated a pro-expansion Democrat.
I have said it before and I will say it again: Rural healthcare will be a major issue this session. Four rural hospitals closed in the past two years, 15 are facing serious financial woes, and six are on the verge of closing according to HomeTown Health, an organization representing rural hospitals. Additionally, only 75 of Georgia’s 180 hospitals have labor and delivery units.
The Herald summed up the most important question:
Georgia has seen four rural hospitals close in the past two years. Rural Georgia also has major shortages in primary care physicians. Will there be meaningful changes to help sustain rural health care this year, or will access to care in these areas continue to erode?
Certificate of Need
You will frequently read about Certificate of Need (CON) battles during this legislative session. The brewing battle over CON pits hospitals against physicians.
Meanwhile, hospitals are expected to defend the state regulatory apparatus against attempts by physician groups looking to operate doctor-owned multi-specialty surgery centers. This certificate-of-need battle is expected to heat up in the Georgia General Assembly.
State Representative Allen Peak’s HB1, also known as Haleigh’s Hope Act, would provide THC-reduced medical marijuana to children suffering from upwards of 100 seizures a day. The medicine has reduced the number of seizures in some of the kids to one or two a week. It is facing opposition and still has a long road to travel.
Children’s health issues figure to take a prominent profile when the Legislature convenes. A push for to allow children with seizure disorders to be treated with medical marijuana already has gathered momentum. Experts say that unlike last year, a bill to allow cannabis oil for children and other patients will probably pass the 2015 General Assembly.
It will be an interesting year in regards to healthcare. Seriously, keep your eye on health related issues. It’s bound to be wild.