A House Republican’s plan to fix Georgia’s rural hospital crisis

State Rep. Geoff Duncan.

State Rep. Geoff Duncan.

A House Republican will introduce a measure this week that would create as many as 100 new healthcare centers geared to low-income residents in some of the state’s poorest areas.

State Rep. Geoff Duncan, a Cumming health executive with an eye on higher office, said his measure would amount to a “tectonic shift” in Georgia’s healthcare policy that was partly prompted by the collapse of rural hospitals. At least eight have shuttered since 2001 and more than a dozen others are on the verge of failing.

“We have to be willing to look outside the box,” said Duncan. “That’s what corporate America is doing with this debate, and that’s what our citizens hope we can do.”

 


 

Duncan was behind a plan last year that offered tax credits for donors to rural hospitals – it was dubbed a “lifeline” for struggling medical centers – but donors have so far applied for only a small fraction of the credits.

He pitched this as a more sweeping idea to bolster Georgia’s healthcare safety net without expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, which Democrats have long said would help save struggling hospitals but Republicans deride as too costly in the long run.

The first part of Duncan’s plan would move Georgia’s State Health Benefit Plan, which manages billions of dollars in state insurance policies, from the Department of Community Health the the Department of Administrative Services – and require the agency to hire a chief data officer skilled in predictive modeling and other tools of the trade to run the program.

The second part seems likely to grab more attention.  That department would be authorized to create as many as 100 federally qualified health centers – nonprofit centers that provide healthcare to low-income patients regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay – and then give families covered by the state health insurance plan incentives to use the centers.

Each new center – there are already about 200 in Georgia – would be required to handle mental illnesses and opioid addictions, and the department would be encouraged to create a co-op for all the centers to buy their medical equipment and other supplies in bulk.

Duncan doesn’t have the backing of the governor or other top GOP leaders yet, nor does he have a fiscal note. But he estimates the measure could cost as much as $25 million if all 100 centers are opened. He said cost-savings in the long run from consolidating  expenses, cheaper pharmaceutical costs and leveraging federal aid would be worth the short-term funding.

“It’s a new way of thinking, and I’m assuming there’s going to be obstacles and barriers,” said Duncan. “But right off the bat, this could have huge savings.”

Reader Comments 0

29 comments
Sue Anne Morgan
Sue Anne Morgan

Telemedicine is the better solution with mobile healthcare centers.

Nelms Graham
Nelms Graham

We have far too many people on the "Dole"! Which is why this is problem exists.

Georgia Luckett Champion
Georgia Luckett Champion

It's a thought, but I would have to know a lot more to even consider it. I don't want to go to a health clinic.

Luree Echols
Luree Echols

why not just do what other states did and expand medicaid? That would have been the most practical utilization of a program already set up.

Deborah Smith Author
Deborah Smith Author

Another money making scheme pitched as ethical governance by the GOPpers.

Laura Bell Register
Laura Bell Register

This model is detrimental to free market and patient being able to choose their own doctor. Could put some of us out of business. REQUIRING federal employees to use clinics is just wrong

Craig Stewart Files
Craig Stewart Files

Fed workers are still a Minority Population in the big picture ...everyone should be treated the same.

Amanda Ruf
Amanda Ruf

Just expand Medicare like your other Southern Brothers.

Sandra Dale Sikes
Sandra Dale Sikes

We need more American doctors, which means allowing more medical students to be accepted than the number now allowed. Who set up this plan, anyway? Seems like doctors protecting themselves/income by keeping the number of new doctors LOW.....

Sam Nicholas
Sam Nicholas

What major obstacle keeps people out of med school?

Alicia Choi
Alicia Choi

This is a multi tiered issue. First, the astronomical debt accrued by attending medical school is definitely a deterrent. But the second issue lies in the fact that a lot of those students who have six figure debt also have no desire to move to rural areas that are severely underserved.

Sandra Dale Sikes
Sandra Dale Sikes

Sam Nicholas There are limited "slots" available to prospective doctors.....debt incurred over the years of study......cost of setting up a private practice......

Sam Nicholas
Sam Nicholas

So, wouldn't an innigrant doctor deal with the same challenges?

Matt Peacock
Matt Peacock

The feds will change the rules soon enough. Good idea in theory, but I'd watch from the sidelines for now. State employees won't likely use the same places as drug rehab.

Craig Stewart Files
Craig Stewart Files

State workers are ultimately a minority population also...everyone should be treated the same. I understand government workers not wanting to give up the one big perk of government work...maybe they can actually pay you more and you will have the same insurance as everyone else.

Laura Bell Register
Laura Bell Register

Well, it seems a lot more government and more expense. Why not expand medicaid?

Linda Sheldon
Linda Sheldon

Nice to see a Republican trying to actually solve a problem.

Katrina Bishop
Katrina Bishop

By creating a State run health care system after repealing a federally run exchange? yeah sounds like socialized medicine to me

Craig Stewart Files
Craig Stewart Files

...that they will underfund in support of their private insurer payoffs.

Ted Wetherby
Ted Wetherby

They will do anything they can not to expand medicaid

Ted Wetherby
Ted Wetherby

All the more reason to cut subsidies and corporate welfare , them loophole for corporations can be gone too.