Hospital Association Testifies About Rural Healthcare Crisis

The expanding gap between the cost of care and reimbursements, the distance between patients and needed care, and the availability of services were the three main challenges identified by Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals President Monty Veazey in testimony given to the Georgia House of Representatives Rural Development Council on Thursday in Metter, Georgia.

 

“These three factors define the rural healthcare crisis and simply must be addressed,” said Veazey. “It is unacceptable that in 2017, there are areas of our state without access to modern healthcare services, or even resources as basic as a pediatrician for their children.”

 

Priorities identified by Veazey in his testimony to address the challenges faced by non-profit hospitals and rural communities included:

·      Preservation of the state’s certificate of need laws in order to prevent disruption of the payer mix non-profit hospitals rely upon to remain financially viable

·      Continuation of federal Disproportionate Share Hospital program to help non-profit hospitals cover the growing cost of indigent care

·      Preservation of state and local tax exemptions for non-profit hospitals in order to maintain the healthcare and other benefits they provide to the communities they serve

·      Creation of a statewide broadband network to support telehealth as a means to expand access to care

 

Veazey also addressed the impact of growing opioid abuse on Georgia’s healthcare system.

 

“The average cost today of treating a single opioid overdose in a hospital ICU is over $92,000 and many of those patients are uninsured or underinsured.  And cost is not the only significant impact.  When waves of overdoses like those we experienced in middle Georgia this summer occur, they tax already strained EMS systems and emergency rooms and can force diversion for strokes, heart attacks and other traumatic events to other facilities when getting to treatment quickly matters the most.”

 

Veazey concluded by pointing out the role that hospitals play in job creation and economic development, reminding legislators that hospitals employ over 145,000 Georgians and are an essential part of the infrastructure needed to recruit new investment. 

 

“Six hospitals in rural Georgia have closed in recent years, would you locate a new facility in one of those communities?  I believe that Georgians understand that the need to support and invest in community hospitals goes beyond healthcare, it is about overall quality of life.” 

 

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