Georgia health care had more than its share of drama and surprises in 2013.
Some of the big stories were linked to the Affordable Care Act.
But the Affordable Care Act wasn’t the only hot topic in Georgia health. Issues ranged from drug scares to complex policy disputes and funding battles.
Here is Georgia Health News’ list of the top 10 health news stories for the year.
• The troubled rollout of healthcare
.gov hits close to home. Georgia enrollment in the insurance exchange created by the ACA was hamstrung by technical problems that plagued the federal Web site after its Oct. 1 startup. Because of those snags, only 1,390 Georgians signed up for coverage during the first month.
• Three rural Georgia hospitals close. Citing financial problems, Charlton Memorial Hospital in Folkston, Stewart-Webster Hospital in Richland and Calhoun Memorial in Arlington all closed.
• Two deaths show the failings of the state’s child-protection system. The deaths of Eric Forbes, 12, and Emani Moss, 10, exposed the deficiencies in the system that protects Georgia children from abuse and neglect. Four state workers lost their jobs and four others were punished for failing to investigate abuse reports involving the two children.
• The hospital provider fee is fast-tracked through the General Assembly. Legislation enabling the renewal of the fee sailed through the legislature at the start of the session and was hurriedly signed by Gov. Nathan Deal.
• The FTC settles with Phoebe Putney. Phoebe Putney Health System in Albany and its local hospital authority agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the acquisition of a rival hospital harmed competition in six counties. The deal ended a two-year legal battle, and Phoebe Putney got to keep the facility it acquired.
• The state employees medical benefits contract goes to a single vendor, Blue Cross. The State Health Benefit Plan contract award to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Georgia infuriated a key competitor, UnitedHealthcare, which charged that the bidding process was flawed and needed to be redone. The head of the Department of Community Health, though, upheld the award.
• Medicaid expansion picks up support from medical provider groups. The Georgia Hospital Association and the Medical Association of Georgia said the state should expand Medicaid to cover thousands of people who won’t otherwise have health insurance.
• A synthetic marijuana scare hits the Georgia coast. The Brunswick area saw more than 20 people sickened by a drug believed to be “synthetic cannabinoid” and commonly referred to as “spice” or “herbal incense.”
• Ralph Hudgens takes on health care reform. Georgia’s insurance commissioner said the Affordable Care Act’s exchange contained “massive” rate increases for consumers
• The hospital consolidation trend keeps rolling. The drive to push down health costs continued to unite hospitals in partnerships across the state. One such agreement brought together more than 20 hospitals in Middle and South Georgia.