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As advocates for children and families in Georgia, we are concerned about recent attempts within states to scale back vital health care programs for our most vulnerable citizens. The move began with Arizona Governor Brewer’s request to the federal government for a waiver from a regulation that prevents states from cutting some income groups from the Medicaid program. In response, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s spokesperson was quoted by Bloomberg news organization earlier today that while the Governor has not offered specific cuts he “would happily work on such a proposal.”

I am certain our governor is aware that Medicaid helps children ages 0-5 whose families are at or below 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL), (for instance, a family of four which earns a little over $29,000/year). It helps children 6-19 whose family earns at or below 100% of the FPL. I find it hard to believe that in these times of high unemployment, lower wages, and increased family stress, that our leadership would embrace restricting medical coverage for what is a growing percentage of our state’s citizenry. Losing a job equates to a loss of employer-sponsored coverage not just for the adult involved, but for the children of the family as well.

In addition, cutting health care coverage would make it harder for kids to access primary care and manage chronic conditions, which in turn would result in poorer health outcomes and greater costs down the line. I would ask the governor’s staff to consider these impacts before making such a seemingly glib remark.

Federal Level:
Yesterday, the U.S. House passed H.R. 2, which would repeal the new health law, the Affordable Care Act. The final vote was 245 for and 189 against. Senate Democrats have indicated that this legislation will not be brought to a vote in the Senate Chamber, which means that the bill will not move any further.

State Level:
Thursday, Commissioner Cook presented the Amended Budget for FY2011 and the proposed Budget for FY2012 for the Department of Community Health. The AFY2011 Budget did not contain many significant changes. Within the SFY2012 budget are the following provisions that may negatively impact children:

• Reduction in Medicaid/Peachcare reimbursement rate by 1% for all providers excluding hospital and home and community-based services (note that budget presentations last year projected a significantly higher reduction rate);
• Implementation of new copayments for PeachCare for Kids members age 6 and older and also for certain members within the Medicaid program; and
• Discontinuation of the Babies Born Healthy Program, which provides for prenatal care for pregnant women who often cannot otherwise access health care services.

The SFY2012 budget also has some provisions that will benefit children in Georgia. For one, DCH indicates an anticipated $6 million in federal performance bonus dollars that will be received once the state implements family-friendly administrative changes to enrollment and retention practices for children within the Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids programs. In addition, the budget includes $10 million in a bond amount that will draw down an additional $90 million in federal match dollars, all of which will be used to make improvements to Georgia’s Medicaid eligibility system.

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