Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp.'s Georgia division has rejoined the Georgia Hospital Association after the association said it would avoid taking positions on controversial issues that split its membership.
Earlier this year, Columbia pulled 18 of its 19 Georgia hospitals out of the association over a certificate-of-need policy dispute. The association had opposed weakening the state's tough CON law, which would have allowed Columbia to offer open-heart and obstetric services for managed-care contracting (March 25, p. 66).
However, the association's membership is split over the CON issue, said Joseph Parker, GHA president. Some 180 hospitals and health systems are members of the 67-year-old association.
The new policy would apply to controversial issues before the state Legislature or Congress when there are deeply divided positions among hospitals.
"Our new policy is that when there is a significant difference of opinion within the membership, the association will take a position of not taking one position over another," Parker said.
In effect, the GHA will remain silent on CON. A bill to revamp CON narrowly failed in the Georgia House earlier this year. Experts believe the issue will resurface in the Legislature next year.
Parker said Columbia was not given extra seats on the association's 20-member board or offered additional committee positions to gain the company's return. Only one Columbia executive currently sits on the GHA board.
"We need to have a united front to do a better job on issues such as Medicaid and Medicare," Parker said. "Columbia will help us."
Columbia hospitals accounted for about 10% of the GHA membership and $3 million annual budget. Parker said the association has received Columbia's dues for the remainder of this year.
Parker said the GHA board adopted the new policy after an in-depth statewide survey of all association members on advocacy and representation.