While Wellstar acknowledged that our state’s failure to fully expand Medicaid was not the only reason for their hospital closures, it was unquestionably a strong contributing factor, as it was for the eight rural hospital closures over the past 10 years. Losses related to uncompensated care cannot be separated from the coverage gap that leaves over 500,000 Georgians uninsured from not expanding Medicaid.
Unfortunately, a focus on what’s best for business is often at odds with our state’s overall prosperity as reflected in our state’s lagging rankings in overall prosperity (37th, according to the Legatum Institute Prosperity Index), education (30th for K-12, according to U.S. News & World Report), and health outcomes (36th, according to United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings Annual Report). Our number one for business ethos is also responsible for policies resulting in Georgia ranking 44th nationally for management of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on a recent Commonwealth Fund analysis, reflecting profound health inequities and among the highest COVID-related death rates in the country. In the same way that Georgia’s COVID policies disproportionately impacted low-income Black and brown communities, closing the AMC hospitals will predictably worsen our existing racial health inequities.
The human and financial costs of our state’s number one for business ethos are profound. We need a new mantra and state leadership that supports the economic growth and prosperity of businesses and communities, while ensuring equitable life and health opportunities for all Georgians.
Dr. Harry J. Heiman is a family physician and public health expert in Atlanta. He is a clinical professor in the Department of Health Policy and Behavioral Sciences at the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. The views expressed here are his own, and not those of GSU.