Albany State Representatives split votes on CON reform - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany State Representatives split votes on CON reform

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April 8, 2008

Albany -- The majority of Albany's state lawmakers did not support legislation that would give you more health care options. In fact, only one of the three representatives from Albany voted for reforming the outdated Certificate of Needs laws.

The bill, that passed anyway, breaks up community hospital's monopoly on services.

 State Representative Winfred Dukes didn't cast a vote on the State Health Care Reform Bill Friday which gives you more health care options. But if he had, he would have voted against it. He said he's concerned what it will mean for indigent health care in Albany.  Dukes said "there is a grave disparity of people who live in my district and Southwest Georgia that don't have adequate health care. And we do everything that we can to protect the ability for those people to make sure they will be able to be serviced."

Representative Ed Rynders, the Vice Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, has the same concerns, but voted for it when compromise was reached. Rynders said "the hospitals and the Physicians had come together, and reached agreement in the majority of the points of the bill."

Representative Freddie Powell Sims, who is still in Atlanta, was one of 17 legislators who voted against the reform bill. Sims said she is concerned community hospitals like Phoebe Putney will have to carry the financial load of serving patients who cannot pay their health care bills. Sims said "it could become a burden on those hospitals that serve the proportions of indigent, Medicare and Medicaid patients, as opposed to the private hospitals that don't have to serve anyone who comes in."

 But Albany large industry leaders were celebrating what they call a small, first victory for competition, fighting what they say are some of the highest health care costs in the country in Albany.  Coalition for Affordable and Competitive Healthcare President Vince Falcione said "competition helps lower prices, and it will increase quality. I think it's a step in the right direction."

 Governor Sonny Perdue is expected to sign the House Reform Bill into law soon, but Industry leaders say more still needs to be done to bring Albany's high health care costs into line with other regions.

The CON reform bill would give other hospitals the right to deliver well babies and perform some heart procedures, that only Phoebe Putney has been allowed by law to perform in Albany, and allow general surgeons to set up their own ambulatory surgical centers.

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