Phoebe CEO says state health care reform could raise costs - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Phoebe CEO says state health care reform could raise costs

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April 9, 2008

Albany -- Changes that could give you more health care options are now the law.  Governor Perdue signed a bill Wednesday that changes certificates of need laws. Phoebe Putney says it'll only drive up health care costs in South Georgia.

And Phoebe Putney Hospital CEO Joel Wernick says he's not buying complaints from local industries about high health care costs here. He said those plant leaders have hidden agendas. And just want to confuse the public about the real cost of healthcare in Albany.

Joel Wernick says he's disappointed that other hospitals will now be able to offer the same services Phoebe offers. The law signed Wednesday abolishes Phoebe's monopoly on certain types of health care, creating competition for Phoebe which lawmakers say translates into lower health care costs.  

Wernick said "if the efficiency of our center is undermined, I don't think the effect is going to be one of driving down the costs. I think it has the potential to drive up costs."

 As an example, Wernick showed the Hospital's new two million dollar Espree MRI, a top of the line imaging machine in very few hospitals in the South. He said competition will not drive down the cost of cutting edge technology.

Wernick said "excess supply ultimately can drive up the cost, because the cost of very expensive technology which is not being adequately or efficiently utilized."

Wernick also fired back at Procter and Gamble and Miller Brewing officials, who Tuesday showed Dougherty County Rotarians their latest health care cost analysis.  Their study shows  that Albany P & G employee's health care costs are 52 percent higher than the prices paid by Augusta P & G employees.

 Wernick Wednesday showed the Hospital board results of a study commissioned by the city of Albany and Dougherty County, that concludes Albany's heath cost guidelines are among the lowest in the nation. Wernick said those Industry leaders have an agenda in pushing for CON reform.  

Wernick said "we are going to continue to communicate to the public, and counter those we believe have some ulterior motives in trying to undermine the communities understanding of what the true cost of healthcare is."

Wernick said the Industry leaders need to be more forthcoming about their data.

 Procter and Gamble spokesperson Vince Falcione, the President of the Coalition for Affordable and Competitive Healthcare, said that their only agenda is to do what's right for the community. He said their health care data is based on what their employees actually pay for health care, not general pricing figures.

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