Senate Study Committee discuss changes to rural health care systems

Georgia senators are working to change the state's healthcare systems. Their goal is to make sure industry reforms state-wide don't hurt health care in rural parts of the state.

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MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Georgia senators are working to change the state’s healthcare systems. Their goal is to make sure industry reforms state-wide don’t hurt health care in rural parts of the state.

When it comes to getting medical care, state legislators hold a special session Monday afternoon at Mercer University. Acknowledging, there’s a difference between what’s available in cities in Georgia compared to rural areas. They’re taking a closer look at the problem to make sure everyone – no matter where you live –
has access to quality treatment.

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“We’re working with the hospitals. We’re working with the rural hospitals. We’re working with our urban hospitals and we’re trying to do what’s best for the patient because if we put the patient first then all the other falls into place,” Senator Ben Watson (R-Savannah) said.

When healthcare agencies want new equipment, health services, or construction they have to apply to Georgia Department of Community Health for special permission, proving that it’s actually needed.

“My goal is not to be adversarial with this. My goal is to put the patient first. What’s going to be best for the patient and then make this a win/win for healthcare, the patient, physicians, and all of health care,” he said.



Senator Watson wants to learn from other states and use them as examples when considering how Georgia approves new or expanded services.

One of the big questions is how potential changes will impact rural Georgia. According to Senator Watson, a new national standard is to focus on a better experience for patients overall.

“The federal government discouraged certificate of need and quit relating it to finances. They allowed states to continue to have the certificate of need process. 13 states of done away with it,” he said.

Senator Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge) says whatever changes they implement should not harm rural Georgia’s already fragile healthcare.

“A rural hospital that needs to make some changes to their delivery model. Whether [that’s to] increase beds or provide a new service like mental health service, the cost of applying for that, and the bureaucracy is a big challenge because they don’t have resources,” Senator Burke said.

The committee wants to hear from you, you can reach out to the Senate Study Committee on health care changes in the state here. The committee plans to meet again next month.

The study committee hopes to have a final plan for the next legislative session.  Its biggest goal is to make sure people in rural areas always have access to healthcare.