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Crippling Medicaid Cuts Could Upend Rural Health Services

By Kaiser Health News  
   July 12, 2017

Patient advocates predict that would lead to fewer enrollees, more shutdowns of rural facilities, reduced payments to doctors and fewer programs for people with health needs or disabilities.

This article first appeared July 11, 2017 on Kaiser Health News.

By Virginia Anderson

ATLANTA - Each day as Ginger Peebles watches daughter Brenlee grow, she sees the importance of having a hospital close by that delivers babies.

Brenlee’s birth was touch-and-go after Peebles realized something was wrong. “I couldn’t feel the baby move, and my blood pressure was sky-high,” said Peebles, a nurse.

Dr. Roslyn Banks-Jackson, then an OB-GYN specialist at Emanuel Medical Center in Swainsboro, Ga., diagnosed preeclampsia, a potentially lethal complication of pregnancy, and induced labor to save Peebles and the baby. Brenlee was born on Oct. 28, 2014, completely healthy.

Had Peebles given birth the following year, she might not have been so fortunate, she said. Emanuel shuttered its labor-and-delivery unit the next spring, becoming one of a handful of such units in the state to close from 2010 to 2015, most because of budget problems. Another is expected to close this month, said Daniel Thompson, executive director of the Georgia OBGyn Society.

Republican bills to replace the federal health law would worsen rural areas’ financial straits through reductions in Medicaid funding. Patient advocates predict that would lead to fewer enrollees, more shutdowns of rural facilities, reduced payments to doctors and fewer programs for people with health needs or disabilities. In the aggregate, such changes threaten the health of thousands of state residents, especially those in rural areas.

“I’ve seen changes, and I’ve seen cuts, but I’ve never seen changes like what’s being proposed in this bill,” said Eric Jacobson, executive director of the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities. “This is the first time it’s been this scary.”

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Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.


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