More than a dozen GA hospitals may soon close doors

Three rural hospitals have closed in Georgia this year due to ongoing financial woes, and more than a dozen others may shut their doors soon, Georgia Public Broadcasting reported.

Hometown Health, a trade group representing 70 rural hospitals in the Peach State, made that dire prediction because many of its members have been operating in the red and have had heavy loads of uncompensated care.

Georgia's decision not to expand its Medicaid program as part of the Affordable Care Act will only exacerbate that situation.

"We lose economic development engines. We lose quality of care and access to patients in rural Georgia. And it becomes a tremendous event," Jimmy Lewis, Hometown Health's chief executive officer, told GPB. "We certainly can see the evolution and creation of a third world nation in our rural parts of Georgia simply by having destroyed the access to healthcare that we know is so vitally important to that population." He added that some patients in rural areas have recently had to be transported to hospitals in Florida for treatment.

Larger hospitals in urban areas have not escape unscathed, with facilities such as Phoebe Putney Health cutting more than 100 jobs.

The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion from 2014 through 2016, and 90 percent a year after that. However, Gov. Nathan Deal's administration said that the proposal is unworkable.

"If we expand Medicaid, we're on the hook for that 10 percent and most people believe, if they really look at it, that that 10 percent isn't going to stay 10 percent forever; that as the federal government looks for ways to pay off its $17 trillion debt, it's going to start cutting corners on the biggest expenses and Medicaid is going to be one of the biggest expenses," Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Deal told GPB. "So, it's going to be a prime target for future budget cutters on the federal level and we have to plan for that. It would be irresponsible to commit future Georgian's paychecks to a program that we already know is unaffordable."

To learn more:
- read the Georgia Public Broadcasting article

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