Originally created 02/18/99

An unwise DHR cut 021899 - The Augusta Chronicle

Penny wise and pound foolish explains the Georgia Department of Human Resources' scheme to cut funding in half -- from $2.2 million to $1.1 million -- for the state's Stroke and Heart Attack Prevention Program.

Here's a humane, compassionate and economically beneficial government health project that's actually accomplishing its purpose, points out Dr. Albert Carr, an Augusta cardiologist.

Carr's evidence shows that the people on this program are twice as successful at controlling their blood pressure than the national average. Last year he published findings showing that while nationally only 27 percent of those treated for high blood pressure successfully control it, the success rate was 66 percent for patients from Georgia's East Central Health District.

Far from being cut back, the program should be expanded, particularly at a time when stroke and heart attack deaths are on the increase in Georgia's rural areas.

More than 160,000 patients statewide -- 731 in the Augusta area -- could get very sick very fast if DHR's funding reductions forced them off blood pressure medications.

Without the medications, they could end up receiving very expensive emergency treatment at public hospitals, such as the Medical College of Georgia or University Hospital, whose indigent care budgets are already stretched to the breaking point.

And the hit on taxpayers doesn't stop there, notes Carr. Post-emergency care -- for heart, stroke or kidney disease -- is always much more expensive than preventive blood-pressure care which runs about $95 a year per patient.

Why would DHR make this ill-advised cutback? After all, the Stroke and Heart Attack Prevention program has been so successful that Georgia gets inquiries about it from other states.

It looks to us like the agency just didn't think it through, though they say the savings would be redirected to other areas of health care.

But it's hard to imagine a better health care area than the one they're cutting. The agency should be urged to find its savings elsewhere.

To help ensure they do, House Speaker Pro Tem Jack Connell, D-Augusta, deserves encouragement as he seeks to persuade the DHR to restore most if not all of the funding.


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