Changes proposed for Georgia CON laws - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Changes proposed for Georgia CON laws

October 12, 2007

Albany -- Georgia's complicated Certificate of Need law limits health care competition. And it's long been the reason Phoebe Putney is the only hospital in Albany where babies can be delivered. But that may soon change.

The Board of Georgia's Community Health Department proposed several changes in Certificate of Need laws, to encourage competition, moves that South Georgia surgeons and Industry leaders have demanded to lower the cost of health care. Dr. John Bagnato said "the Department of Community Health took a huge stand for patients in Georgia."

One major change would allow acute care hospitals to deliver babies. Palmyra Medical Centers in Albany worked for years to get approval as a perinatal hospital, but CON laws said only Phoebe Putney Hospital could deliver babies, to strengthen the community hospital.

 Another proposed change is to recognize general surgeons as specialists, and allow them to open physician owned surgery centers. That means Dr. Bagnato, the former Phoebe head of Surgery, could do outpatient surgeries in his office, keeping the patient from having to pay added hospital costs, which could mean thousands of dollars in your bill. Dr. Bagnato said "when there is more competition, guess what, you have lower cost hospital care and more, higher quality hospital care. Because they have to compete."

 The Board of Community Health unanimously proposed these CON rule changes. A public hearing will be scheduled for November 28th, then the Board could vote them into law. Dr. Bagnato said "the reality is however that Hospitals are going to fight this. That's where we are in the state of Georgia right now. Doctors and patients pitted against hospitals, and it's a very unfortunate thing."

Community hospitals say they need these high profit services, to provide health care for patients who can't pay.

 Studies paid for by several large industries in Albany like Procter and Gamble, Miller Brewing, and Cooper Tire show health care costs are higher here than anywhere in the nation.

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