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County can’t pay hospital’s tab

Care for local patients nearly topped $211,000

POSTED: February 11, 2009 4:00 a.m.

Grady Health System wants Dawson County to pay nearly $211,000 to cover the cost of medical care the Atlanta trauma hospital says it provided to 35 local patients in 2008.

  

County Manager Kevin Tanner said he received a letter from Grady Chief Financial Officer Michael Ayers on Jan. 23 asking the county to reimburse the hospital system for indigent care it provided county residents.

  

Tanner said the county is sympathetic to the hospital’s situation, and grateful for the care, but is in no position to pay the $210,881 bill. In fact, it’s under no legal obligation to do so.

  

“We too are experiencing the economic crunch within our local economy,” Tanner said. “I responded that we have no appropriations set aside in our budget for this.”

  

Due to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the specific services were not detailed in the letter. Ayers did, however, include a list of dates and charges he said Dawson residents incurred.

  

One charge, on Nov. 20, was for more than $69,000. Other charges range from $31 to $46,000.

  

According to Ayers’ letter, Grady’s operating loss in 2008 was $140 million.

  

The hospital’s mission for the last 115 years, he said, has been to “provide health care services to all patients without regard to their ability to pay.”

  

Ayers said meeting that mission resulted in cost estimates exceeding $250 million in 2008.

  

“Obviously, neither Grady nor any other provider of care can sustain losses of this magnitude and survive over the long term,” Ayers wrote.

  

Legislation introduced recently in the state House of Representatives could provide relief.

  

Introduced by Rep. Jim Cole, a Republican from Middle Georgia, HB 160 could generate $23 million to improve the state’s trauma care network.

  

Known as Gov. Sonny Perdue’s “Super Speeder” legislation, the bill would add an additional $200 fine for motorists cited driving more than 85 mph anywhere in the state and for driving 75 mph or faster on a two-lane road.

  

The law also would increase driver’s license reinstatement fees for motorists committing a second and third offense and other negligent behavior.

  

More than 1,600 people died in traffic incidents on state roads in 2007.

  

According to the governor’s office, the annual overall cost of wrecks statewide totals $7.8 billion.

  

“This is extremely important legislation not only to me, but to the state of Georgia as a whole,” Cole said in a statement. “We must do all we can to help make our roads and highways as safe as possible.”

  

The Georgia Sheriff’s Association has mixed feelings about the proposed legislation.

  

“The sheriff’s association has adopted no position,”  said Oliver Hunter, attorney for the group. “The sheriffs are split on this, so the result is we’ve taken no position.”

  

Dawson County Sheriff Billy Carlisle said he also is undecided.

  

“The legislation says the fines could go to help the state’s trauma care, but it doesn’t say it definitely would,” he said.

  

E-mail Michele Hester at michele@dawsonnews.com.

 

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