House Panel Urges Changes to Stop Decline of Rural Health Care

Georgia House members have approved a set of bold proposals to strengthen rural health care in the state. According to Georgia Health News, “The recommendations from the House Rural Development Council include expanding insurance coverage through a Medicaid “waiver’’ project and making a fundamental change in the state’s licensing laws known as Certificate of Need (CON).” The proposals include streamlined billing for health services, requiring nursing homes to have telemedicine capability, and allowing expanded responsibility for health care providers who are not physicians.

Rural health care problems have been a prime focus of GA political leaders six rural hospitals have closed in Georgia since 2013, with 2 of them reopening as downsized facilities. In addition, of the 159 counties, 6 have no physician, 63 have no pediatrician, 66 without a general surgeon, and a whopping 79 without an OB/GYN. The medical provider shortage is only expected to deepen. The council also made recommendations “to boost the rural Georgia economy on the issues of general workforce, broadband Internet access, development and education.” State Rep. Terry England expressed that the troubling rural Georgia issues are intertwined, “if healthcare is not available in a rural area, economic development will never happen.”

Below are a few recommendations from the council:

·         Providing liability premium relief for medical providers who practice in rural counties, have extended hours and meet certain other conditions.

·         Creating a Rural Center for Health Care Innovation and Sustainability, which will provide mandatory training for hospital CEOs, board and authority members.

·         Enabling the Department of Community Health to develop an 1115 Medicaid waiver for a five-year demonstration project to shift to a delivery model with care coordination for the uninsured who are at 100 percent of the federal poverty level or below.

According to Georgia Health News, “the waiver idea would focus on using federal matching Medicaid dollars to help set up pilot sites that would give coverage to the uninsured, then manage their care and potentially improve their health.” Grady in Atlanta, Memorial Health in Savannah, and a small group of rural hospitals were seen as the initial sites in the coverage plan. To read more, click here.

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