Lt. Governor's Taskforce on Healthcare Access and Cost

Members of the Lt. Governor's Taskforce on Healthcare Access and Cost hold their first meeting on Sept. 4.

Updated data analytics, technology and cost incentives were among the solutions presented to Georgia’s Taskforce on Healthcare Access and Cost on Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan leads the group of lawmakers and private and public sector health care professionals intending to find innovative ways to tackle Georgia’s expensive health care costs.

“What we want to do is use this very collaborative effort with testimony that we are going to receive over the next three sessions to help us shape ideas that make sense,” Duncan said.

Financial website Wallethub ranked Georgia's health care system 46th out of the 50 states and District of Columbia. The average out-of-pocket health costs for Georgia workers is higher than the national average. Employer-based plans can cost Georgians about 14 percent of their work income.

State department heads, advocates and technology analysts presented ideas that they hope could lead to effective health care policies in the state.

Kelly Farr, director of the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget, believes the newly established Georgia Data Analytics Center could help organize the state’s health care data and identify concerns. 

“As a government, we tend to be challenged with data. We don’t have the resources other businesses may have,” he said. “As y’all bring your ideas together and come out with these great initiatives, we would be prepared to accept what the vision is.”

Josh Archambault, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, a free-market think tank, said consumers have the power to drive down health care costs.

Consumers themselves can help reduce health care cost by taking advantage of “Right to Shop” initiatives, he said.

The program gives patients the option to shop around for lower cost services at smaller and or out-of-network health care facilities and awards them with a monetary bonus for doing so. It could also save the state millions of dollars.

“In the very tiny program in New Hampshire, they’re saving about $4 million a year, which is averaging about $320 of savings per employee per year,” Archambault said. “You could do the math for Georgia.”

Last year, 18 states filed Right to Shop or price transparency reform legislation.

The task force heard from six other presenters who spoke about data and technology for fraud prevention and telemedicine.

“I think one of the challenges for health care in Georgia is that we are starting from a very low point,” said Sen. Dean Burke, vice-chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.“But that being said, there is a lot of opportunity, and there is a lot of things – I think low-hanging fruit – that this group can accomplish.” 

The task force will meet two more times over the next two months before finalizing a plan.

“I think a great strategy for us is let’s all go home, and do our homework,” said Duncan.

Staff Writer

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for three years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.