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Perdue lobbies for PeachCare in DC

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POSTED: March 15, 2007 5:13 a.m.
While attending the National Governors Association Winter Meeting in Washington, D.C. over the weekend, the upcoming freeze on PeachCare for Kids enrollment was on Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s mind.
“PeachCare is a successful program that ensures Georgia’s children have health care coverage,” Perdue said in a press conference Sunday. “In March, we will be forced to suspend all new enrollment, which is not an action we want to take. We want every child eligible for PeachCare to have it available to them, but for this to happen we need immediate Congressional action.”
Seven governors from across the country joined Perdue at the press conference to urge a faster response from Congress in funding its portion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP), which was created to help fund state-provided health insurance for children from low to moderate-income families.
While the program has grown in the past 10 years to cover more than six million children nationwide, including 273,000 children in Georgia through PeachCare, the process in which funds are allocated has put many states in limbo.
According to the federal law that created S-CHIP, each state’s share of annual federal funding is based on the particular state’s portion of the nation’s low-income children and its share of low-income, uninsured children. The result is states with larger numbers of low-income, uninsured children receive more federal funding.
The formula worked in the early days of the program, but as states insure more children the unintentional consequence is decreased federal funding for successful health insurance programs that reduce the number of uninsured youth.
With the combination of decreasing federal dollars and expanding enrollment numbers, at least 14 states are facing immediate federal funding shortfalls for fiscal year 2007.
Georgia has an estimated federal funding shortfall of $131 million. 
In a letter sent to Congressional leaders on Friday, Perdue and 12 other governors with programs in crisis asked lawmakers to make fixing the current funding problem a high priority.
“With states facing federal matching shortfalls as early as March, S-CHIP funding has reached critical status in many of our states. We request that you consider covering current year shortfalls at the earliest possible opportunity whether as standalone legislation or in the emergency supplemental appropriations bill,” the letter read. “Our states stand ready to be partners in this program and meet the state portions of the funding, but the clock is ticking. We need Congressional assistance quickly to strengthen and preserve this successful program.”

Proposals
Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle released an initial outline of PeachCare for Kids reform proposals examined by the Georgia Senate’s PeachCare Task Force on Friday.
According to the recommendations, state efforts to save the program from future financial peril could lead to an overhaul of the system.  
Below are three suggestions the task force has considered in the last two weeks.
Option 1: Increase monthly premiums to 1.5 percent of household income and adopt a $25 co-payment for emergency room visits to persuade participants to seek more affordable treatment options for non-emergency illnesses.
Option 2: Downgrade comprehensive dental coverage to basic coverage and charge an add-on fee of $10 to $15 per month for comprehensive dental and vision insurance.
Option 3: Shift the poorest children in the PeachCare program into the Medicaid program, specifically by raising the threshold for Medicaid in Georgia to cover up to 125 percent of the federal poverty level. The move would lower costs to the state and provide free coverage to the poorest children currently enrolled in PeachCare.
According to some analysts, instituting all of these suggestions would result in a projected deficit of less than $10 million.
 

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