Get your HCA questions ready for Thursday meeting

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Almost a year after HCA’s acquisition of Mission Health became final, local residents still have serious questions about what Macon County health care will look like when the dust settles.

They will have a chance to ask those questions on Thursday, Jan. 30 when Gibbins Advisers, the independent monitor charged with making sure HCA complies with terms of that $1.5 billion deal, holds an informational meeting at 11:30 a.m. at the Carpenter Building on Georgia Road.

The cynical view may be that such oversight has little or no real impact, but there is some precedence to the contrary. Antony Chiang, CEO of Dogwood Health Trust, the nonprofit foundation created in the merger, previously headed up Empire Health Foundation in Spokane, Washington.

In October 2019, Empire settled a suit alleging that for-profit Community Health Systems had “failed to comply with state law and its own purchase agreement in its provision of charity care to patients of Deaconess (Medical Center) and Valley Hospital.”

Empire, which was tasked with enforcing terms of the CHS contract, charged that CHS had “breached its contractual obligation to make ‘reasonable efforts’ to provide charity care to the community at levels that met or exceeded the eastern Washington regional average,” according to a news release from Empire.

That settlement is expected to erase as much as $50 million in hospital debt for thousands of former patients, according to Carolina Public Press.

There are clear parallels in the two cases. In its acquisition of Mission, HCA agreed to maintain a charity care policy that assists patients at up to 400 percent of the federal poverty line.

The replacement hospital in Franklin – and the services it will provide – is sure to be a hot topic at Thursday’s meeting.  One question on everybody’s mind is what will happen to Angel Medical Center’s current facility. Gibbins may have no information on that building’s fate, but it never hurts to ask.

This is a good chance for Macon residents to make their opinions heard on important issues. Let’s make sure those feelings are heard on Thursday.