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State of the state

Governor talks up health plan

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POSTED: February 3, 2007 5:05 a.m.
By Andrea Washington
Coastal Courier (Hinesville, GA) Staff Writer
awashington@coastalcourier.com

ATLANTA — In his fifth “State of the State” address to the Georgia General Assembly, Governor Sonny Perdue proposed a $20 billion budget that includes new strategies for improving the state’s health care system.
“Health care is an area where innovation is an absolute necessity,” the governor said. “We cannot continue to throw traditional, short-term solutions at long-term challenges.”
After comparing the state’s current health care policy to a young boy putting his pants on backwards, Perdue said his plan to revamp the system starts with challenging Georgians “not only to eat right and exercise, but to take ownership of their health outcomes — to adopt a medical home and get regular checkups and screenings.”
Another key component to Perdue’s health budget is funding preventive measures. Georgia currently ranks first in the southeast and third in the nation for vaccination coverage, but the governor plans to invest $10 million into the Georgia Research Alliance to start the Life Sciences Vaccine Initiative. The program will “support vaccine-based antiviral life science research,” according to Perdue.
The governor’s budget also promotes making rural health a “strategic industry” through the Rural Health Access Project.
The project is expected to increase access to primary care, form stable networks and use technology to lower costs and improve results for rural Georgians. 
With costs for supporting state-provided health coverage increasing, Perdue intends to spend $176 million to continue funding the State Health Benefit Plan for state employees and teachers.
For many Georgia parents, however, financial support for the state’s PeachCare for Kids program could be a source of future concern.
The fourth largest children’s health insurance program in the country, PeachCare is a comprehensive health care program for uninsured children living in the state. The plan includes coverage for primary and preventive services, dental and vision care and prescription medication.
More than 270,000 children depend on the plan to stay healthy.
The governor said the state will continue to support PeachCare, but added the program may not continue without help from the federal government.
“Georgia has excelled in accomplishing the mission of this program,” Perdue said. “But we can’t fund this federally initiated partnership program alone.”
Healthcare was not the only issue discussed by the governor, however.
His budget also recommends increasing funding for international marketing by $5.1 million to boost the state’s visibility and “grow the Georgia brand.”
“Our world is, indeed, getting flatter,” he said. “The rapid expansion of globalization is a sterling opportunity for Georgia to gain new business.”
While the governor’s address was received with cheers and standing ovations from the heavily Republican general assembly, not every lawmaker was impressed.
“I thought it was very optimistic,” Rep. Al Williams (D-Midway) said. “But I thought there would have been more on transportation and I didn’t see anything about the coast.”
Williams said he was glad Perdue expressed support for PeachCare, but expected to hear “a little more depth and substance” to the governor’s overall healthcare plan.

Also in the budget
• Providing $1 million to implement the Health Information Technology pilot program
• Funding $4.8 million to develop a real-time information system to improve cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment
• Funding almost $16 million to fully pay for the purchase of antiviral medications to treat a pandemic flu
• Funding $9 million to provide additional money for operating expenses of state hospitals.
 

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