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Panel attempts to clarify issues

Healthcare reform was on the minds of people at the Bailey Science Center on Wednesday night, as a panel discussion attempted to clarify this highly complicated issue.

The event, which was attended by approximately 60 members of the community, discussed how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, more commonly referred to as ObamaCare, would affect patients, caregivers and businesses.

The first speaker was Randy Sauls, chief executive officer of South Georgia Medical Center. Sauls spoke about how hospitals were coping with the recent law.

“We’re going to continue to operate as we always have,” Sauls said. “We’re going to continue to provide services to anyone, regardless of the bills you have to pay or any other condition.”

Sauls explained that SGMC is a public not-for-profit organization “owned by the citizens of Valdosta and Lowndes County.”

“I should remind you, we’re not-for-loss,” Sauls also said. “We have payroll to make and expenses to pay.”

Sauls also explained that various health organizations in the surrounding areas could consolidate.

Dr. Myron Faircloth, an assistant professor at VSU’s College of Nursing, also spoke regarding the issue.

“Obviously, one of the problems from my standpoint is the shortage of providers, and the federal healthcare law does give about 30 to 32 million people more access to healthcare, and there’s a problem with that,” Faircloth said. “Having healthcare does not guarantee access.”

Faircloth also explained that the shortage of physicians in 2010 was at 13,700, and that number was projected to increase to 62,900 by 2015, and up to 91,500 by 2020.

Representing Langdale Industries were Barbara Barrett and Ewelina Sparks, who spoke how businesses would cope with the new law.

“Employer-sponsored health insurance is the leading source of health insurance in the US, covering approximately 149 million,” Barrett said. “It’s the backbone of the US health insurance system.”

Barrett also added that the impact of the Affordable Care Act was so profound and that the future of employer-based health care was uncertain– for the first time in history.

Consequently, Barrett and Sparks analyzed the health insurance offered by Langdale before the ACA, and what would need to change afterwards.

“It’s going to cost us approximately two million dollars,” Sparks said at the conclusion of a PowerPoint presentation put on by herself and Barrett.

While both Sparks and Barrett explained that Langdale would try to not place the costs of this healthcare change on their employees, they also explained that other employers would probably not do the same.

“That’s generally how employers control their costs,” Barrett said.

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