South Georgians pay more in health insurance premiums - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

South Georgians pay more in health insurance premiums

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Dr. Doug Patten Dr. Doug Patten
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

If you sign up for health insurance under the new federal healthcare exchange, you better hope you qualify for a subsidy.  Rates in southwest Georgia are the second highest in the country.  The south central Georgia region is fifth. A journalist from Kaiser Health News published an article in the Washington Post this week investigating why.

"The most likely reasons are there are a lot of health problems in the population, a lot of chronic diseases, so that means people are going to be using more medical services, so that was part of it, and then the other part that has been a topic for many was the role of Phoebe Putney health system," said Jordan Rau, Staff Writer, Kaiser Health News.

Phoebe Chief Medical officer Doug Patten admits Phoebe's prices are "slightly higher" than many other hospitals.  He says that's not because Phoebe controls the local marketplace, but because the hospital offers free care to so many indigent patients.  

"Yes there may be limited providers in these areas and as a result of that as it was pointed out in the article from someone outside of the hospital industry, hospitals that practice in these environment that have to take care of the poor people whether they can pay for it or not, do have the tendency to price their product higher so that they can accommodate for the free care that they give away," said Doug Patten, Chief Medical Officer.

Patten believes Obamacare will help many struggling south Georgians, but the way it's structured now, many people who don't qualify for subsidies still can't afford insurance through the exchange or the open market.

"One of the things that I hope people understand is that ultimately we get the affordable care act implemented, and if we get it so that people can get on the exchange, then will start to see people have access to basic primary care services," said Patten.

To read the full article published by Kaiser Health News visit

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/Stories/2014/February/03/Georgia-insurance-costs-obamacare.aspx

Copyright 2014 WALB.  All rights reserved.