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In Southwest Georgia, Insurance Costs Run High

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"I would expect to see that in a public hospital," he said. 

Expensive Therapies

Yet Phoebe has aggressively added expensive new treatment machines, such as the da Vinci Robotics Surgical System and TomoTherapy, which claims to deliver radiation with more precision. Phoebe told bond investors that its cancer center is "one of the busiest centers in the Southeast." Wernick said Phoebe’s growth has enabled it "to achieve a very important community strategy to allow people to stay at home for certain services."

Dr. Joe Stubbs, who works at one of the independent physician practices in town, said Phoebe has not shown concern about the cost to patients. "They’ve forgotten that their mission as a nonprofit hospital is to provide the best quality at the lowest cost," he said.

Stubbs said that Phoebe has been too ambitious in offering services "that probably would be better off done in Atlanta," three hours north. "Bypass surgery, chemo, they could go to Atlanta," he said. "They want to have those things here because they could demand higher prices and get higher profit margins."

In recent months, Phoebe has taken some steps to reduce its costs. Last year it cut 160 jobs and hired consultants affiliated with the Geisinger Health System, which runs a central Pennsylvania hospital group known for efficiency, to help identify ways to save money. 

"We may have to start lopping off services that are not economically rewarding," said Dr. Doug Patten, Phoebe's chief medical officer. "We probably have been overly permissive in the past in saying, 'Yes, we will take care of you.' "

 

Kaiser Health News is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health policy research and communications organization not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

Fri, Jan 31 2014

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