Healthcare Business News

Regional News/South: Georgia takes steps to keep rural hospitals from closing, and other news

By Beth Kutscher and Rachel Landen
Posted: March 22, 2014 - 12:01 am ET

Georgia's Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has launched a three-prong proposal to protect the state's rural hospitals after a number of medical centers have closed their doors.

The proposals would lower the bar for rural hospitals to keep operating by allowing them to offer fewer services while still keeping their licensure. Rural hospitals that are in danger of closing or have closed in the past year can operate as free-standing emergency departments that will be able to stabilize patients until they can be transferred to a full-service hospital no more than 35 miles away.

The proposal also allows those hospitals to offer a limited number of other services, such as elective outpatient surgery, certain diagnostic procedures that do not require an operating room and obstetrical services for uncomplicated deliveries.

It also calls for placing a designated point person for rural hospitals in the state's Department of Community Health, and establishing a Rural Hospitals Stabilization Committee.

The health department's most recent hospital financial survey found that 55% of the state's rural hospitals had a negative operating margin in 2011, compared with 38% of state hospitals overall.

Georgia, which is not expanding Medicaid, has seen a number of hospital closures over the past year, including last month when Lower Oconee Community Hospital, a 25-bed critical-access facility, shut its doors. Three other rural hospitals in the state closed in 2013.

Follow Beth Kutscher on Twitter: @MHbkutscher

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WellPoint, Emory partner to create senior-care model

WellPoint is expanding its reach into healthcare with an announcement that the insurer's subsidiary, CareMore Health System, will partner with the Emory Healthcare Network in Atlanta on a new care model for seniors.

Under the agreement, Emory Healthcare Network plans to implement CareMore's clinical care model for reducing costs and increasing quality for Medicare Advantage patients. The collaboration will focus on value-based reimbursement and risk-based payment arrangements, while Emory adds more comprehensive care centers similar to CareMore's facilities.

CareMore already serves nearly 70,000 Medicare members in Arizona, California and Nevada through its health plans, comprehensive care centers and specialized healthcare programs for fall prevention and diabetes monitoring. With 200 provider locations and six hospitals in Georgia, Emory Healthcare Network is the first healthcare provider organization in the area to collaborate with CareMore on this kind of advising initiative, though it isn't a new concept for some organizations.

The American Academy of Family Physicians has been in the consulting arena since 2005 when it launched TransforMED, its subsidiary that works with primary-care practices to adopt the medical home model. Last year, TransforMED announced it had received a three-year, $20.8 million grant from the CMS' Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation to help 90 primary-care practices create an improved, lower-cost care delivery network.

Follow Rachel Landen on Twitter: @MHrlanden

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