The Georgia Chamber launched a task force to take an in-depth exploration on ways to improve healthcare access throughout Georgia. This study will pursue sustainable and fiscally responsible recommendations to address challenges that include, the viability of rural healthcare providers and safety net hospitals, recruitment and retention of medical professionals, and the coverage gap that leaves close to 400,000 Georgians uninsured and hundreds of thousands more underinsured.
The Georgia Academy of Family Physicians is joining the Chamber’s initiative and Dr. Rick Wherry (Past GAFP President and current GAFP Legislative Co-Chair) will serve as the GAFP’s representative.
“Access to high-quality healthcare ranks high on the priority list of our business community because it matters to our employees. We know that we can’t have an economically viable Georgia unless we have a physically healthy Georgia,” said Chamber President and CEO Chris Clark. “The coverage gap doesn’t just affect the uninsured and the providers who care for them. It shifts cost directly to employers who insure their workforce, and it poses an existential threat to rural healthcare access as well as the stability of critical safety net hospitals.”
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce Health and Wellness Committee will oversee the study and any policy recommendations that result. Over the next nine months, the study will execute three phases:
- Economic impact, data collection and analysis
- Policy option development
- Finalize recommendations
“We’re looking for unique, Georgia-based ideas that provide a comprehensive approach to delivering healthcare services to our citizens,” said Tim Lowe, chairman of the Chamber’s Health and Wellness Policy Committee. “Finding ways to cover the uninsured represents a big piece of the puzzle, but we’re going to look at many ways of bolstering our entire healthcare system. At the same time, we have no interest in an unaffordable wish list that fails to meet the unique needs of Georgians. State government has to balance its budget. We need a pathway that is workable and affordable not just in the short term but also in the long term. That’s what this study is about.”
In recent years, five hospitals in Georgia have closed, with many more struggling financially.
“Having health insurance in a community without a hospital nearby does you no good in a medical emergency,” said Clark. “If you lose the only hospital in an area, you also lose any chance you have of landing a major economic development prospect. Put simply, we face a crisis that affects every Georgian, whether they have insurance or not.”