Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fight Looms over Bill for Hospital Services

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fight Looms over Bill for Hospital Services

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Lawmakers are preparing for another medical industry

fight over whether to repeal a Georgia law requiring hospitals

to prove a need for new services before they can be approved and

implemented.

At stake is the survival of rural hospitals, say Reps. Buddy

Childers, D-Rome, and Alan Powell, D-Hartwell, who are pushing

two bills that would do away with Certificates of Need.

A repeal would increase competition and make services more

readily available to consumers, supporters say.

But opponents argue the move would make it easier for a handful

of big health care corporations, like Columbia-HCA, to dominate

the Georgia market and dictate who gets service where -- and at

what cost.

"It sounds nice to say, `Let's have competition,' but public

dollars go to all these institutions. Need is dictated by the

health of the population, not consumer demand," said Rep. Nan

Orrock, D-Atlanta, a member of the House Health and Ecology

Committee.

The House and Senate committees that handle health care bills

heard testimony this week on the issue in anticipation of

considering the repeal during the next General Assembly

session, which begins in January.

Opponents stalled a Certificate of Need repeal bill in the

House last year.

Not-for-profit hospitals, which traditionally offer more

charity care than for-profit hospitals, fear providers such as

ColumbiaHCA would "cherry-pick" the most profitable cases and

refuse to offer money-losing services, such as neonatal

intensive care.

Appling Health Care System CEO Luther Reeves advocated

lessening state controls over his operations, saying that moving

into the home health care business is the key to his Baxley

hospital's survival.

But Orrock countered that unchecked expansion into home health

care is just a race for public money.

About 97 percent of home health care visits are covered by

Medicaid, according to the State Health Care Planning Agency,

the department that issues Certificates of Need. …

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