Albany industry says high health care costs getting worse - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Albany industry says high health care costs getting worse

November 15, 2007

Albany -- Albany Procter and Gamble says employee's health care costs here continue to be higher than almost all of their plants in the nation. P & G officials think the health care cost problem in Albany is getting worse and is hurting the community's economy.

Procter and Gamble officials say their latest study of employee health care costs in Albany shows the prices are increasing faster than any of their plants across the nation. CACH President Vince Falcione said "bottom line, they are growing faster here than other places we have facilities."

Procter and Gamble officials say their study shows that Albany's plant employee health care costs are 23 percent above the national average, and 31 percent above health care costs in the Southeast. Their latest study found that P & G employee health care costs in Albany were almost 62 percent higher than employee costs at their Augusta plant. Plant manager Trey Bloodworth said "it's basically a health care tax to do business in Albany, because the health care costs are so much above the national average and the average for the Southeast."

Three years ago Procter and Gamble and other large Albany manufacturers released study results saying Albany's health care costs were the highest in the nation where they did business. The Coalition for Affordable and Competitive Heallthcare believes a lack of competition in Albany hospital's is now making healthcare costs increase faster than the rest of the nation. Falcione said "bottom line, we know it's not the Doctors locally causing this, it's our hospitals."

P & G officials say their study shows that lab and test costs at hospitals are far higher than anywhere they do business.  And in the end those high health care costs are keeping manufacturing businesses from coming to Albany, and could have been a factor in industry closing down. Bloodworth said "if you just look around at the number of businesses that have closed in Albany over the last ten years, and you compare that to the number of businesses that have been added, I think it's evident."

 P & G officials say they have met with hospital officials and local and state government leaders about this problem, with no response.

 Now they are telling the community that this is an issue that could cost more jobs in the future.

 Phoebe Putney Hospital officials are waiting for results of an independent review of health care costs being done by the city and county.

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