JOHN SPINK /JSPINK@AJC.COM

Auditors: Georgia could save millions on crime victims’ medical care

A Georgia fund set up to aid crime victims pays the full sticker price for their medical services and could save millions of dollars each year by forcing hospitals and doctors to accept the same lower rates the state pays in other government health care programs, auditors say.

Officials with the Crime Victims Compensation Program, which aids thousands of Georgians each year, say making some of the changes recommended by auditors would mean changing state law and pitting themselves against powerful health care interests in a General Assembly battle they would have a tough time winning.

Established in 1988, the program offers financial help to victims of violent crimes. It is the payer of last resort, with applicants eligible to receive up to $25,000 to help with medical and dental care, mental health counseling, economic support, crime scene cleanup, and funeral expenses when the costs are not covered by a third-party payer.

Auditors said, “The program (currently) pays the full charge listed on each medical bill, even though these ‘sticker prices’ are significantly higher than the amounts typically paid by patients or providers,” the audit said. “Numerous reports have stated that listed charges are unrelated to the amounts paid by insurers, either private or public.”

Officials who run the program said it could prove to be a financial hardship on rural hospitals and providers, and that they didn’t “have the proper staff, time or funding to overcome lobbying efforts in opposition to a fee schedule and acceptance of payments as

payments in full.”

That is important because paying Medicaid or Medicare rates would mean far less money for hospitals, and they would fight any effort to reduce payments.

Selling such a move would be extremely difficult. Since 2013, at least five small-town hospitals in Georgia have closed, and only this year the General Assembly approved $180 million in state tax credits to donors who contribute to small-town medical centers in hopes of stabilizing the situation.

To read more, check out the full story at myajc.com

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