Augusta native Earl V. Rogers sees Georgia hospitals getting better but facing trying financial times ahead.
Rogers will become president and CEO of the Georgia Hospital Association on July 1, succeeding the retiring Joseph Parker.
Rogers grew up in Augusta, attended Forest Hills Elementary, Langford Junior High School and was a 1971 graduate of the Academy of Richmond County before heading off to the University of Georgia.
Until he assumes the presidency, Rogers will continue to work as the group’s senior vice president for government relations in the Georgia legislative session that begins this week, which means dealing with Medicaid.
Rogers said he did not think hospitals would try to get Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to change his opposition to expanding Medicaid, as a coalition of 40 health care groups called Cover Georgia is trying to do.
The groups argue that the expansion would extend health care to 650,000 people in Georgia and bring in $33 billion in federal funding over 10 years under provisions in the Affordable Care Act. The first three years of the expansion would be 100 percent federally funded and the state would never have to pay more than 10 percent of the expansion, the groups say.
Deal doesn’t think it is a great deal for Georgia, Rogers said.
“The governor has made it clear that it is not something he believes the state can afford to do at this time,” he said. “And frankly, I don’t think that he believes that the federal government could keep (its) commitment.”
Instead, the governor’s office and Rogers’ group are looking to extend a hospital provider tax that can help draw down extra Medicaid funding under the current rules that will help address a $400 million shortfall in the state Medicaid program.
Because the state pays around 35 cents for every dollar of Medicaid funding, with federal funds making up the rest, the hospitals will voluntarily pay a 1.45 percent tax on net patient revenue, with trauma hospitals paying 1.4 percent.
“This would make the state budget whole and we can move forward,” Rogers said.
The hospitals are also working to improve quality beyond what is required, he said. Georgia hospitals are looking to reduce readmissions by 20 percent and avoidable harm by 40 percent, Rogers said.
“Our hospitals want to provide the best service they can,” he said.
This is a tough time for many Georgia hospitals, particularly smaller, rural hospitals.
“With the funding being so tight now, it is very, very difficult for these rural hospitals to survive,” Rogers said. He pointed to the recent acquisition of McDuffie Regional Medical Center by University Hospital in Augusta as the kind of partnership that will become more common.
Thomson is a special place for him because he spent nine years there while with Georgia Power Co.
“Thomson is a great town,” Rogers said. “Good people.”
The GHA is keeping a close eye on other aspects of the federal health overhaul that can have a big impact on Georgia hospitals, he said. Many key provisions, including the creation of state insurance exchanges and the individual mandate to have insurance, begin in 2014.
“There’s no doubt that the Affordable Care Act, as we move forward, will be something we need to be sure that our hospitals are aware of the challenges there,” Rogers said. “We have a group at Georgia Hospital Association that is staying abreast of what those challenges will be and communicating that to our members so they can get ready for it.”